One month ahead of the annual March for Life, the Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus have announced that a Washington, D.C., sports arena will be the site for a pre-march Mass and rally.
“Life Fest,” a three-hour event at the 4,200-seat Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, is a recognition that there is much work to be done in building a culture of life, even though the Supreme Court this year overturned the pro-abortion Roe v. Wade decision.
The court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson declared that there is no constitutional right to abortion and effectively allowed states to decide on regulating the procedure. While many states have since banned abortion, some have moved to expand abortion rights.
Many in the pro-life movement have recognized a greater need to continue supporting mothers in crisis pregnancies and trying to persuade fellow citizens that unborn life deserves legal protection.
“As Sisters of Life, we’ve thought that maybe there’s an opening in the movement, kind of a newness, a desire to figure out what are the best next steps, and I think we’ve all sort of recognized the work in some ways has only just begun,” said Sister Virginia Joy, a Sister of Life who was involved in the planning. “There’s obviously such a greater need for hearts and minds to be open to the sacredness of human life and there just seemed to be an opening at this particular March for Life.”
The event will feature music, Mass, and testimonies, much in the style of a larger event that took place every year before the March for Life but which was canceled this year.
Speakers will include a married couple who has suffered from abortion and has gone through the healing process, and some of the Sisters of Life, one of whom will be joined on stage by her twin sister who has Down Syndrome.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, will be the main celebrant of the Mass.
First year without Roe
Sister Virginia Joy said in an interview that the idea originated when some of the Sisters of Life were discussing their plans for marking the annual anniversary of the Roe decision.
“There was a little sense that this year is very new. It’s the first year without Roe being on the books,” she said. “There’s been this ongoing question of whether it’s necessary to still have a national March for Life, or should we be focusing on the states? For us, we see the March for Life as the largest, the longest human rights demonstration of its kind. It’s really unifying for the movement; it’s really encouraging for the movement. It’s been so pivotal in a lot of our lives. As we looked around to see what other events were going on, there just seemed to be like an opening. We thought that maybe the Holy Spirit is inspiring us to do something new.”
Another Sister of Life, Sister Maris Stella, called the 2023 National March for Life, which takes place on January 20, “one of the most crucial in the history of the pro-life movement.”
“In the wake of the recent Dobbs decision, we see a profound opportunity to build the culture of life in a new way,” Sister Maris Stella said in a press release. “We want to serve the Church in her most urgent need — that of the cause of human life, sharing the good news of God’s plan for life and love. So, let’s return to the heart of the matter. Let’s renew our commitment to love. Let’s be agents of healing in a broken world.”
Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, noted that his organization helped launch the National March for Life 50 years ago, in the wake of the Roe v. Wade ruling.
“Tens of thousands of Knights have marched, year after year, and it’s become the largest annual human rights demonstration in the world,” Kelly said in the press release. “The end of Roe is a crucial milestone, but we should not mistake the ruling as the end of abortion. The fight to protect life will now evolve at the state level but a united stand before national lawmakers is still essential. We’re delighted to partner with the Sisters of Life to inspire the next generation, and together, we’ll push forward in the states and as a nation, with all the courage and compassion we can summon.”
The press release said that Life Fest “hopes to inspire and educate a new generation on the next steps for a new spirituality of love and life, one foundational to building a culture of life in the post-Dobbs era.”
“The Sisters and Knights aim to reignite the faithful in an appreciation of the gift of their own lives, and love and empathy for women who are unexpectedly pregnant and for women and men who have suffered after abortion,” it said. “They also hope to encourage the attendees to continue to participate in the March for Life as a celebration for life.”
Participants can register at the Life Fest website.