Catholic News Service
GERMANTOWN, Md. — Under a full moon on a cold, dark evening, they walked and prayed together, an estimated crowd of 600 people, holding candles and praying the rosary as they marched from Mother Seton Church in Germantown to a nearby clinic where late-term abortions are performed.
Helping to lead the Dec. 10 candlelight prayer procession was Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, just after he presided at a Mass for Life at the church, marking one year since the arrival Dr. LeRoy Carhart in the neighborhood in December 2010.
Carhart left Nebraska to come to Maryland to perform late-term abortions after his state passed a law prohibiting abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. Maryland has some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the country.
A standing-room crowd of more than 1,000 people attended the Mass, where Cardinal Wuerl said, “Countless unborn infants are reaching out to hold on to us with all of their strength, since we are the only voice they have in their struggle to find a place, a home, a life in this world.”
The procession wound for several blocks, with the flickering points of candlelight shining in the darkness. The candles were held by people of all ages, ranging from senior citizens to small children, who marched four people abreast on the sidewalk, as cars drove by.
Members of a Knights of Columbus honor guard also marched near the front of the procession. Two seminarians held a large banner that read, “Pray to end abortion.”
The marchers then stood and prayed before the abortion clinic. Cardinal Wuerl said, “Let us ask God’s blessing on all of us, all who are gathered here, all who speak for life, who walk for life, who defend life.”
Moments later, the cardinal said he was inspired by the size of the crowd witnessing to life at the Mass and procession. “It says that the future is with life. Our task is to keep holding up the Gospel of Life.”
“The power of the symbolism of the light (shining) in darkness was beautiful,” Christa Lopicollo, the archdiocese’s executive director of life issues, told the Catholic Standard, archdiocesan newspaper.
In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl encouraged people to continue to witness to the dignity of all human life through their prayers and actions. “Prayer does change hearts. … Prayer does work, and it must be our instrument of change,” he said.
Cardinal Wuerl noted that just as St. John the Baptist was a voice crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord, so too has the Catholic Church in the past 20 centuries continued that mission, to be that voice, and to follow Jesus’ call for his disciples to be his witnesses.
“What brings us here is the recognition we’re called to share our faith, to share what we believe. We’re called to proclaim the Gospel of life” proclaimed by Jesus.
The cardinal called abortion “the single greatest blight on our nation since the age of slavery. How is it possible in history for atrocities to take place, for those things to happen? How could it be there were concentration camps dedicated to the extermination of people? How could we have in our nation slavery — the reduction of people to property?”
Then, the cardinal continued, people could ask how it is possible today to have “the wholesale destruction of human life” through abortion.
“How did such atrocities come to be ever accepted by any people, anywhere, at any time? Silence. Silence is the ally of atrocity,” Cardinal Wuerl said.
Today, the cardinal continued, “We are confronted with the evil of abortion on demand. It’s almost inconceivable in our city, in our society (that) it would be legal to kill an almost fully formed child.”
Since his arrival more than a year ago, Carhart has performed an estimated 700 abortions at the clinic. Weekly prayer vigils are held near the abortion clinic 8-10 a.m. every Monday.
In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl said that “taking life in the womb” can never be justified. He said it was important to reach out in compassion to mothers and fathers contemplating abortion or grieving afterward. And he called on people to stand up for unborn children whose lives are at risk.
Cardinal Wuerl noted the spiraling violence in homes and on streets throughout the country. “If it’s ever going to be broken, we need a new vision. Christ invites us to see that way that recognizes the gift of life, the wonder of life. Truly you and I are capable of life-giving compassion…(and) life-giving support for mothers and children.”
Seven priests concelebrated the Mass. After the homily and the creed, prayers were offered for the unborn, the elderly and those with disabilities, that people might recognize “their right to life as children of a loving God.”
Dr. Grace Morrison, a parishioner of St. John Neumann Church in Gaithersburg who has helped coordinate the Monday morning prayer vigils outside the abortion clinic for the past year, said that in the past year, there have been “18 saves we know of.” She was referring to women who changed their minds and left the abortion clinic without undergoing the procedure.
“In order to close this place down, our faithfulness out there is essential. … I believe it is our prayer, our fasting and our sacrifice that is what it will take to pierce the darkness,” she said.