By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

At least 90 buses will be departing Philadelphia on Jan. 22 for Washington, D.C., to join Cardinal Justin Rigali for the 37th annual Rally and March for Life, which marks the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout America.

Cardinal Rigali will be a concelebrant at the 7 p.m. Jan. 21 Vigil for Life Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and he will celebrate Mass at the shrine at 10 a.m. Jan. 22 for the Philadelphia contingent before they attend the noon rally at the Washington Mall and Seventh Street.

The Cardinal will join his people afterwards as they march down Constitution Avenue past the Capitol and on to the Supreme Court building.

The Cardinal plans to walk with the St. Charles Borromeo Seminarians who will be at the rally and march in full force, and if possible, to pause at Constitution Avenue and First Street to greet the various archdiocesan groups before they make the final turn to the Supreme Court Building.

As usual, the marchers will be a mix of parish, college and high school groups. The participants in the annual rally and march have become noticeably younger in recent years.

Not everyone attending will be going by bus. For example a contingent of the leadership of West Chester-based Generation Life will be going down inspanidually and staying in Washington for the Students for Life conference the following day, according to Bridget McBryan, administrative assistant at Generation Life.

But the buses remain at the core of the Philadelphia delegation. In Southern Chester County at least 14 buses will be leaving, according to Tom Bones of St. Monica Parish in Berwyn, and Chester County Pro-Life, who coordinates bus rides for people whose parish does not have a bus or has a bus already filled.

“St. Joseph, Downingtown, has two buses overflowing,” Bones said. Increased costs in bus rentals have not affected participation, he said.

Pro-life groups throughout the area have multiple events surrounding the Roe v. Wade anniversary. For example the Chester County group marched from St. Agnes Church, West Chester, on Jan. 17 to the Chester County Courthouse, where they heard pro-life Congressman Joseph Pitts speak on life issues.

In Philadelphia on Jan. 22, a coalition including the Pro-Life Union of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Alpha Pregnancy Services, Bethany Christian Services and the Urban Family Council will have a noon rally at City Hall.

For those who go to Washington, “We are asking people to get inside and see as many senators and representatives as they can to get their votes,” said John Stanton, spokesperson for the Pro-Life Union. He said in their visits the people should emphasize that abortion funding should not be included in pending health care reform legislation.

“Certainly the need is there more than ever,” said Susan Vadas, director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office. “We need to stay vigilant and keep the sanctity of life issue before the administration and Congress to let them know we won’t go away.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.