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Annual walk supports pro-life causes

Participants in the Massachusetts Citizens for Life Respect Life Walk to Aid Mothers and Children march down Commonwealth Ave. in Boston Oct. 4. Pilot photo/ Jim Lockwood

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BACK BAY -- Thousands of pro-lifers, from the young to senior citizens, descended on the Boston Common and then paraded down Commonwealth Ave. in support of pro-life causes on Oct. 4 in the annual Massachusetts Citizens for Life Respect Life Walk to Aid Mothers and Children. Funds raised through pledges and the walk’s registration fees support programs that provide assistance to pregnant women such as crisis pregnancy centers and sheltering homes.

The event featured speakers whose work influences the pro-life movement both locally and nationally, followed by a 3.1-mile walk up and down one of Boston’s most traveled streets. On the walk, participants carried signs, chanted pro-life slogans, prayed and gave witness to the pro-life cause.

Speakers at the pre-march rally on Boston Common included Tufts University senior Jaclyn Thomas, Silent No More Regional Coordinator Edie McDaniel, and the day’s keynote speaker, American Life League Vice President Jim Sedlak.

Marianne Luthin, the director of the Archdiocese of Boston’s pro-life and respect life offices, read a letter from Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley to the pro-life supporters. The cardinal could not be present at the walk because he was attending an international retreat in Ars, France marking the Year for Priests.

“Respect Life Sunday is an opportunity for Catholics and all people of good faith to take stock of what it means to truly respect the value of all human life -- our own lives, those of our families, those lacking in basic needs and health insurance, those threatened by abortion, those alone and dying,” Cardinal O’Malley wrote.

“As Catholics, we hold the gift of life from God as priceless and eternal. Yet many in our culture do not recognize the inherent dignity and worth of all persons, especially those on the ‘edges of life,’” he said.

“Some would say it is time for Catholics to simply step aside from the public discussion over the life issues, and accept a ‘live and let live’ mentality where everyone has a ‘personal’ opinion on abortion, stem cell research and euthanasia, but they shouldn’t let that ‘personal’ opinion be part of the public debate,” he continued. “On this Respect Life Sunday, let me clearly and unequivocally state that this is not an authentically Catholic position.”

Thomas spoke of her efforts to start a pro-life group on her campus. Known as Jumbos for Life -- a reference to the Tufts University mascot -- the group was started in the fall of 2007. The group promotes awareness of abortion through volunteering at crisis pregnancy centers, utilizing campus displays, and coordinating speakers.

McDaniel spoke of Silent No More’s efforts to make the public aware of the detrimental effects of abortion, countering claims that abortion helps women. Instead, she said, abortion harms women. She illustrated her point by discussing her feelings after having an abortion 22 years ago.

“Open your hearts to post-abortive women,” McDaniel told the crowd. “Only they can tell us abortion hurts women. It destroys women.”

Sedlak said that while Planned Parenthood is building five new facilities nationwide this year, including one in Worcester, the organization has either closed, or will close, 15 clinics within the next month.

“Everybody’s starting to stay away from it,” Sedlak said. “That’s why the organization is in trouble.”

For that, Sedlak credits the pro-life movement.

“I think that sounds like a victory,” said Beau Stebbins, of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Marshfield. “That’s a great statement for this movement today.”

Michael Rose, a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in Needham, agreed.

“We are still here, and they are still shocked that we are still here, that we didn’t just go away. We will always be here,” Rose said. “Protesters of all ages and of all generations will continue to come and we’re simply not going to go away because the unborn have no one to speak for them. We are here to speak for them and give them their constitutional protection back.”

As the walkers left Boston Common, they passed by a group of pro-abortion rights demonstrators who chanted, “Our bodies, our lives, our right to decide!”

However, the pro-life voice quickly drowned them out.

“Once you see the protesters, and we’re all just singing over them, it’s such an amazing event,” said Ryan Nash, 16, a student at St. Mary’s High School in Lynn. “We’re all just holding strong for our beliefs.”

For the marchers, it is a belief in the dignity of human life.

“Life is why we’re here. If it weren’t for life, none of us would be here,” Stebbins said. “This can’t all be an accident. It’s all part of God’s great plan.”

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