By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Catholic Church and her people stand ready not only to help pregnant women bring their pregnancies to term, but also to help women who have had abortions, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said. chairman of the US Episcopal Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
The ministries are many, he said in his homily at the January 20 Mass that opened the annual National Prayer for Life Vigil at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The vigil takes place before the January 21 March for Life in Washington.
“I salute Project Rachel and other pioneering ministries that bring healing and spiritual renewal to women and couples after abortion,” Bishop Lori said in his homily.
He also praised the Sisters of Life, which he called “a growing religious community of women who, through their way of life, testify to the beauty and dignity of every human life.”
“They do this by welcoming pregnant women into their homes and providing life-changing spiritual resources for women in crisis,” he said.
Archbishop Lori turned away from his homily to seek – and receive – a round of applause for them and all the sisters at Mass.
“Another magnificent and rapidly growing ministry is Walking with Moms in Need, a ministry sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This parish ministry helps open the eyes of parishioners to pregnant and parenting mothers in their local communities. said the Archbishop.
“It allows parishioners to get to know these mothers, to listen to them and, along the way, to help them obtain the necessities of life for themselves and their children, including medical care as well as emotional and spiritual. The initiative, he added, “is a way to help millions of mothers! It is also a way for parishes to respond to Pope Francis’ challenge to be “islands of mercy in a sea of indifference”.
“It may have been Mary who was the first to exemplify Walking with Moms in Need,” Archbishop Lori said. “When she heard from the angel that her cousin Elizabeth – well beyond childbearing age – was in her sixth month, Mary rushed to her side. Mary’s journey through the mountainous region was a treacherous trek of about 90 miles, but she went all the way to reach out to Elizabeth for love when she needed it.
Recalling the Gospel story proclaimed at Mass, Bishop Lori said, “The pregnancies of Mary and Elizabeth seemed incredible, cause for questioning and fodder for gossip. Yet, like Jeremiah the prophet and more, God had a plan for children and the mothers who bore them.
Archbishop Lori told his own story of counseling women and couples considering abortion.
“More than once in my almost 45 years of priesthood, I have encountered women and couples who were considering abortion. Almost without exception, these women and couples were deeply in conflict. Most have experienced very deep and real anguish,” he said.
“With the help of God’s grace, I tried to walk with them, connect them with helpful medical services and pro-life ministries, and never assume that I fully understood what they were crossing,” Bishop Lori added.
“Some couples I’ve met have had troubling prenatal diagnoses. Others, especially single women, were often victims of poverty and abuse,” he continued. “In almost every case, family members, friends and medical professionals urged them to have an abortion as a ‘solution’ to a ‘problem’ child – a child likely to be born with an abnormality or, conversely, a child in perfect health, a child born into poverty and lack of equity.
Bishop Lori said, “For many of them, it seemed like their only option was to have an abortion, but deep down they knew it was a tragic choice with lasting consequences. What we need so much in all these situations is a testimony of love and life!
In his homily, he took note of recent developments in which pro-life Americans might be able to rejoice.
“We are keenly aware that the Supreme Court is weighing Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This case gives the High Court an opportunity to redress the grave injustice it committed in 1973 when, in Roe v. Wade, she decided that an entire class of human beings, the unborn children, escape the protection of the law, and therefore of “non-persons”. said Archbishop Lori.
“Since that tragic decision, more than 60 million innocent lives have been taken. If Roe is overturned, states will again be able to protect the lives of unborn children. If legal protection is accompanied by more care for mothers and their children, then it will be increasingly clear to more and more of our fellow citizens that choosing life does not hinder happiness or burden society. “, did he declare.
“On the contrary, choosing life creates a society that looks to the future with hope, a society where a woman is never forced to choose between her future and the life of her child!”
Bishop Lori added, “If later this year the Supreme Court overturns Roe, in whole or in part, what should we as Catholics be prepared to do? First, we must be a clear and united voice that affirms that our society and our laws can and should protect and care for women and their children.
“As a matter of fundamental justice, we must work to legally protect the lives of unborn children, the most vulnerable and defenseless members of society,” he continued. “And we must redouble our efforts to support women and couples facing unexpected or difficult pregnancies, with loving and compassionate care.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the District of Columbia has a policy requiring the wearing of face masks for all indoor events, including worship services, but there were no seating restrictions for Mass.
The mass drew around 5,000 people, according to basilica spokeswoman Jacqueline Hayes, less than half of those in recent years, when some 11,000 worshipers made their way through the basilica.