Rhode Island pro-life advocates gearing up for a week of advocacy, prayer

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PROVIDENCE — Pro-life advocates around Rhode Island are preparing for a week of rallies, protests and liturgies to pray for an end to abortion and the restoration of full human rights to the unborn as they mark the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, on Sunday.

This Saturday, January 21, the Diocese of Providence Office of Life and Family Ministry will sponsor the annual Respect Life Mass at St. Paul Church, Cranston, at 9 a.m. The Mass, held annually around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, offers Catholics from around the diocese an opportunity to join together in commitment to the pro-life cause as they pray for an increase in respect for all human life.

“It is a time for all who respect the dignity of every human person – from the time of conception to natural death – a time for all of people of life to join together in prayer to end abortion, physician assisted suicide, euthanasia and other threats to human life [and] to join as the Body of Christ in prayer,” said Carol Owens, coordinator of the Office of Life and Family Ministry.

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin will celebrate the Mass, and Msgr. Albert Kenney, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, will serve as homilist. During the Mass, children from St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Providence, will present a rose to the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in what has become known as the “rose ceremony,” with Father Jaime Garcia, pastor at St. Charles Borromeo, leading the prayer.

The Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe traditionally travels between different parishes in the Diocese of Providence during the month of January to offer opportunities to the faithful to pray for greater respect for human life. This year, as the diocese prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, Marian devotions will take on special significance, particularly for those involved with the pro-life movement.

“This year more than ever, we will be encouraging everyone to a greater and deeper devotion to Our Lady and to say these three little words each day: Mary, take over,” said Owens.

On Tuesday, January 24, Rhode Islanders will have the opportunity to take the pro-life message to the State House at the annual pro-life rally, which will take place in the State House rotunda from 3 to 4 p.m. Students, activists, faith groups and clergy are expected to attend, rallying together to voice their concerns before their senators and representatives.

“Rightly or wrongly, a lot of the legislators gauge the strength of the pro-life movement by the number that come out to the rally. So a large turnout is really critical,” said Barth Bracy, executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life, which organizes the rally.

This year’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Susan Yoshihara, senior vice president for Research at the Center for Family and Human Rights, a Washington, D.C., and New York-based research institute that aims to impact social policy debate at the United Nations. According to Bracy, Rhode Island Right to Life’s efforts during the upcoming year will focus on preventing further inroads into the General Assembly by pro-choice legislators and preparing for policy change at the federal level.

“A lot of what we need to do is be prepared for the 2018 elections, knowing that if the Supreme Court goes in our favor, we’re looking at the possibility that within the next two, four or six years there’s a real possibility now that Roe v. Wade could be overturned,” said Bracy, noting that such an outcome would not illegalize abortion, but return control of abortion law to the states.

“It means that our work here in Rhode Island is much more consequential than it has been since 1973. So pro-lifers really need to rally,” he said.

On Friday, January 27, Rhode Islanders will join thousands from around the country at the 44th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. More than 100 will travel with a bus group organized by the diocesan Office of Life and Family Ministry, while others are expected to travel with smaller groups. Speakers for the day include Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood director and founder of pro-life organization And Then There Were None, and Kellyanne Conway, advisor to President-elect Donald Trump.

“This pilgrimage is a time to reflect on the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the over 56 million babies that have been denied their inalienable right to life,” said Owens. “The pilgrimage is a remarkable experience where people of all ages and all faiths join in a peaceful march for life. We care and we want this slippery slope we have been on to come to an end.”

The week will conclude with the annual Rhode Island Knights of Columbus Pro-life Dinner, which will take place on Saturday, January 28, at St. Cecilia Church Hall, Pawtucket. The evening will begin with the celebration of Mass at 4:30 p.m., followed by cocktails, dinner and a pro-life speaking program in the church hall. All proceeds raised will support pro-life activities in Rhode Island.