There’s good news for pro-lifers headed for Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life to be held this Friday, Jan. 19 marking the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. The weather forecast is a balmy high of 49 degrees, a contrast to usual sub-freezing temperatures.
The annual march is always preceded by a rally on the National Mall featuring prominent speakers. This year’s Rally for Life, beginning at 12 noon, has Speaker of the House Paul Ryan as a headliner with several other members of Congress among the dignitaries joining in.
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President Donald Trump will also address the rally via live video feed. Previous Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and George H. W. Bush also addressed the rally, but by audio feed.
Afterwards the rally attendees march down Constitution Avenue past the Capitol and end at the Supreme Court.
The march is annually one of the largest public events by attendance in the nation’s capital with pro-life advocates streaming in from all over the country. But don’t count on seeing much about it on most TV networks or in newspapers because of the unfortunate prevailing social bias. The Catholic media network EWTN will provide extensive coverage.
For most Catholic Philadelphians attending the event, the day will begin at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception a few miles away from the Capitol building, where Archbishop Charles Chaput will celebrate Mass and preach the homily at 10 a.m. Afterwards they will proceed to the rally or the march.
“I’m comfortable saying we will have 3,500 and probably more going from the Philadelphia Archdiocese,” said Steven Bozza, director of the archdiocesan Office for Life and Family.
Most of these attending are boarding buses in the wee hours of the morning at their local high school, parish or college.
While the Office for Life and Family has a list of 53 locations where buses are leaving from, the list is not complete because not all groups coordinate with that office and some individuals travel by automobile or train.
The locations include 37 archdiocesan parishes in city and suburb, plus two Knights of Columbus chapters.
Also making their way to the march are four groups of collegians from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Villanova University, Holy Family University and the Newman Center of Temple University, and students from 13 Catholic high schools – showing the contingent of pro-lifers continues to trend younger in age.
A number of locations, including St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown, have chartered more than one bus.
“We are bringing two buses,” said Richard Junod, the parish coordinator. “We also have people who are going ahead of time and not on the buses to participate in other events, maybe (to) talk to their congressman. Our buses will leave at 6:30 a.m. We will go the archbishop’s Mass, and then our buses will take us directly to the rally. Our buses were paid for by (Fenerty) Council 7208, Knights of Columbus.”
Msgr. Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast High School has two buses going and is trying to find a third, according to Father Joseph Zaleski, who has seen interest in the pro-life cause grow dramatically at the school during the past year.
Bishop Shanahan High School has two busloads going down with a waiting list, according to Joe Aquilante, the school’s pro-life coordinator. “We have eight students who will be staying down to attend the Students for Life Conference in New Canton (Virginia),” he said.
Among other local activities surrounding the Roe v. Wade anniversary is a prayer service that will be held in the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center, 222 North 17th Street in Philadelphia, on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 3 p.m.
Father Matthew Guckin and Capuchin Father Richard Owens will preside over the ceremony and the blessing of 45 luminaries to be displayed publicly on the building’s portico in memory of the children aborted in the past 45 years.
Students from John W. Hallahan High School will assist in lighting the luminaries which will remain lit through Friday.
Among other observations will be local participation in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ sponsored 9 Days for Life program, a novena celebrated annually. The Jan. 18-26 “digital pilgrimage” suggests prayers and actions “focused on cherishing the gift of every person’s life,” according the bishops’ website.
A mobile phone app, daily emails or texts will feature “a different intention each day (providing) reflections, bonus information and suggested actions.” The website also suggests the hashtags #9DaysforLife and #OurPrayersMatter for use on social media.
In Chester County the 25th annual March for Life will be held Sunday, Jan. 21 beginning at 2:30 p.m. at St. Agnes Church, West Chester, with attorney and noted columnist Christine Flowers as the principal speaker.
Also on that day St. Katherine of Siena Church, Philadelphia, will host the Northeast Philadelphia Stand Up for Life Rally from 2 to 3 p.m., featuring speakers and, according to organizers, “ways to save mothers and children from abortion and restore our community and nation.”