Fifty-one glowing luminaries were lit on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 18 at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in support of the 51st Annual National March for Life, which is slated for Friday in Washington, D.C.
The annual initiative, called “Luminaries for Life,” has been held for more than 10 years for employees of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center and Catholic Social Services (CSS).
“We do this in remembrance of those lost to abortion, and to be a public witness for life, the dignity of every human being,” said Amy Stoner, Director of CSS’ Community Based and Housing and Homeless Services Division.
Stoner says she received inspiration from her home parish, Saint Francis of Assisi in Springfield, to start the event in the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center over 10 years ago.
She recalls how her fellow parishioners placed luminaries years ago outside of their homes on the night before the National March for Life as a way of supporting the pro-life marchers and promoting the beauty and dignity of human life.
Stoner found this experience powerful and started the “Luminaries for Life” event for her co-workers in the Archdiocese.
The event is especially important to CSS employees because of the work they do daily to help families, says Stoner.
“We want people to know that CSS is here to support women and their families during pregnancy and afterwards, despite whatever their challenges and issues are,” she said. “We’re a strong presence in the community, despite funding challenges.”
CSS provides services to approximately 5,000 pregnant women and their families per year, despite many recent challenges to funding.
One such funding challenge occurred last August, when Governor Josh Shapiro decided to end the PA Department of Human Services contract with Real Alternatives – a non-profit Pregnancy and Parenting Support Program – after nearly 30 years of providing vital service to Pennsylvania women in need. Stoner wrote a commentary last September for CatholicPhilly describing the impact of this decision.
Dozens of employees gathered at the “Luminaries for Life” event to take part in the ceremonial prayer service and blessing of the luminaries.
The prayer service was led by Reverend Philip G. Bochanski, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, assisted by Deacon Franz Fruehwald, Chief Financial Officer for CSS.
The event opened with a call to prayer. The crowd first prayed for a conversion of the hearts of those who practice, promote, and support abortion.
They also prayed that all unborn children will be given the opportunity to live and be loved, and that those parents who are tempted to choose abortion will be given the courage and strength to say “Yes” to life.
And finally, they prayed for those who have committed the sin of abortion to repent, be forgiven, healed, and reconciled to God.
Readings included John 1:1-4 and Psalm 139 with the response, “I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.”
The event concluded with the lighting of the luminaries, while those in attendance sang the Catholic hymn, “Christ, Be Our Light.”
Luminaries remained lit overnight in vigil of the 51st annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Friday.
Not everyone can attend the national march, so this event gives Archdiocesan employees another way to participate and give support through prayer, says Stoner.
“We started this years ago and it’s become a tradition.”
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