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NOTE: The following letter was published in the February 9, 2017 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.
What a joy to join in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Nearly 15 busloads of our high school and college students, parish youth group members and parishioners left the four counties of our diocese to make the early morning pilgrimage to our nation’s capital.
This year’s March for Life, which marked the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion, had an extra energy about it. The marchers were filled with a spirit of hope and excitement about the real possibility for change to the dark abortion history in our nation.
With the progress of science in recent years, our youth are particularly more pro-life, acknowledging that the developing baby in the womb is, indeed, a life worthy of our respect and protection.
I visited and prayed with our good folks at Life Choices Resource Center in Metuchen last week and witnessed firsthand the ultrasound technology that they and so many other pregnancy help centers across the country use to show the young, precious baby growing in a mother’s womb.
Having been in Rome for the past 13 years, it was good to be able to join with the marchers again as they gathered from across the country the night before the March at the beautiful Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life.
The morning of the March, I concelebrated at the Youth Mass and Rally for Life at the Verizon Center where over 10,000 young people were encouraged by Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl to “stand up for life.” I thank the many priests, deacons, sisters, seminarians, youth and campus ministers who joined with our pilgrims witnessing to the sanctity of life. Special thanks to our Office of Respect for Life, led by Jennifer Ruggiero, who helped to organize our participation.
This March for Life was a historic event because for the first time ever, the sitting Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, took part by addressing the marchers at the rally reassuring the enthusiastic crowd by promising support for their efforts. Additionally, our Holy Father sent a message. Pope Francis assured the many thousands of marchers of his closeness in prayer and thanked them for their impressive testimony to the sacredness of every human life. As his Holiness has made clear, “so great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in the mother’s womb, that no alleged right… can justify a decision to terminate that life” (Amoris Laetitia, 83). He expressed his wish that the March will contribute to be a mobilization of conscience in defense of the right to life and effective measures to ensure its adequate legal protection.
Unfortunately, the enthusiasm of the day was dampened by our concern for our brothers and sisters who are recent immigrants here in our country and for the many refugees seeking a peaceful place to live, worship and raise their families. Evidence of this worry could be seen in the “Don’t abort and don’t deport” signs which were visible at the March. While we certainly must ensure the safety of our country, we also must redouble our efforts at this time to ensure that welcoming the vulnerable stranger is part of respecting the dignity of the human person.
Likewise, working to eradicate racism in our nation is a priority too. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan explained to the marchers in his homily at the Vigil Mass, in a country where abortion is prevalent, no one’s rights are safe. Connecting these issues, he asked “Can any of us be safe, can any of us claim a sanctuary anywhere when the first and most significant sanctuary of them all, the mother’s womb protecting a tiny life, can be raided and ravaged?”
Together, let us pray that our world, our country and our families continue to work to respect and protect all human life.
The Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen