.- Although the national March for Life is closed to the public this year, dozens of young adults gathered for a pro-life prayer vigil in Washington, D.C. on Thursday night.
While practicing social distancing and wearing masks, members of the group endured the January cold as they kept an all-night prayer vigil outside the U.S. Supreme Court building.
Organizers of the vigil told CNA that despite the Jan. 29 March for Life being closed to the public, they still wanted to take action for life.
As Thomas Hackett of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the co-founder of the Catholic worker organization Tradistae, had announced the vigil prior to the decision of the March for Life to be a virtual event, he decided to continue with his plans.
Hackett told CNA he wanted to embrace the “penitential tradition” of an all-night prayer vigil, to “emphasize the more radical nature” of how to respond to legalized abortion.
“I’m certainly supportive of [the March for Life], but it does often come across more as like a youth rally, like something fun to bus parish kids out to,” he said, explaining that there’s a need to take “seriously the certain gravity of what abortion is and what it means to live in a country where millions have been killed and continue to be killed in the womb.”
Preceding the vigil was a Votive Mass of the Holy Innocents at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill. Attendees then made a short procession to the U.S. Supreme Court building about two blocks away.
As the night continued and temperatures dropped into the mid 20s, the size of the group dwindled from roughly 30 people at the beginning to approximately eight people at dawn. Throughout the night, they prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and the rosary, and sang hymns.
Hackett told CNA that he had no major issues with the police or members of the military posted outside the Supreme Court, and that the vigil was peaceful the entire time.
“We told them we weren’t trying to cause any trouble,” said Hackett. “And so they didn’t bother us after that.”
Other people journeyed from near and far to stand for life.
Mickey Kelly took the train from Philadelphia to come to the Mass and vigil, partly because he views the annual March for Life as a tradition that he wanted to continue. He had been attending the March for Life nearly every year for the past 12 years.
“Even though it would be a small crowd, I just thought that I still wanted to make a difference,” Kelly said. He described his beliefs as supportive of “all stages of life, from womb to tomb.”
Attending the vigil in person “also gives me a chance to recommit to the cause for life,” he said. Kelly told CNA that he would also attempt to walk the traditional route of the March for Life on Friday, from the National Mall eastward down Constitution Avenue and to the Supreme Court.
“I just do my best to put what God wants me to do first, and what the world wants me to do last,” he said.
Valerie Hart, who traveled to D.C. for the vigil from Orlando, Florida, told CNA on Thursday night that she had booked her flights and accommodations for the March for Life “a few months ago.”
The organizers of the March for Life announced Jan. 15 that the 2021 event would be virtual. Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, cited both the pandemic and “the heightened pressures that law enforcement officers and others are currently facing in and around the Capitol” as reasons for the decision.
Mancini asked pro-lifers to “stay home” and watch a live-stream of the event, as a “small group of pro-life leaders” would still march in D.C.
Hart came to D.C. anyway, as she has every year since 2017. She said she was “heartbroken” when she found out the March was closed to the public.
“I just couldn’t understand,” she said. “Because all the protests that have been going on in D.C., and ours is getting canceled, basically.”
Hart said it was important for pro-lifers to go to D.C. to “get their voices heard.”
She told CNA that she planned on attending a pro-life rally Friday morning, one not organized by March for Life, and then would attempt to join the smaller in-person march of pro-life leaders.
“I guess we’ll just walk along–I mean, they can’t stop us from walking in D.C., right?” Hart said with a laugh.
“It’s important to stand up for pro-life values, to stand up for the unborn, for all lives,” she said. “It’s important that people see that we’re still here, and they can’t stop us.”
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