Even though this year’s March for Life won’t involve a live presence in Washington, D.C., a number of participation options remain available for pro-life advocates in the Diocese of Rochester.
Organizers of the national march announced Jan. 15 that the march — scheduled for Jan. 29 — will adopt a virtual format, citing threats to crowd safety due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as potential fallout from the Jan. 6 rioting at the United States Capitol building. This development marks the first year since the March for Life began in 1974 that there will not be a public march in the nation’s capital, where up to 100,000 pro-life pilgrims from around the country typically gather for the annual event that also includes such activities as rallies, Masses and conferences.
However, a number of initiatives are being planned in the Rochester Diocese to note the Jan. 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in this country. Observances will include a Mass for Life celebrated by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday evening, Jan. 28, at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral. The Mass will be livestreamed by the Catholic Courier, with in-person attendance limited to 150 people due to social distancing regulations. For registration details, contact Shannon Kilbridge at 585-328-3228, ext. 1218, or Shannon.Kilbridge@dor.org.
Kilbridge, who serves as director of the diocesan Office of Life Issues, added that three diocesan churches will offer Holy Hours for Life Jan. 29, all of which can be attended in person (up to a predetermined capacity) or accessed through social media. The holy hours will be offered at Holy Apostles, Rochester, from 12:10 to 2 p.m. via Facebook; at Immaculate Conception, Ithaca, from 2 to 3 p.m. via Facebook; and at St. Mary, Auburn, from 3 to 4 p.m. via YouTube.
Kilbridge also suggested registering online to watch March for Life activities taking place Jan. 29 in Washington, where a small number of invited pro-life leaders from around the country will march. In addition, she encouraged young Catholics to take part that day in a virtual youth rally and Mass for Life organized by the Archdiocese of Washington.
Several other ideas for acknowledging the March for Life are available on LifeROC, a resource provided by the diocesan Office of Life Issues. Among them are taking part in the National Prayer Vigil for Life, set for Jan. 28-29; supporting local pregnancy resource centers; showing pro-life support on social media; sending lawmakers pro-life messages; and joining initiatives such as “Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service” and the March for Life one-day walking challenge.
Kilbridge said that due to the pandemic, the Rochester Diocese had already opted before the Jan. 6 rioting not to organize several bus contingents to Washington, as is typical. Similarly, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been encouraging such local March for Life initiatives as the 9 Days for Life Novena for those who do not wish to travel.
“We’ve been challenged to do things differently, and this is no exception,” Kilbridge said, adding that the pandemic “doesn’t decrease the importance of the March for Life. We’re wanting to make sure we recognize the day and do it safely.”
Other March for Life-related events around the Diocese of Rochester will include prayer vigils taking place in three locations. They will occur on Saturday, Jan. 23, beginning at 9:45 a.m. outside the Planned Parenthood facility at 114 University Ave, Rochester; on Sunday, Jan. 24, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Church and Main streets in Elmira; and on Friday, Jan. 29, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on West William Street across from Planned Parenthood in Corning. The Corning vigil will be preceded by a Mass for Life at St. Mary Church at 12:15 p.m., as well as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the church from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
In the Schuyler Catholic Community cluster, a Litany of Life will take place after the 8 a.m. Mass on Jan. 22; and a “Celebrate Life Baby Shower” will take place Jan. 23-24 to support the Southern Tier Pregnancy Resource Center.
Kilbridge suggested checking the online diocesan parish directory for additional details regarding parish activities related to the March for Life.