As I often say, I have been privileged to attend the March for Life every year since its inception, and this year was no exception.
On Thursday afternoon I celebrated the Mass with a number of bishops and priests at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America in Washington D.C. for about 250 pro-life directors and leaders from throughout the country.
It was an opportunity for myself, the staff of the USCCB and the bishops to be able to personally thank the pro-life leaders for their work.
With Henry and Marianne Luthin and Tom Grenchik, executive director of the USCC Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities before the Mass
In that homily I tried to express our gratitude for the life and work of Nellie Gray. I thanked all leaders for the important work that they have done and are doing on behalf of the pro-life cause.
The monastery was a very beautiful venue for the Mass.
The monastery is run by the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land and so has a number of chapels devoted to special sites in the Holy Land.
After the Mass, there was a light reception.
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Then, that evening, we gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the Opening Mass of the Prayer Vigil for Life with scores of bishops and priests, hundreds of seminarians and thousands of the faithful.
We celebrated the Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life, the new Mass that has been written and approved by the bishops conference for the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision.
This, of course, is the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, a very important moment to reflect on where we have been. In my homily, I tried to point out the positive developments that there have been over the years, and particularly the growing opposition to abortion in the country and the fact that more and more young people are becoming pro-life. It is always a very moving experience to be there with pilgrims for life from all over the United States.
At the end of Mass, I blessed the rosaries the people had received as the entered the Shrine.
The vigil continued all night long. Our seminarians participated in the various holy hours. I believe the seminarians from Blessed John XXIII National Seminary had the holy hour at midnight and the seminarians from St. John’s had the hour at 4 o’clock in the morning.
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On Friday morning, we had a Mass for a standing-room-only crowd of pilgrims from Boston at Sacred Heart Church on 16th St. in Washington.
At times in the past, we have brought the Boston group to the Verizon Center for the Youth Mass and Rally that is held on the morning of the March. However, the number of those attending the March for Life has grown so great, that it has become increasingly difficult to get in to the rally. So, we have opted to have a special Mass for the Boston pilgrims at Sacred Heart.
This is the church where I celebrated Mass for the Haitian and Hispanic communities for many years. It is also the church where I lived in the basement with about 300 refugees during the riots in Washington following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Of course, most of the young people at the Mass are unaware of that very interesting and tragic period in American history, but it is an opportunity to talk to them a little bit about that.
Several of our Catholic schools had a record number of students come and we are very pleased that a record number of Boston priests also attended the March this year.
We are always so grateful to Father Matt Williams, Father Dan Hennessey and all the other volunteers and workers from Boston who organize the trip to Washington for so many of our young people.
It is always an extraordinary opportunity for them to participate in the March for Life and to share that experience with thousands and thousands of their peers. This is an experience which certainly affirms them in their faith and their commitment to the Gospel of Life.
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From the Mass, we went to the rally on the National Mall. I was there to offer a prayer with the Catholic bishops.
It was also my privilege to present the Orthodox metropolitans, bishops and clergy who participated both at the Mass at the Shrine and the March for Life. After my introduction, they sang a beautiful funeral chant praying for Nellie gray. I know many people are very moved by that especially beautiful moment.
Our own Metropolitan from Boston, Metropolitan Methodios, was scheduled to attend the March but was ill and unable to join us. However, we know that he was with us in spirit.
I had the opportunity to announce a tweet of the Holy Father to the crowd saying that he was with us from afar, praying for all the pilgrims for life and praying that political leaders would do all their power to protect the sanctity of human life. A great cheer went up from the crowd as we read the Holy Father’s tweet.
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Following the March, I went to the Virgin Islands where I had been invited to receive the Keys and Sword Award, which is an annual fundraiser they have to benefit renovations to Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral.
I was also there to attend a memorial Mass for Sister Louis Marie who my former chancellor who had passed away recently as well as celebrate a Filipino and Hispanic Mass.
However, I became ill and, unfortunately, the only event I was able to participate in was the Mass for Sister Louis Marie.
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Then, yesterday, as many of you know, was the funeral for my stepmother, Claire O’Malley.
I was very touched by how many bishops and priests and relatives joined us for the occasion. Among them were Miami Archbishop Wenski, Miami Archbishop Emeritus Favalora, Bishop Barbarito of Palm Beach and some of our auxiliary bishops and priests who travelled to Florida to together with us at this important occasion.
It was a very beautiful funeral Mass and a great consolation to all the members of the family.
Until next week,
- Cardinal Seán