2018 pro-life march to share joy of life

Annual rally to showcase pro-life solidarity among cultures, Christians 

Roxanne King

You’re invited to march in support of the most vital civil rights movement happening today and all you need to bring is your joy.

That’s the message of the 2018 Celebrate Life rally and march organized by the Respect Life Office of the Denver Archdiocese.

Themed “Bring your joy,” the Jan. 13 annual event at the state Capitol is a show of unity and solidarity for the right to life.

“This is the Colorado piece of the largest civil rights movement in our lifetime,” said Lynn Grandon, archdiocesan Respect Life program director, speaking about the annual event better known as the Colorado March for Life.

Everyone, from parents bringing infants, to schoolchildren, young adults and senior citizens exercising free speech, are invited to show up and bear witness to the sanctity and value of human life at every age and every stage.

Inspiring speakers will rouse the crowd, which has numbered 3,000 in past years, on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol at 1 p.m. prior to embarking on a march through the Capitol Hill neighborhood accompanied by various musical groups.

Speakers include Archbishop Samuel Aquila, ordained Presbyterian minister and Colorado Christian University president Don Sweeting, Denver Sisters for Life, Students for Life of America regional coordinator Bethany Janzen, and All Saints Church pastor Msgr. Peter Quang Nguyen.
Music at the rally will be provided by popular artist Matt Miller and by the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary Choir.  Acclaimed author/speaker Chris Stefanick, founder of Real Life Catholic, will serve as emcee.

The annual Celebrate Life March will be held at the Colorado State Capitol Jan. 13, 2018. (Photos by Jeffrey Bruno)

“We’re striving to dissipate the attitude of so many people who think pro-lifers are negative and unpleasant and show that the pro-life movement is the opposite of what’s purported,” Grandon said. “There is a wonderful, growing contingent of people who are positive, joy-filled and energetic about valuing every single human life.”

The celebration aims to build unity among Spanish- and English-speaking pro-lifers within the Church and with Protestants, Grandon said.

The event is preceded by 11:30 a.m. Mass celebrated by Archbishop Samuel Aquila at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception across from the Capitol, or faithful may attend an 11 a.m. Mass at six other Catholic churches nearby, four of which will be said in Spanish. Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez will celebrate Mass in Spanish at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.
A mariachi band and matachines, whose ritual dance often depicts the victory of Christianity over paganism, will accompany the marchers.

“There’s a wonderful cultural diversity and we have this beautiful ecumenical partnering with Colorado Christian University,” Grandon said. “This is an issue we all agree upon.”

ENDOW, a Denver-based apostolate that teaches the new feminism of St. John Paul II, will lead the march.

“Often the general public is unaware of the amazing side of the Catholic Church of the vibrancy, dedication, faithfulness and exuberance of our holy women,” Grandon said, sharing excitement over the Sisters of Life speaking and Endow leading the march. “They are a powerful face to our community of joyful women.”

Marcela Garcia Lopez, Hispanic operations coordinator for ENDOW, said the march complements the apostolate’s mission.

“Our name, ENDOW, stands for educating on the nature and dignity of women, and in order to understand the dignity of women you have to understand the dignity of the human person, which is what this march is about,” she said.

The Catholic school with the largest contingent of students will win a pizza party, Grandon said. Surrounding dioceses have been invited, as have all the mega-Protestant churches.

Seeing the diversity of the pro-lifers and their contagious joy should make a powerful impact on the wider community, Grandon said.

“Don’t sit back in your home with apathy,” she urged, noting that a list of fun things to do in Denver has been provided for families at RespectLifeDenver.org. “Come to the march and stay for the fun!

“Seeing all the different groups, people will wonder, Who are they? What is that all about?” she added. “It’s powerful to unashamedly stand together and say every single life God has created has value, worth and dignity.”

CELEBRATE LIFE MARCH

When: Jan. 13, 2018
Where: West steps of Colorado Capitol, 200 E. Colfax Blvd., Denver
Masses: preceding the event at downtown churches – 11:30 a.m. Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception; or at 11 a.m. at Holy Ghost or St. Elizabeth of Hungary or in Spanish at Annunciation, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart or St. Joseph
Information: https://respectlifedenver.org or 720-799-9299

COMING UP: “We were faithful”: Denver marches to celebrate all life

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The pro-life movement is changing.

Throughout the years since abortion was legalized with Roe vs. Wade, we’ve seen younger generations become more involved and passionate about the right to life. We’ve seen the pro-life conversation include not only the unborn, but every life – the elderly, the sick and any marginalized group that is treated as less than human.

The way we speak about life has changed, too. Gone are the days of angry protesting and shouting at women entering abortion clinics while holding graphic images.

In an interview with Denver Catholic, speaker Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director and speaker at Denver’s Celebrate Life rally Saturday afternoon, said, “Most people have moved away from the protest mentality and moved toward positive change…I think we are becoming a pro-woman movement, not just pro-baby.”

This was especially evident Saturday, as a crowd of close to a thousand attended Mass with Archbishop Samuel Aquila, followed by a rally and march in front of the Capitol to celebrate life.

Young and old alike, but especially the young, packed the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception to standing room. Archbishop Aquila reminded the congregation of the message of the Gospel in his homily preceding the rally and march.

“As we celebrate life, these readings speak to us…each of us is called to encounter Jesus…in that encounter, we cannot be indifferent. We must recognize our need for Jesus.”

He stressed that our witness in the pro-life movement must begin with this deep encounter, and a recognition that we are all sinners.

“As we march for life, and point to the truth of life, we point to the truth of our own human condition…that we are all sinners, and that we have received his mercy.”

“How often do we ask the Lord, ‘Reveal my heart to me?’ Where do I commit sins against life? Where has my heart hardened…How do you want me to be a missionary of life?”

Archbishop Aquila spoke about the loss with the Colorado End of Life Options Act (Proposition 106) passing, and that we should never be discouraged.

“It can appear we are losing that battle…we can become discouraged when we see that 65% of our state voted for physician assisted suicide…but as Mother Teresa said, it is not a question of success or of failure. It is a question of faithfulness to Jesus Christ. We did not fail. We were faithful.”

Following Mass, the crowd walked to the Capitol, despite the afternoon chill, to gather for a rally that included national speakers Abby Johnson and Chris Stefanick, as well as Archbishop Aquila.

Stefanick, president of Real Life Catholic, kicked off the rally, stressing that we remember the heart of the Gospel.

“We forget that we look like God! That is a mind-blowing truth…you are kind of a big deal – that’s the message of the Gospel,” Stefanick said.

“He ultimately revealed how big a deal we are to him by dying on the cross for us.”

Stefanick stressed that the march wasn’t just a protest for the unborn, but “for the immigrant, the homeless, the sick, the unborn…we are here to celebrate life.”

Archbishop Aquila stressed walking with those who are suffering, especially the sick and dying, and praying for our state, politicians and healthcare providers.

“Be politically vigilant and active, and enter the public square,” Aquila said. “Being faint of heart is not the Christian worldview – go to the throne of grace with confidence…that is what it means to be a missionary!”

He also noted that our available pro-life apostolates need our support, and to be aware of the opportunities here for those in need, such as Bella Natural Women’s Care and Marisol Health, a newly-opened clinic that aids women with crisis pregnancies.

Abby Johnson rallied the crowd to get more involved in the pro-life movement beyond just attending the march.

“Go home from today and discern how you will take your pro-life values and live them every single day,” Johnson said.

With our efforts to make the pro-life voice heard, in the end, Johnson said, the goal is “to make abortion unthinkable.”

And our involvement really does matter.

According to Johnson, there is up to a 75% no-show rate when people are outside abortion facilities praying, a staggering statistic. Her own involvement in the pro-life movement, outside of speaking, was founding her own ministry to help abortion workers leave the practice, an organization called And Then There Were None. That ministry definitely meant something – to 330 people, to be exact.

“You better believe it matters. Your prayers matter,” Johnson said.

And it mattered to the hundreds that came to the march.

“I think it’s really important to come all together and renew our commitment to the battle,” said Joseph Goodwin, 25.

A pregnant woman, Jessica Rocha, 20, said, “A baby is always a blessing. In this culture of death, having a baby at this age could be seen as an obstacle for a successful life, but that is not true.”

“I have been asked if I have ever considered abortion, but I say no! I see my child as a blessing!” Rocha continued. “That’s why I’m here marching for the defense of life.”

This year’s event was run by the Respect Life Office of the Catholic Charities of Denver, which provides consultation to and in collaboration with parishes, as well as educational and healthcare institutions. It also hosts other pro-life events throughout the year, including Prayer in the Square and 40 Days for Life.

For more information on ways to get involved, visit http://respectlifedenver.org.

Carmen Elena Villa contributed to this report.