On the eve of Friday’s March for Life in Washington, DC, as customary, a prayer vigil will be held at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The National Prayer Vigil will begin Thursday evening with Mass celebrated by Cardinal Seán O’Malley, chairman of the Secretariat of pro-life activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Pilgrims participating in the all-night event will have the opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration, confessions, Compline, and the National Rosary for Life. The vigil will conclude Friday morning with Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin Ferrell of Dallas, Texas.
Mary McClusky, special project manager for the USCCB’s secretariat for pro-life activities and coordinator for the vigil, told ZENIT that around 12,000 to 13,000 people are expected to attend the vigil, which is held every year on the night before the March for Life. “It’s a very young crowd,” she explained, saying that, in addition to the many pilgrim groups who attend, “there are usually at least four or five cardinals, dozens of bishops, hundreds of priests, hundreds of seminarians.”
“It’s the Church doing what is foundational to all our pro-life efforts; it’s coming together to pray for an end to abortion, and for increased respect for life.”
This year’s March for Life holds particular significance as it marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Roe vs. Wade, which made abortion legal throughout the United States. In lieu of this anniversary, McClusky said: “40 years of abortion: Yes, it is tragic. We’re commemorating that. But, at the same time, there are positive trends to look at. Everyone is reflecting on 40 years in terms of numbers. But what we’re trying to say is: ‘Here’s where we are. Where do we want to go? What are some encouraging signs?’ And, a big sign is young people.”
Throughout this year, the USCCB is organizing a series of pro-life activities that are tied to the Year of Faith. Included among these is a novena for March for Life. The novena, titled Nine Days of Prayer, Penance, and Pilgrimage, began on Jan. 19 and will conclude Jan. 27. The US bishops are also encouraging people to pray for the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who are expected to attend the march. The USCCB, on their website, has made available a blessing for pilgrims that can be given to them by their priest, pastor, or bishop before they travel to Washington, DC.
McClusky went on to emphasize the importance of Catholic young people in the fight against abortion. “There’s a vibrancy among youth and young adults now… they love their Church, and they recognize that the Church is caring for women, and is really entrusted with the care of all people. The Church can offer healing and complete, unconditional love.”
“Every person is called to imitate God in loving others. I see that playing out in the pro-life movement – that each person is called to love God so much that it overflows into helping a woman face an unexpected pregnancy; [helping her to know] that she’s valued, that her child is valued, and has a unique purpose.”