Parishes to hold Holy Hours for Life on Roe anniversary

BRAINTREE -- Dozens of parishes and collaboratives across the archdiocese are planning to hold Holy Hours for Life or similar pro-life events on the weekend of Jan. 21-23, bringing their communities together to pray for the unborn and for assistance in witnessing to the dignity of human life.

Jan. 22 is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. The U.S. bishops have established this as a day of penance for the act of abortion and prayer for the legal protection of unborn children. For 14 years, the permanent deacons of the archdiocese have coordinated Holy Hours for Life, Forgiveness and Healing on or around the Roe anniversary, holding prayer services in their respective parishes and encouraging other clergy to do so as well.

Marianne Luthin, director of the archdiocese's Pro-Life Office, said she is "beyond delighted" by the response of parishes organizing prayer services.

"I thought this year, with the continuing uncertainty about COVID, that the numbers would be way down, but they're actually up," she said, speaking to The Pilot on Jan. 10.

Holy Hours will be taking place in "all different kinds of communities," she said, from the inner cities to the suburbs and more rural areas. Many parishes are offering both in-person and live-streamed events, and an increasing number will be in Spanish or bilingual.

Some parishes are holding more than just an hour-long service. For example, St. Mary of the Nativity in Scituate is planning to hold 40 Hours for Life, offering various prayers from 6 a.m. on Jan. 21 until 10 p.m. on Jan. 22. These will include Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, the Angelus, the Stations of the Cross, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and the rosary.

"There is nothing more fundamental than the defense, protection, and nurturing of human life. Nothing else matters if life itself is not protected," said Father Matthew Conley of St. Mary of the Nativity.

It is a significant time for the pro-life movement in the United States, as the country approaches the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade next year and the Supreme Court considers Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, a case with the potential to overturn Roe.

Luthin said there is "a sense that things are different" this year, as the court is "poised to make a potentially precedent-setting decision."

"I think that there was a sense, with everything happening in the country, that this is a time when the Church needed to come together in prayer. And that is truly what is happening here," Luthin said.

For those who have been long-involved in pro-life work, the number and range of the Holy Hours are a sign of encouragement, letting them know they are not alone and that other Catholics are committed to bringing their communities together for the pro-life cause.

"This is not about politics here. This is about understanding our relationship to God and our responsibility for others in the community who are vulnerable," Luthin said.

The Holy Hours for Life are also an opportunity for the faithful to reflect on what they, as individuals and as a Church, can do to bear witness to the dignity of life.

"I think we all realize we need to take that quiet time and bring our thoughts and prayers to the Lord and seek guidance," Luthin said.

She said she senses "a desire among people to better articulate what we believe and be more effective in our witness." Questions that they might ask in prayer are, "Are we doing this the right way? Are we doing what we're called to do? Are we doing it effectively? What do we need to do differently?"

Luthin also noted the different pro-life services that the archdiocese sponsors, which are available throughout the year. Pregnancy Help, which has locations in Brighton, Brockton, and Natick, assists women experiencing crisis pregnancies. Project Rachel ministers to women who have had abortions, as well as others hurt by abortion, helping them find emotional and spiritual healing.

"You have to begin with the people whose lives are affected by this. It can't just be a political issue out there with the talking heads on cable television. That's not what the pro-life movement is in its entirety. We're here because we believe in the dignity of each and every human life," Luthin said.

Information about the work of the Pro-Life Office, including the Holy Hours for Life, Pregnancy Help, and Project Rachel, can be found at