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

Therese Bussen

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.

COMING UP: Calling Pro-life Colorado: stand up and ‘be counted’

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Calling Pro-life Colorado: stand up and ‘be counted’

Chris Stefanick, Abby Johnson to headline Jan. 14 March for Life

Every pro-life Coloradan is invited to gather the second week of January at the State Capitol to “be counted” and “show with overwhelming numbers” that this state is pro-life, says event headliner Chris Stefanick, founder of Real Life Catholic.

The annual March for Life is set for Jan. 14, 2017, on the steps of the state capitol. Various Masses will be held around downtown Denver before the March.

The March for Life marks the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion across the United States, and it roughly coincides with the national March for Life that is held each year on Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C.

In an interview with Denver Catholic, Stefanik encouraged all pro-life Coloradans to come out in big numbers for the January life event: “All politics, like all religion, happens locally. This is where we experience our life … that is why we can’t afford not to be counted in our home city.”

Former Planned Parenthood employee-turned pro-life advocate Abby Johnson is also slated for the Jan. 14 march in Denver.

The author of Unplanned, the best-selling book that chronicles Johnson’s exit from the abortion industry, told Denver Catholic that events such as the March for Life are critical for the cause of life: “It’s always important for like-minded individuals to come together to support one another. It is easy for pro-lifers to feel alone in this movement, particularly in states that are typically pro-abortion.”

She said her talk will encourage all pro-lifers to “participate in all forms of prolife activism, [such as] helping to support pregnancy resource centers, working on prolife legislation and peaceful activism outside local abortion facilities.”

“It is our job,” she added, “not to simply make abortion illegal, but to make it unthinkable.”

Archbishop Samuel Aquila will preside at the Respect Life Mass at 11:30 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, and lead the rally on the steps of the state capitol at 1 p.m.

At 11:00 a.m., Masses will be said at Annunciation Parish (Spanish), Holy Ghost Parish, Holy Rosary Parish (Spanish), Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish (Spanish), St. Dominic Parish (Spanish), and St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish.

A youth rally will be held at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish at 10:30 a.m.

The Celebrate Life Rally begins at 1 p.m. at the Colorado State Capitol, and the March for Life begins at 2 p.m.

Since abortion was legalized in 1973, an estimated 59 million babies have died in this country because of abortion. In the United States, 1.45 abortions are performed per minute, 87 each hour and 2.092 abortions per day, according to numberofabortions.com.

Alexa Forster, program director of Respect for life from Catholic Charities and event organizer, told Denver Catholic that it’s “imperative that we publically show our love and support for all human life. As Catholics, we belong to the Universal Church and we must gather in unity and peace to show Denver that we stand against the prevailing evil of abortion.”

Carmen Elena Villa contributed to this report.

Masses, Rally and March for Life Schedule

Youth Rally 10:30 a.m.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish

Spanish Masses for Life 11 a.m.
Annunciation, Holy Rosary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Dominic

English Masses for Life 11 a.m.
Holy Ghost, St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Archbishop’s Mass for Life 11:30 a.m.
Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Celebrate Life Rally 1 p.m.
Steps of the Colorado State Capitol

March for Life 2 p.m.
Around the Colorado State Capitol