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Local Catholics march for life closer to home

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This year’s March for Life didn’t feature packed Washington streets, crowded Metro rail cars or matching scarves. Due to health and safety concerns, only some 200 pro-lifers marched downtown, while others watched the virtual component. But the cancellation didn’t stop local Catholics from holding their own pro-life events to mark the anniversary of the day abortion was legalized across the United States.


Some people prayed in front of abortion clinics, or held pro-life signs along a busy highway. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge joined Catholics at St. Rita Church in Alexandria for their March for Life event. Parishioners at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria had a Eucharistic procession through the church parking lot. They already had planned for a day of indoor Eucharistic adoration, but then decided to add a procession too, said Father Thomas P. Ferguson, pastor.


“The march really is kind of a pilgrimage, a public witness to our belief in the sanctity of life,” he said. “So we wanted to keep that dimension of a march because this is one of the closest things we can do spiritually to unite ourselves to the small group of people who will be marching in Washington this year. A Eucharistic procession really reminds us that Jesus is with us on our way in whatever it is we’re doing.”


So Good Shepherd parishioners greeted that familiar element of the March for Life — the bitter cold — and processed through the parking lot while praying the rosary in English and Spanish. During each decade, the monstrance was placed on a rolling table. The wind was so fierce that at one point the monstrance had to be held down.


The wind was no calmer in Burke, where parishioners of Church of the Nativity held a Rally for Life in the parking lot after Mass that morning. Attendees were encouraged to bring diapers to donate and to put pro-life signs in their yards once they returned home.


Some people gathered around the podium while others stayed in their cars. Father Robert C. Cilinski, pastor, introduced speakers from the parish. The first was the head of the pro-life committee, George Getek. He read a few lines from the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision stating that medical experts were unable to arrive at any consensus about when life begins. Getek countered that claim, thundering, “Follow the science.”


Father Stephen M. Vaccaro, parochial vicar, spoke about the need to accompany those in crisis pregnancies. “The statistics say 40 percent of women have had a direct experience with abortion. And we need to be the ones that will offer them unwavering support to choose life,” he said. “If they ask, we affirm their parenthood. If they need support along the way, we will spare no cost to walk with them, not just to life but through life. We can wait for the laws to change but families are being destroyed now and hearts are being broken.”


Jennifer Sturgeon, director of the church’s Marriage Enrichment Ministry, director of Ecumenical Ministry and confirmation coordinator, said she was grateful that her own mom chose life. “I was born to a 20-year-old single mom whose parents (suggested she) have an abortion,” she said. “A few years earlier, a boy was born to a married mother. She was 40 years old, she already had teenagers, her doctor suggested she have an abortion. That boy is my husband. We both had mothers who chose life.


“This makes me think about what Pope Benedict XVI said — ‘Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed. Each of us is loved. Each of us is necessary.’ ” 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021