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BOSTON -- When protesters interrupted the 2017 Assembly for Life with signs, chants, and shouts, organizers didn't shout back. Instead, they held up their rosaries and calmly began praying, encouraging attendees to do the same.
The protesters were led out as the voices of hundreds rose up together in prayer, filling the Great Hall of Faneuil Hall in Boston, Jan. 22. It wasn't until the last protester was led out of the building that the Hail Marys ceased, and the program resumed.
Sponsored annually by Massachusetts Citizens for Life (MCFL) near or on the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, the Assembly for Life is meant to draw people together from around the greater Boston area to celebrate the gospel of life and hear talks from pro-life supporters.
MCFL President Anne Fox gave the event's opening remarks, while Mother Olga Yaqob, superior of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, offered this year's keynote address.
In her remarks, Fox lauded some of the actions President Donald Trump has taken since being inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, Jan. 20.
"We are so grateful that President Trump has nominated cabinet members and advisors who are notably pro-life," began Massachusetts Citizens for Life President Anne Fox.
"We are so grateful he is working to repeal the Affordable Care Act, working towards ending U.S. funding for international Planned Parenthood, and working towards nominating a presumably conservative Supreme Court Justice," said Fox, with each point bringing applause and cheers from the crowds.
Finally, she added, she's grateful the number of abortions, as well as the rates and ratios of abortions, have been falling significantly in the United States.
The protesters made themselves know at the very end of Fox's remarks, just before Mother Olga was to be introduced.
As the protesters began to disrupt the gathering, it was Mother Olga who first began praying, eventually leading all in attendance in prayer.
"Piece of cake," said Cindy Dorsey, the event's emcee, after the protesters had been escorted out of the building.
"I've got to thank Mother Olga for doing such a great segue," she said to laughter.
In her keynote talk, Mother Olga spoke about growing up in Iraq, where she lived through four wars, and how the country worked to suppress human rights.
She said she understands, perhaps more than most, the need for equality in the United States, yet that equality can't come to fruition if the gospel of life is neglected.
"If we want to see equality in our culture -- gender equality, religious equality, all the other rights that people are talking about in today's time in our country -- it has to begin first with the right to life," said Mother Olga.
She noted that she loves the U.S., "but the more I love my country, the more I work for life."
"If we don't work for pro-life, what would happen in America 50 years from now? What would happen to the children of this nation?" she asked.
"To be pro-life it means to be pro-American, and to be pro-American, it means to be pro-life. These two have been separated, my brothers and sisters," she said.
So, said Mother Olga, we need to pray for this country, we have a "responsibility" to pray for this country.
"I prayed for the day of the inauguration, and I prayed for yesterday's march. I pray for peace and unity in our country," she said.
"We need to change a culture, we have to pray, as we did a few minutes ago," she continued.
Concluding the event's program was Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, who offered closing remarks and the benediction.
In his remarks the cardinal referenced the protesters, noting that "as the pro-life movement becomes stronger, we're going to experience more and more opposition."
We need to act "in serenity," and "we have to pray for those people," he said.
"The only way we will be able to change people's hearts is by letting them know that we care about them and that we're here to care for each other -- that's the message that we need to offer," said the cardinal.
"If we want to touch people's hearts, we have to show them the merciful face of our God, and show them that we care about their suffering and help them, then, to recognize their own dignity and to realize they are not alone," continued the cardinal.
With President Trump now in office, changing laws concerning abortion is "not such an impossibility," said Cardinal O'Malley, before saying that "I'm with you 100 percent."