By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 5, 2015
ATLANTA—On the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, Catholics in the Atlanta Archdiocese voiced their opposition to abortion.
Hundreds prayed together in the Cathedral of Christ the King, led by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, on the day of the anniversary.
Later, under an overcast sky with temperatures in the 50s, students, families, men and women stood along a section of Peachtree Road, holding signs stating “Adoption is the answer,” or with oversized phone numbers for crisis pregnancy centers, and the message “Every life matters.”
“We live in a time when the sanctity and the dignity of life is diminishing: the life of the unborn, the life of the living, the elderly. It is important for those of us who can stand up and speak out to do that,” said Megan Denkman, of Good Shepherd Church, Cumming, who took part in Stand for Life.
Archbishop Gregory celebrated the Mass for the Unborn. A dozen priests joined him around the altar. Deacons assisted at the morning Mass. Light streamed through the colorful windows into the cathedral, filled to capacity with nearly 600 worshippers. Students in school sweater vests were among those who filled the wooden pews as the pipe organ filled the air with music.
“We gather together as family. How grateful we are to God for life,” Archbishop Gregory said, opening the Mass.
In his homily, Archbishop Gregory encouraged Catholics to stand against a “throwaway society” that promotes disposability of life itself.
He said people have become accustomed to a “throwaway world” of possessions like outdated smartphones and starter homes. But this extends into living. Pre-nuptials before marriage look for a “no-fault exit even to these vitally significant relationships,” Archbishop Gregory said.
People—from the unborn to the elderly—must not be viewed in that way, he said.
“Human life is already in its ultimate divinely established form. Even human life that has flaws—and we all have a couple—is a true reflection of its divine origin,” he said.
While people more often now recognize how fragile the natural world is, “that same awe and respect must also be granted to each human person for we are in our humanity the crowning image of God’s creation.”
“We pause again to commemorate that decision that rendered us all disposable in an ever increasing throwaway world,” he concluded. “And with one voice we say we are not disposable and never were according to God’s plan and design.”
“Hopefully we will regain that perspective and belief in the midst of a world that too often has lost sight of human dignity and worth.”
Abortion was legalized in the country 42 years ago, nearly all of Christie Meersman’s life. She joined Denkman in chaperoning students from Pinecrest Academy, in Cumming, at the Mass and pro-life vigil.
“We want to show Atlanta we love life. We love the unborn and we love their mothers, and their fathers,” she said.
She joined the scores of others lining Peachtree Road for the 30-minute Stand for Life vigil. Motorists honked their horns in support, while others expressed their disapproval.
“I’m hoping to spark conversation that will lead people to decisions that are pro-life,” Meersman said.
She hoped the signs encouraged people who are too embarrassed to speak out, but support banning abortion. She’d like to give them confidence to hold to their values and speak up.
For the students attending the event, she said the event can “plant a seed” to speak out. “Events like this can really plant a seed in their hearts that sometimes you need to make a statement for somebody who can’t speak for himself or herself,” she said.
Parishioners from Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church, in Norcross, stood near the intersection of Peachtree Road and West Wesley Road.
“Abortion is against God,” said Phillip Tran, a father of seven. “Let people know life is very precious and no one can take life except God,” said the businessman.
Two dozen middle school students from St. Joseph School in Marietta attended.
Religion teacher Marjorie Foley said it is a teaching experience for the students. The day fits into the religious education program, by highlighting both how all of God’s creation should be revered and also the unity of the church, as students stand on sidewalks with adults and other students who are Catholic, she said. All students learn about God’s mercy, she said.
“For people who had abortions, it is about forgiveness and God’s mercy,” she said.
Mary Boyert, Respect Life Ministry director of the archdiocese, who coordinated the Mass and vigil, encouraged Catholics to keep Jan. 22 as a “day of penance and prayer.”
Abortion was legalized in the country in 1973. An estimated 53 million abortions have taken place from 1973 to 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Video produced by the Catholic Communications Office of the Atlanta Archdiocese is available here.