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placeholder Pro-life march in San Francisco draws record crowd

Antioch parish marks abortion anniversary with prayer service

High school student leaders gather for day of service

St. Mary’s Center completes purchase of former parish property

Transfer of Oakland bishop impacts next phase of plan for new high school

Pastoral leaders convene to discuss challenges, solutions

California Jesuits start care center for deported migrants

Catholic leaders hopeful of change in U.S. immigration policies

Rumors aside, FOCA legislation no threat to Catholic health care

Pro-life leaders criticize Obama for reversing Mexico City policy

All-Christian village in Palestine offers prayers, material aid for people of Gaza

Vatican, traditionalists: A story whose end has not been written

Vatican launches video news channel on popular YouTube

Catholic school lessons retained by ‘Doubt’ writer-director

Catholic actress Siobhan Hogan likes roles, pace of her career

Vatican orders study of institutes of women religious in United States

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placeholder February 9, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 3   •   Oakland, CA

A group of young women carry a banner at the front of the pro-life march along San Francisco’s Embarcadero, Jan. 24.
JOSé LUIS AGUIRRE PHOTO

Pro-life march in San Francisco draws record crowd

These participants from San Leandro demonstrate their pro-life support.
JOSé LUIS AGUIRRE PHOTO

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — An estimated 32,000 people gathered in San Francisco Jan. 24 for the fifth annual Walk for Life West Coast. The procession stretched more than a mile as participants walked for three-miles along San Francisco’s Embarcadero.

“The message was heard loud and clear,” said march organizer and co-founder Eva Muntean, adding that “the numbers were huge” despite it being cool and overcast.

Many came from the Oakland Diocese in busses chartered by individual parishes or deaneries. St. Michael Parish in Livermore reserved seats for parishioners at St. Louis Bertrand in Oakland and picked them up on their way to San Francisco. “I had many more calls this year about groups who were organizing with their neighboring parishes,” said Colleen Knutsen, diocesan Respect Life coordinator. “There is a real spirit of community.”

Students at St. Mary’s College, Holy Names University and UC Berkeley also organized groups, as did many parish youth ministry groups.

The march, which marked the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, has drawn more people each year. The first march, in 2005, had 7,000 participants.

In the same period, counter protests have dwindled, starting strong with a rally that drew 3,000 supporters of legal abortion in 2005 and shrinking to just a few hundred such demonstrators last year and this year.

Knutsen said more women and men who have experienced abortion are participating “and standing up to say ‘enough.’ They want to help heal a society torn apart by abortion and help individuals who have suffered this pain.”

For several hundred pro-life marchers, the day began with a Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Auxiliary Bishop William J. Justice of San Francisco, the principal celebrant, reflected on the farewell address of Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy, wherein the prophet extolled Israel to “choose life.”

Afterward, a pre-march rally began with a prayer from Bishop Justice, who was joined by Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento and Auxiliary Bishops Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Diego and Rutilio J. Del Riego of San Bernardino.

Featured speakers included Frank Lee, coordinator of Asian Americans Against Abortion. Lee told Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper, that his group was particularly concerned this year about the incoming administration of President Barack Obama and his pledged support for the Freedom of Choice Act, which if passed by Congress and signed into law by the president would wipe out many existing state laws and impede states’ ability to regulate abortion.


Parishioners of St. Michael’s in Livermore lead their parish’s delegation.
JOSé LUIS AGUIRRE PHOTO
As of Jan. 27, however, FOCA had not been introduced in the 111th Congress.

Lee, who addressed the crowd in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, said freedom does not give anyone the right to do whatever he or she wants. “It certainly does not give us the right to commit murder,” he said.

Singer Diana Nagy, who also spoke at the rally, said her own crisis pregnancy at 15 brought her closer to God.

“It saved my life,” Nagy said. “I was heading down the wrong path. As long as God gives me a voice, I will spend the rest of my life fighting for the unborn.”

Nagy gave her son up for adoption, and said that although she wanted to care for him she did not believe she was ready. Nagy recently reunited with her son, Jarren Williams, and introduced him to the crowd.

Karen Shablin of Feminists for Life, a former member of what is now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the crowd she regretted having an abortion earlier in life.

“I could have achieved everything I have today if I had my child or had given it up for adoption,” Shablin said. “I should have demanded more for myself and of myself.”

The Rev. Clenard Childress, senior pastor of New Calvary Baptist Church in Montclair, N.J., and founder of BlackGenocide.org, encouraged increased pro-life efforts in the wake of Obama’s inauguration.

“We thank God today for this moment,” Childress said. “We’re going to rise in this hour as never before. You’re not going away. I’m not going away. This is our moment.”

Mother Agnes Mary, of the New York-based Sisters of Life, said the message of life must be one of love. “Let us pass on the love,” she said. “Let us tell the truth. Let us change the world.”

As the march began, the crowd protesting the event walked alongside carrying signs supporting legal abortion and shouting slogans such as “Pro-life remains a lie, you don’t care if women die,” and “Not the church, not the state, women must decide our fate.”

Pro-life marchers had been instructed not to interact with counter protesters. Most onlookers watched in silence as marchers walked past them.

“The walk brings people together who are seeking a positive change in our society — to work for a society that no longer perceives a need for abortion, … where everyone is welcome and accepted as a gift,” said Knutsen.

Knutsen said the walk has reinvigorated the movement and drawn new supporters. “This energy helps people want to stay involved year round—helping at pregnancy centers, planning baby showers for women who need support, helping people heal after abortion. It is incredible to see the willingness to help.”

“We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback,” said organizer Muntean. “We’re quite proud with the outcome. It rejuvenates and reinvigorates our mission.”

 

Members of St. Mary Parish in Walnut Creek join in the pro-life march.
JOSé LUIS AGUIRRE PHOTO

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