One of the many blessings we Little Sisters have here in D.C. is the wonderful grace of being able to witness and to participate in the National March for Life and all of the events surrounding this annual event which draws more and more people each year. Here at Jeanne Jugan Residence, our own participation in this most important moment for pro-lifers began on Wednesday, January 23 as we welcomed 53 parishioners from the Church of St. Nicholas in Indiana. As they arrived around 6:45 p.m., Little Sisters and postulants were on hand to show them to their sleeping quarters throughout the home, and then our kitchen staff graciously served a pizza supper for our guests. After having spent over twelve hours on the bus driving cross country, the group was admirable in their insistence on a holy hour after supper, and many of us were delighted to join them for this time before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, during which they had praise and worship music, as well as the proclamation of that day’s Mass readings and the singing of the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
On Thursday Little Sisters from Baltimore and Richmond joined us for the opening Mass of the Vigil for Life held at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which drew thousands of people to Mary’s House. As in the past, we were treated to top-notch seats in the front, giving us an impeccable view of all the many concelebrating priests, bishops and cardinals, not to mention the seminarians and deacons! Cardinal Sean O’Malley was the principal celebrant and homilist, and he gave a wonderful homily, urging all to “live (our) faith so intensely, that we will generate a culture of Life.” Even before speaking of the unborn child, Cardinal spoke of the evil of assisted suicide and euthanasia, stating that “a nation that allows parents to kill their children will eventually allow children to kill their parents.” Citing the Gospel of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth which was the Gospel proclaimed at the Mass, his Eminence spoke of Mary as the one who said “yes” to life, “yes” to love, and even “yes” to the Cross.
Following the Mass, we bid farewell to the delegation from Baltimore and returned home to get some rest for the day ahead. Three Little Sisters, our five postulants, and Monica, a young woman who is discerning religious life, ventured out to the Metro station in order to arrive at the Verizon Center in time for the Opening of the annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life. Despite predictions of snow, the air was cold but clear, and we were able to find seats in plenty of time. We were actually quite early, but more young people joined us as time went on. We thoroughly enjoyed the music as well as testimonies from young people involved in the pro-life movement in their high schools. At around 9:30, all at the rally prayed the rosary together, and then it was time to prepare for Mass, the real power behind the day! Cardinal Donald Wuerl was the main celebrant of the Mass, and Fr. Carter Griffin, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Washington and Vice-Rector of Blessed John Paul II Seminary in D.C. was the homilist. Like Cardinal O’Malley, Fr. Griffin urged all pro-lifers to grow in faith, stating that the transformation of society starts with the conversion of each heart, beginning with our own. He urged the young people present to continue their efforts, affirming them as the “Pro-Life Generation.”
Nourished with Christ’s Body, we took a few bites of our sack lunch before heading over to the Mall by the Capitol building, where the March was to begin. We were privileged to see a beautiful video tribute to Nellie Grey, Foundress of the March for Life, as well as hear several testimonies from various people, one of whom was Senator Rick Santorum, who spoke eloquently and with conviction about the grace that a handicapped child brings to a family. Around 1:30 p.m., the March was officially declared “begun” and we were on our way. Because of the huge crowd, it took a while before we actually started walking at a normal pace, and we were happy to meet our fellow Marchers for all over the country. By the time we finally reached Constitution Avenue – the official “road” of the March, snow was falling from the skies and seemed to get a bit heavier as time went on. We felt the cold, but the many, many people bunched together helped to generate some heat! By the time we reached the Supreme Court building, it was around 3:45, and our March route was concluded. But there were thousands still behind us, making their way on this pilgrimage for Life! As Fr. Griffin stated in his homily, this 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade can be likened to the 40 years the Israelites spent in the desert. Through prayer and sacrifice, especially the One Sacrifice of Christ our Life, may our country soon reach the Promised Land, where every human being is protected and cherished, from natural conception to natural death.