IRONDEQUOIT — Silence permeated St. James Church for a stretch of more than 30 minutes Jan. 18, as approximately 125 people knelt together in prayer.
Their participation in an early-evening Holy Hour, led by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, contrasted with an energetic scene in Washington, D.C., about 18 hours later. There, many thousand demonstrators — including two busloads from the Diocese of Rochester — joined together despite cold and snowy conditions.
In both places, however, the cause was identical: defending the sanctity of all human life.
The Holy Hour was among many initiatives conducted in conjunction with the 51st-annual March for Life Jan. 19 in the nation’s capital. Events take place each year on or near Jan. 22 — the date in 1973 that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal in this country.
That landmark ruling was reversed in June 2022 by the court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, returning regulation and restriction of abortion to state legislatures. Yet abortion remains legal in New York and many other states, so such pro-life efforts as the March for Life are ongoing.
“We still have a lot of work to do to make abortion unthinkable in today’s society. So many people, including Catholics, unfortunately, have bought into the lies that abortion is OK,” said Gerry Sander, who organized the two-bus contingent that traveled from Penfield’s Holy Spirit Church. “Since the Dobbs decision, many people think the abortion fight is over, it has been decided. But nothing is further from the truth.”
Holy Hour at Irondequoit church offers peaceful prayer
The Holy Hour at St. James was part of a nationwide observance of the National Prayer Vigil for Life, which took place Jan. 18 in solidarity with other dioceses and archdioceses. Following the service, adoration was offered in the St. James perpetual-adoration chapel next to the church.
“Knowing that all around the country, people are praying the same as in Washington, that’s what this is intended for,” said Elizabeth Johnston, diocesan life-issues coordinator. “It’s an amazing feeling to be part of it.”
Prolonged silence during much of the Holy Hour served to deepen prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, Johnston added.
“A lot of times in our lives, we don’t have silence anymore. And so those 30 minutes were like a godsend for people with their hectic lives,” she said.
Johnston noted that in addition to the service led by Bishop Matano, a Holy Hour took place Jan. 18 at Immaculate Conception Church in Ithaca as well.
Organizer from Rochester Diocese lauds youth participation
Later that night, buses set out from Holy Spirit Church, stopping in Bath, Steuben County, to pick up five participants. Sander said that out of the nearly 100 bus travelers, more than half were students and chaperones from Auburn’s Tyburn Academy and Rochester’s Chesterton Academy. He added that he saw a large number of youths at the March for Life as well.
“This is very encouraging for the future of the pro-life movement,” said Sander, a member of Webster’s St. Rita Parish. He also lauded Penfield- and Webster-area Knights of Columbus members, who provided support through participation and monetary donations.
While in Washington, the Diocese of Rochester group attended Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, then took part in a pro-life rally beginning at noon on the National Mall. Sander noted that speakers focused on efforts to help pregnant women choose life and provide them with necessary services and support.
The rally was followed by the March for Life at 1 p.m., originating at the Washington Monument and going past the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court buildings. Travelers from the Rochester Diocese then returned home, arriving in the early morning of Jan. 20.
Anti-abortion efforts must continue all year
For those not journeying to Washington, March for Life involvement came in the form of such local prayer events as rosaries and other Holy Hours. For instance, several diocesan parishes were to take part in a nine-day novena for life, promoted by the U.S. bishops, from Jan. 16-24.
Many of the observances were to take place Jan. 22, the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 373, states: “In all the Dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.”
Sander asserted that pro-life efforts must continue year-round, both at the national level — “the Biden administration is the most abortion-minded administration in history,” he said — and in New York state, where legalized abortion continues.
“We must start at the local level and vote for strong pro-life candidates at every level of the government,” Sander said.Tags: Abortion, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, Life Issues