October is Respect Life Month and it will get off to an early start on Sunday, Sept. 24 in Philadelphia through a rally and Walk for Life at 3:30 p.m. at Sister Cities Park opposite the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. This will be followed by a 6:30 p.m. Mass celebrated by Archbishop Charles Chaput at the cathedral.

A featured speaker at the rally will be Shawn Carney, president and cofounder with David Bereit of Texas-based 40 Days for Life. This year’s fall program for 40 Days for Life opens on Sept. 27 and ends Nov. 5.

The program, which features 40 days of prayer vigils before clinics and hospitals that perform abortions, traces back to a modest beginning in Bryan/College Station, Texas in 2004. Three years later it went national and eventually international. At this time it is estimated 750,000 volunteers have participated in all 50 states and 40 countries.

Also among the speakers will be Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life in America which she has led since 2006. While it is mostly a campus-based program it targets young people from middle school through graduate school.

Local groups participating in the rally will include members of the Knights of Columbus, the Philadelphia Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia and students from the archdiocesan high schools.

The rally will include a walk around the surrounding streets and a review of exhibitors at Sisters City Park on 18th Street at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

“The pro-life movement is really doing well in Philadelphia,” said Steven Bozza, the director of the archdiocesan Office for Life and Family. “We are getting a lot of support for this. The State Council of the Knights of Columbus have been especially helpful with financial support.”

In addition to participation in the Sept. 24 rally, walk and Mass, the Philadelphia Guild of the Catholic Medical Association will have a Mass of their own on Oct. 8 at the Cathedral at 11 a.m. celebrated by their chaplain, Father Kenneth Brabazon. This will be followed by a brunch at the adjoining Archdiocesan Pastoral Center.

Also, on Oct. 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the High School Respect Life Leadership Day will be held at Neumann University’s Mirenda Center for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development.

The program, sponsored by the archdiocesan Office for Life and Family, will feature speaker Chris Stefanick, an internationally known author and speaker who Archbishop Chaput has called “one of the most engaging young defenders of the Christian faith on the scene today.”