By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published February 4, 2010
Several Blessed Trinity High School students reverently entered the school gymnasium, each holding a candle, before their annual Mass for the Unborn began. Each candle represented 1 million infants aborted since Roe v. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion. Nearly 50 candles stood aglow on a table throughout the Mass.
The Roswell school holds this Mass on campus every year, in conjunction with the archdiocesan Mass for the Unborn celebrated in downtown Atlanta on Jan. 22 and sponsored by the Respect Life Ministry of the archdiocese. The day serves as a memorial for the human life lost and allows every student to attend the Mass rather than selecting a few to represent the school at the larger liturgy at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
LaSalette Father Thomas Reilly, the main celebrant, told students they will be the ones to inherit the fight for the dignity of each person.
“Abortion will never cease to exist until we as a people create a culture of life and not a culture of death,” he said. “Young people are the future. … It is up to you to create this culture (of life).”
He said the Catholic Church is a church of serving and liberating people and that young people must challenge themselves to aid in these ministries.
“Our mission comes from Scripture,” he said. “When each of us is baptized, we are called by name.”
Following the Mass, some 40 students packed into a bus and went to join the thousands who participate in the March for Life every year in downtown Atlanta sponsored by Georgia Right to Life.
In front of the Capitol with thousands of pro-life supporters surrounding them, students held signs that mingled with other life-affirming messages. Participants were bundled in jackets, blankets, scarves and hats, trying to stay warm on a day where the sun barely peeked through the clouds.
Prior to the march, several speakers addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support and sharing their thoughts on the pro-life movement.
Catherine Davis, director of minority outreach for Georgia Right to Life, gave a lively speech to the crowd, which stretched down Washington Street, from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to Mitchell Street.
“The most dangerous place to be in America is in the womb,” she said to the marchers, who erupted in applause. “We at Georgia Right to Life are committed to go all the way in this fight.”
“Catholics, God bless Catholics, have led the fight,” she continued. “I’m not afraid to fight. … I encourage you to join us.”
Davis introduced Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, a familiar face at the memorial and a name the crowd recognized with applause and cheers.
“There is nothing more precious that we share together than the gift of life,” Archbishop Gregory said.
He offered a prayer for all the lives ended in abortion and also asked those present to pray for women who have had abortions.
“We pray for our nation,” the archbishop said. “We pray that one day this nation will not … have to endure the desecration of human life.”
Earlier, in his homily at the Mass for the Unborn, Archbishop Gregory spoke of the importance of the pro-life movement in light of the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, which begins with the Beatitudes and ends with Jesus’ exhortation for his followers to forgive their enemies and show love to those who hate them. He called the Gospel chapter the “Magna Carta” of the pro-life movement.
“Our movement, now 37 years old, is a response to the requirements of St. Matthew’s fifth chapter because it has been and remains as a strong but persistent answer to the violence of abortion,” he said.
“For 37 years, people in the pro-life movement have called our nation’s attention to the violence that has been visited upon countless millions of innocent unborn children with the prophetic and resolute, peaceful, insistent reminder that every life is sacred before God—that the only real choice is for life,” he continued. “It is that witness of truth that has not been silenced or set aside for these many years and that will continue to declare before the entire world that life is a precious gift from God and must not be destroyed for the convenience of mankind—no matter what the circumstances might be.”
“That truth is what we witness and the way that we bear testimony is through the calm yet persistent refusal to be diminished or swayed away from our beliefs,” Archbishop Gregory said.
Each year the Jan. 22 events conclude with a silent march through downtown Atlanta by pro-life supporters and the Blessed Trinity students took part in the march as well.
The march was met with varying responses from onlookers. Many stopped to take a picture with a cell phone or camera, struck by the sheer size of the group. Others yelled their opposition from cars or buildings while the marchers kept silent and let their presence be their voice.
Marci Blum, a senior at Blessed Trinity, said the March for Life is something that is important to her. She has been coming to the march for the past four years. Blum said her sister, who recently had a baby, was at one point considering an abortion.
“I can’t imagine not having him around,” she said. “He has been such a blessing to our family.”
Blum also said she was inspired to see the large numbers of people who came out to support the March for Life, especially in the chilly weather.
Her classmate, Blessed Trinity senior Mary Dickson, was attending the march for the first time. She was also surprised at the number of people who gathered and was happy she could support something she feels so strongly about.
“I have a really big family,” she said. “I just can’t imagine if any siblings aborted their children. They have been a big part of my life.”
The March for Life in Atlanta was one of the many demonstrations to take place all over the country as part of the pro-life movement. The event sprung from a grassroots response of pro-lifers nationwide to Roe v. Wade. Each year, Catholics and other pro-lifers come together to pray and publicly intercede on behalf of the unborn, their parents, families, communities, the nation and its leaders.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared that in all the dioceses of the United States, Jan. 22 will be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and a day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.
“The pro-life movement has endured the disdain of those within our society who have struggled to explain away the rights of the unborn or pit them against the freedom of choice rhetoric of those who promote a culture of death,” Archbishop Gregory said in his homily. “It is in those moments of rejection and ridicule that these lines from the fifth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel prove so important: love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. It is the witness of love that remains the true strength of the pro-life movement.”