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'Respect Life Sunday,' celebrated this year on Oct. 5, brought over a 1,000 people from across the region to Boston for the annual Walk for Life, organized by Massachusetts Citizens for Life (MCFL). The event raises funds to support programs such as crisis pregnancy centers that provide women with an alternative to abortion.
Before convening on Boston Common, many participants attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, where Bishop George Coleman of Fall River concelebrated with Archbishop Seán O’Malley.
Archbishop O’Malley, a staunch defender of the unborn, called this year’s Respect Life observance, “a Sunday full of life, sunshine and many friends coming together to pray and to witness to life.”
The day’s readings focused on same-sex marriage decision before the Supreme Judicial Court, the archbishop stated that “today the Gospel of Life is threatened by those who want to redefine marriage.” The challenge before Christians, he continued, is to “foster married life.”
The “corrosive effects” of Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion 30 years ago, have gone far beyond abortion and contributed to the breakdown of the family, he said.
"We do not choose our family members," he stated. "We receive our family members," with love and respect, which is "not an option or a choice, but a fundamental duty by our very nature."
"Many feminists talk about inclusivity, but then they exclude children in the womb," he continued. "Inclusivity is making room for everybody, especially the most vulnerable... love is inclusive."
To turn the tide of the pro-abortion movement, people must come to a “change of heart to make a place for everyone at the table of life,” the archbishop explained. Then he spoke emphatically, saying, “We will never overcome abortion unless we convince people that adoption is the choice they need to make.”
In closing, Archbishop O’Malley left Mass-goers with this challenge: “to love the [pro-abortion] protestors. To see in them a brother, a sister, a potential protector of life.”
Jenna McKean was one of those protesting against the Walk for Life held later that afternoon. She said her concern over the potential banning of partial birth abortions compelled her make her way to Boston Common and express her opposition to the pro-life rally.
"We have to come out and show our numbers," she said. "There are many Pro-Choice people and we won't back down no matter what restrictions are passed."
Over 50 protestors holding signs bearing slogans such as ‘Honk for Choice’ and ‘Get your religion off of Women” and chanting “Racists, Sexists, Anti-gay, Born Again Bigots, Go Away!” over loud speakers could not diminish the sense of hope among those gathered 100 feet away for the Walk for Life.
"It's important to take a stand and to let people know how you feel," said Karen Heap of Taunton. "I'm proud of the fact that I'm pro-life. I may not be eloquent in words, but my presence can be my example."
Nancy Reed, also of Taunton, felt that the event was a way to “walk the talk.”
"You have to stand up for what you believe, and this is a way," she explained. "This is an opportunity that we have to express our belief."
Prior to the start of the walk, participants were addressed by several local pro-life figures.
Master of ceremonies Don Feder, of radio station WROL, compared abortion to the terrorism experienced everyday in Israel and by the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.
"America fights terrorism but, sad to say, America also condones terrorism," he stated. "We are joined together to pray for an end to the scourge of abortion and to repent the evil done in our society."
Rev. George Bullock ,of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Roxbury, came to “give words of encouragement and hope” to the participants.
"When we are standing for the unborn we can be assured that just because you lose a battle does not mean you've lost the war," he said. "You don't take off your armor, you continue to fight, continue to believe."
Marianne Luthin, of the archdiocese’s Pro-Life Office, thanked the walkers for their support and the funds they raised to support Pregnancy Help and Project Rachel, which are “so vital a part of what we need to do to create the culture of life that we are all here to support.”
The most moving testimony of the day came from Suzanna Brennan, who represented the organization “Silent No More,” which supports women suffering the effects of a past abortion. Brennan herself had an abortion and learned to forgive herself and find peace through “Silent No More.”
"Abortion hurts women," said Brennan. "If you are hurting, there is help."
Brennan countered the myth that abortion is a painless and easy alternative to pregnancy noting that women suffer infections, infertility, breast cancer, depression and other serious consequences of abortion. “It’s not a simple procedure,” she said.
Also addressing the crowd were Peg Whitbread, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life; Marilyn Burney, director of the group Friends of the Unborn; the Rev. Steven Chin pastor of the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church, and five students involved in the pro-life movement at area colleges.
Archbishop O’Malley, along with Bishop Coleman, participated in the walk. Many participants greeted the archbishop and posed for pictures with him before the start of the event.
Addressing the crowd, Archbishop O’Malley received a loud round of applause. “Abortion is violence,” he told them. “We want to be people of peace.”