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Thousands Attend NC Mass for Life in Nation's Capital

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Several thousand Catholics from North Carolina braved cold drizzle Monday, January 23, 2012, to take part in the National Right to Life March in Washington, D.C.  The annual event marks the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Roe v. Wade Decision, which allows abortion on demand.

Prior to joining the march, the faithful from the Diocese of Raleigh and the Diocese of Charlotte attended a North Carolina Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge was Principal Celebrant and Homilist. Concelebrating were Priests from both dioceses. Also in attendance were deacons and seminarians from Raleigh and Charlotte. 

The theme of Bishop Burbidge’s homily focused on all that is possible. Giving words of encouragement, Bishop Burbidge said it is possible to replace “‘a culture of death” with the “Gospel of Life.”

“It is possible to change the hearts of elected officials,” Bishop Burbidge said, “so that their decisions, actions and votes ensure a society in which all people are treated equally and never denied the right to be born and to live with dignity and respect.”

Noting how the shared hopes and prayers of the faithful are rooted in The Truth, which is Jesus, Bishop Burbidge said, “His mandate is that life from the moment of conception to natural death must be revered, defended and protected.” The Bishop added, “and that respect and dignity are shown to all of His people, especially the unborn, weak, vulnerable, the needy and those whose rights and freedom are violated.” 

Watch Bishop Burbidge’s homily

Read Bishop Burbidge’s homily

This was the first Mass for Life and March for Life attended by Ms. Gianna Buccallacl, a teenager from St. Catherine of Siena Church in Wake Forest. She said the experience at the National Shrine was amazing. She was impressed with the number of young people who were in attendance, all in support of a great cause.

Gianna was encouraged to attend by her friend, Ms. Maggie Lassiter, also a parishioner at St. Catherine. “This is my third year here,” said Maggie. “It’s honestly one of those things that you don’t realize about how many people are in your Diocese and like you until you come to an event like this.”

St. Catherine filled two of the more than 30 buses that made their way to Washington from the Diocese. Many of the pilgrims got up early to make their way to a departure point. Mrs. Lisa Pienkosz, a parishioner at St. James Church in Henderson, said she awoke at 2:30 a.m. to arrive at the church by 3:45 a.m. It was her first trip to the Mass and march, but something she said she felt she had to do, with the encouragement of her children.

“I was adopted. God works in mysterious ways. After I was adopted, family moved to Michigan. I met my husband and have three children. My kids got involved in youth groups. Now that my kids are beginning to understand things, this is an important cause in which to be involved.” 

Mr. Travis Tyson from St. Peter Church in Greenville spoke of a very personal reason for embracing the Gospel of Life.

“My life depended upon my mom not agreeing with my dad’s request on wanting to abort when she was pregnant with me,” Travis explained. “That decision means the world to me. I’m living my life, and I want to support this cause so others can live their life as well.” Travis said his parents moved to Texas for work and once there were unable to find jobs. His mother discovered she was pregnant, and he said his father said they couldn’t afford a child at that time. He said he does not hold a grudge against his father. That his father is happy with his mother’s decision not to abort.

Reflecting on the Bishop’s homily, Travis said, “The biggest thing I took away was making it possible for us to go ahead, through this march and through this movement, to end the culture of death that our government and society are supporting. We are for a culture of life, and it’s not just for unborn babies and euthanasia, it’s from the cradle to the grave.”

View photo gallery

Above: Father Phil Tighe, Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church, praying for life in Spanish with members of his parish youth. (Click photo to view larger.)

Listen to interviews

Bishop Michael Burbidge (MP3)

Bishop Michael Burbidge

Mr. Ryan Elder, Diocesan Seminarian (MP3)

Mr. Ryan Elder

Mrs. Lisa Pienkosz, St. James Church, Henderson (MP3)

Mrs. Lisa Pienkosz

Gianna Buccellacl and Maggie Lassiter, St. Catherine of Siena, Wake Forest (MP3)

Gianna Buccellacl and Maggie Lassiter

Mr. Travis Tyson, St. Peter Church, Greenville (MP3)

Mr. Travis Tyson