Pro-life Catholics have a new opportunity to stand against abortion and promote a consistent ethic of life together as a Church on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, thanks to an effort by the diocesan Respect Life Office.
On Sunday, Jan. 20, the diocese will hold one Mass for Life at Robinson Center, a Eucharistic procession through Riverfront Park in downtown Little Rock and starting Jan. 19, the first Hearts for Life Conference, featuring pro-life speakers.
“It’s a weekend for our diocese to come together to give public witness to our faith. It’s a witness for us to pray for the end to the grave evil of abortion but also for the sanctity and dignity of each human life,” said Catherine Phillips, Respect Life director.
For the past two years, the diocese has held a Vigil for Life and then two Masses for Life, split between teens and adults. Because of the prevalence of adoration chapels in parishes throughout the state, Phillips said no formal Vigil for Life will be held, but encourages parishes to hold their own vigils for the pro-life weekend.
For the first time, starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 on the plaza in front of the DoubleTree Hotel, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor will lead a Eucharistic procession for life, walking a little more than a mile through Riverfront Park, ending at Robinson where one Mass for Life for both youth and adults will begin at noon.
Phillips anticipates the procession to last about an hour, with prayers and reverent music played along the route. Participants can enter the procession at various points for those who are unable to walk the full distance. Public parking is available at Robinson and around the park. The procession will take place in the rain or snow, unless safety is at risk.
“When we bring our Lord through Little Rock, we walk and follow him, we give public witness to our faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist,” Phillips said. “And that he’s here with us, walking with us in the everyday moments of our lives because he’s present body, blood, soul and divinity, really with us; we have hope and we can build this culture of life. We can bring light to the dark corners of our world.”
Robinson will be open for prayer ahead of Mass for those who cannot participate in the procession. At the end of the procession, the bishop will give a Eucharistic blessing and adoration will take place before Mass.
One Mass for Life for the diocese was a tradition for many years, but when Robinson Center was closed for renovations and the Statehouse Convention Center was not available, the decision was made in 2017 and 2018 to hold two separate Masses at the Cathedral. Last year the youth Mass for Life attracted about 700 teens and chaperones participating in the Weekend for Life youth conference.
“We’re too big, praise be to God,” Phillips said. “… It’s too many for the Cathedral.”
Returning to one Mass for Life with Bishop Taylor at the renovated Robinson Performance Hall, which seats more than 2,000 people, brings “people of the Diocese of Little Rock together as one Church that stands for life.”
A boxed lunch will be available for purchase after Mass.
To make it easier to attend the morning procession and Mass as well as provide current pro-life education, the Respect Life Office will also host the first Hearts for Life Conference at St. John Center beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19 and continuing until the Eucharistic procession Sunday. While youth throughout the state attend the popular Weekend for Life conference, hosted by the diocesan Catholic Youth Ministry Office, Phillips said she wanted a similar event with quality speakers “available to everyone in the diocese.”
“Every life is chosen by God and was created to be cherished. We’ll give a broader understanding of what legislation can do for the pro-life movement but where its limitations lie. Maybe some ideas for opportunities where they can bring their passion for life to work in the ministry and mission of the Church,” Phillips said.
Registration will begin at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by prayer, dinner and a lineup of speakers that will discuss pro-life topics including embracing the gift of life with an adverse prenatal diagnosis, end-of-life issues like assisted suicide and current pro-life legislation as well at the impact of the Supreme Court nomination.
“There’s such a push in our nation for assisted suicide legalization. There’s a lot of misinformation out there and it’s really important that adults in part have current information about end of life issues because we’re going to face it in our own lives or in the lives of our elderly parents,” Phillips said.
The $40 fee per person, with family discounts available, will include dinner, breakfast and overnight lodging at Fletcher Hall at St. John Center. However, attendees are not required to stay there. There is not a set plan for transportation to the procession and Mass on Sunday though it is in consideration.
Registration for the Hearts for Life Conference will open during Respect Life Month, Oct. 15, and continue until Jan. 9 or until it is filled. Space is limited so registering early is suggested, Phillips said.
Participants can find out more information as it becomes available by visiting dolr.org/respect-life.
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