PHOTO GALLERY: Celebrate Life march and rally 2017

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On Saturday, Jan. 14, hundreds gathered at the state capitol for the Celebrate Life march and rally. A crowd filled with pro-life advocates both young and old marched down the streets of downtown Denver in what was an impressive show of pro-life support. Masses were held at several parishes in Denver beforehand, including the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, and the rally featured addresses by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, Real Life Catholic founder Chris Stefanick, and former Planned Parenthood employee turned pro-life advocate Abby Johnson.

Denver Catholic photographer Andrew Wright was there to capture the joyful occasion.

All photos by Andrew Wright

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The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was filled to standing room only for the Mass prior to the rally and march.

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An overwhelming number of young people came to the march, proving that a new generation of pro-life advocates is on the rise.

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Archbishop Aquila addressed the crowd gathered outside the capitol, urging them to not be afraid to stand up for life in the public square.

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Real Life Catholic founder Chris Stefanick riled the crowd with an enthusiastic talk before the march. He also pointed out that the term “life” does not apply solely to the unborn; he said the march was also a protest for immigrants, the homeless and the sick.

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Abby Johnson, who has gained fame for becoming a fierce pro-life advocate after being employed by Planned Parenthood, also addressed the crowd. She noted that the pro-life movement has changed and is no longer simply about defending the unborn; she called it a “pro-woman” movement.

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The wide array of ethnicities and cultural backgrounds at the march showed that the act of defending life crosses boundaries and is a sign of universal love and care.

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Doves were released before the march as a symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

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The march filled the length of the streets of Denver and spilled over onto the sidewalks. Police escorts were there to ensure the march could progress safely and uninterrupted.

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

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DENVER, CO - JANUARY 14: Hundreds attended Denver's Celebrate Life Rally and March Jan. 14, especially youth. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

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.