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A Change of plans: March for Life 2021

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All resources are available at https://resources.catholicaoc.org/offices/respect-life-ministries/media-events/march-for-life-resources

Travel restrictions and COVID-19 led the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to cancel its annual pilgrimage to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., but there are plenty of ways to mark the event at home.

The Office for Respect Life Ministries, working with the Center for the New Evangelization, Catholic Schools Office and the Office for Divine Worship, developed alternative resources for parishes, youth ministry programs, Catholic schools and families to promote awareness of and pray for life issues.

Bob Wurzelbacher, director of the Office for Respect Life Ministries, said the buses that usually ferry 300 to 400 students to the national gathering were reserved last summer, but, by September, it became clear that “because of the complications of COVID, we couldn’t do what we normally do It just wasn’t feasible for us to organize the usual bus trip.” ‘

The 48th March for Life, scheduled for Jan. 29, will still take place outdoors in the nation’s capital with the theme “Together Strong: Life Unites.” The event has taken place in Washington, D.C. every January since 1974, and the date is near the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 rulings, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which legalized abortion.

Wurzelbacher said his office typically receives some 1,200 requests to attend the annual youth rally and Mass for Life, traditionally held at the Capital One Arena in downtown Washington, D.C. The vast majority of local youth leaders surveyed indicated they would not participate this year, he noted, but they also said they would appreciate alternatives.

The result was a toolkit that includes a three-week series for either a small group or youth group approach; a one- night, stand-alone lesson plan for youth groups; movie night suggestions and discussion ideas; prayer services and liturgy aids; and lesson plans for incorporating respect life content into Catholic schools.

The archdiocesan resource web page will provide updates about local events as information becomes available. Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr will preside at a pro-life rosary event, which will be live-streamed from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains on Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.

“There are a lot of options,” Wurzelbacher said. “Our hope is that people will be even more inspired to understand life issues. People that maybe normally wouldn’t go the March for Life anyway will be more aware, since these resources will bring the issues home for them. It could lead to even more excitement from people wanting to go in 2022.”

“Even outside of the March for Life, this is an opportunity to look at how we can continue to stand up for life, at home and in our parishes,” he added.

Noelle Collis-DeVito, associate director of the Office for Persons with Disabilities, worked with Christen Aquino, managing director, Youth Evangelization and Discipleship, and Adam Kramer, assistant director of CISE schools, on developing many of the resources. She said, “We really looked closely at how to apply things at the Catholic school level, get parishes involved and more people involved, in general. There are great resources for prayer and to really be in solidarity with the March for Life.”

As a parent herself, Collis-DeVito sees the movie nights, which include the films Unplanned and October Baby, as ways parishes can create opportunities for families with older children to initiate conversations about life issues. In addition, she said, the youth ministry resources “could be adapted for classroom use, so students can look the bigger issues, then apply the lessons to themselves and the outward community.”

For example, the goals of the three-week Sacred Series are to know the sacredness of all human life, especially your own sacredness and that of marginalized people; and take one step toward better self-care; and to reach out to someone in the margins. This resource is adaptable for two different schedule options and could easily be incorporated into a classroom.

This article appeared in the January 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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