Respect Life Sunday marked with cathedral Mass, walk

BOSTON --Thousands braved a cold, heavy rain to observe Respect Life Sunday Oct. 1 with a Mass at the South End’s Holy Cross Cathedral and the annual Walk to Aid Mothers and Children and rally on the Boston Common.

The Mass was celebrated by North Region auxiliary Bishop Francis Irwin, who told the congregation that Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley sent his regrets from Rome where he was taking possession of his titular church.

Seizing on the theme of Respect Life Sunday, Bishop Irwin said in his homily, “The abortion argument has become politicized and separated from God’s teachings.”

Among the congregants were members of the local chapter of the World Apostolate of Fatima, who placed the American Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima on the left of the cathedral’s altar.

It was the statue’s first public showing in Boston in five years, said Lynn Kenn, founder of the pro-life “Baby Showers” program the local president of the Fatima Apostolate.

The statue was gifted to the United States by Bishop Joao Venancio of Fatima in 1967.

Kenn said she was pleased that it made its debut on Respect Life Sunday before making its way through different churches in the archdiocese.

Unfortunately, the rain made impossible to bring the statue to the Boston Common for the walk, she said. The statue is made of wood and was recently painted.

While the pilgrim statute may not have been ready for the elements, many pro-life supporters apparently were as they made their way with umbrellas and raincoats to the Boston Common for the Walk to Aid Mothers and Children. The walk raises money for numerous agencies that support women in crisis pregnancies, including the archdiocese’s own Pregnancy Help program.

Speaking at the pre-walk rally, former Boston Herald columnist Donald Feder evoked Thomas Paine to the crowd on the Common. “You are not sunshine patriots!”

Because Respect Life Sunday fell on Oct. 1, it was also the anniversary of the late Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit to the city, said former Boston mayor Raymond L. Flynn.

Flynn, who was President Clinton’s ambassador to the Holy See, recalled to the crowd the thousands who celebrated Mass with the late pontiff on the Boston Common the evening he arrived.

Gesturing with his half-opened umbrella, he said, “On this very spot Pope John Paul said to the young people: ‘Do not be afraid.’”

Another speaker told the crowd he remembered the horrible weather that drenched the Boston Common that night and the pope’s remark: “Boston is beautiful, even in the rain.”

This year’s observation was the 20th anniversary of the walk and rally, said Edward X. Long, a member of the MCFL’s walk committee.

The attendance this year of 5,000 is lower than the 18,000 to 20,000 who attended in the peak years in the late 1980s, he said.

Despite the rain, the organizers expect to have raised roughly $30,000 from registration fees and donations, said June E. Newman, who sits on the MCFL board of directors and the walk committee.

Part of the annual walk and rally tradition is the pro-abortion counter demonstrators, said Lloyd P. McDonald, who helped out with the registration table.

McDonald said he has driven up from Harwich all 20 years and he has always had a kind word for the pro-abortion protesters.

“It will be a real test for them this year because of the rain,” he said.

“One year, I noticed a man who was part of the pro-abortion protest, who was watching us clean up after the march. He was standing on the corner across the street and then he came over and starting looking at our literature,” he continued.

When the man asked Long is he could take some of the brochures, Long told him he was welcome to whatever he wanted but he had to ask why he wanted them. “He told me he was a student at Harvard and his friends had convinced him to come along. But, when he saw all the families walking together he took a good look at the people he was standing with and how they were acting.”

Long said the man continues to come the common every year on Respect Life Sunday, but now he marches for life.