More than 1,000 Catholics from the Diocese of Raleigh traveled to Washington, D.C. January 22 to take part in the North Carolina Mass for Life and the National March for Life. The annual events are held on the anniversary of the controversial 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion. An estimated 200,000 people from across the country took part in the March which began on Constitution Avenue, then proceeded past the Capitol and on to the Supreme Court building.
Fifteen buses from the Diocese made their way to the nation’s capital in the early hours of the morning, leaving from locations throughout the Diocese, while hundreds of other people traveled by car, arriving at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in time for the 11:30 AM Mass. They were joined by others who traveled from the Diocese of Charlotte. The Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte celebrated the Mass for Life, with Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge the homilist.
In his homily, Bishop Burbidge noted the words of a survivor from the deadly earthquake in Haiti, who said, “We need help. We need prayers.” He said, “On this anniversary of the fatal decision legalizing abortion in our country, we can almost hear the voices of many children in the womb crying out, ‘We need help. We need prayers.’”
“As we march for life today,” the Bishop continued, “we become their voice to a world that needs to hear their plea.”
Bishop Burbidge encouraged the packed Basilica to become energized to make this witness more than just an annual event. He called on the gathering to make it a daily commitment. He said this can be done through fervent prayer for the unborn, for their mothers and fathers and for all those impacted by the horrible consequences of abortion. The Bishop added, “It is a privilege to walk the streets of our nation’s capital today as authentic witnesses of the Gospel of Life who carry with us the Light of Christ.”
Among the faithful from the Diocese of Raleigh were a group from Wilmington and 115 members of Saint Peter Church in Greenville, including Dr. Becky Tan, a retired pediatrician. She said she was attending to show her support for the sanctity of human life.
Mark Bowerman, a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Raleigh, was attending his first Life Mass and March for Life in Washington. He said he felt it was important to be in Washington as part of the witness for life. Bowerman commended Bishop Burbidge’s homily, calling it “a marching call to all of us,” adding, “It’s exactly what I would expect from Bishop Burbidge, to get out and carry the torch, which is what we are doing today.”
Martina Young, of Saint Michael the Archangel Church in Cary, was attending her fifth Mass and March for Life. She explained she has a passion for helping people understand the concept of respecting life from the moment of conception to the moment of death. On a personal level, she said, she has two adopted grandchildren and understands the decision birth mothers face. She said they know that they have someone praying for them the rest of their lives.
While marching past the Capitol building, Larry Barefoot from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Newton Grove said that if he had the opportunity he would tell his representative to vote against any bill supporting abortion and to vote no to any healthcare proposal that provides public funding for abortion.
Bishop Burbidge described the turnout from the Diocese of Raleigh as “incredible.” He expressed his pride in the faithful and the great effort and sacrifice they make to attend this annual event. Everyone realizes these are very critical times in the life of our country, the Bishop added. He said everyone wants healthcare reform, but not when that reform includes the destruction of life. “All of our people understand what’s at stake,” he said, “and it’s so important to them that they are here today. I hope and pray that our elected officials are seeing us and hearing us and listening to us.”
Both in his homily and in his comments during the March for Life, Bishop Burbidge commented on the strong turnout of young people from Cardinal Gibbons High School and from parishes. “How much hope it fills us with,” the Bishop said, “when we see our young people, who recognize our world is going to be extremely dark unless this evil of abortion comes to an end.”
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Bishop Michael F. Burbidge commenting on the large turnout of Catholics from the Diocese of Raleigh at the North Carolina Mass for Life and the March for Life (WMA)
Martina Young, parishioner at Saint Michael the Archangel Church in Cary, explaining her reasons for attending the Mass and March (WMA)
Larry Barefoot from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Newton Grove, talking about his concern over the anti-life political environment in Washington, DC (WMA)
Dr. Becky Tan, one of 115 parishioners from Saint Peter Church in Greenville, explaining her participation as a retired pediatrician (WMA)
Our Lady of Lourdes parishioner Mark Bowerman of Raleigh, discussing the reason for his first trip to the annual Mass and March (WMA)
Edisson Urrego, Diocese of Raleigh seminarian, explaining in Spanish the importance of the large turnout of Latinos from the Diocese of Raleigh (WMA)