Date of Mass for the Unborn changed to Jan. 21; high school pilgrims now invited

Father William Miller offers the homily at last year's Mass for the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children at St. Mary's Cathedral. High school students unable to attend the National March for Life in Washington, D.C., because of COVID concerns are invited to this year's Mass, which will be celebrated by Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria on Jan. 21. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Diocesan high schools may not be traveling to Washington, D.C., for the National March for Life, but that doesn’t mean they won’t participate. The trip will just be a little shorter.

Students, chaplains and chaperones from Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, The High School of Saint Thomas More in Champaign, Schlarman Academy in Danville, Marquette Academy in Ottawa, Peoria Notre Dame High School, and Alleman High School in Rock Island have been invited to participate in the Mass for the Legal Protection for the Unborn on Friday, Jan. 21, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. It will begin at 10 a.m. and be celebrated by Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka.

Parish respect life representatives and the public are welcome to join them.

The Mass will be livestreamed from the Diocese of Peoria’s YouTube page at cdop.org, for those who are unable to attend.

Following Mass, the students will come to the nearby Spalding Pastoral Center to watch the livestream of the National March for Life Rally and have lunch. The campus ministry team from Peoria Notre Dame is planning the rest of the day, which will include a rosary, eucharistic adoration and time for the sacrament of reconciliation.

Following Mass, the students will come to the nearby Spalding Pastoral Center to watch the livestream of the National March for Life Rally and have lunch. The campus ministry team from Peoria Notre Dame is planning the rest of the day, which will include a rosary, eucharistic adoration and time for the sacrament of reconciliation.

(Click here for a round-up of other Respect Life events scheduled around the Diocese of Peoria this month.)

COVID CHANGED PLANS

Originally planned for Jan. 28, the annual Respect Life Mass was rescheduled when the pilgrimage by the Catholic high schools was canceled due to rapidly rising COVID-19 cases across the country.

“It is simply not safe to transport students 800 miles from home by bus. If any student were to contract COVID during the trip, it would be extremely difficult to get them safely home with the rest of their classmates,” Jerry Sanderson, associate superintendent of Catholic schools, wrote to the principals.

The change in plans means the elementary school students who would have attended the Respect Life Mass will not be able to do so now. Sanderson encouraged them to pray for the unborn at their regular school Mass the week of Jan. 21-28.

“You may want to consider having a Holy Hour that week and/or a schoolwide rosary,” he added.

That prayer and continuing education are important as the effort to protect life from conception until natural death continues, according to Father Bill Miller, episcopal vicar for respect life for the Diocese of Peoria.

“IT’S NOT OVER”

“As we embark on a new year we carry a mixed bag of good and bad news on the Respect Life front. I am reminded of St John Paul II’s expression about ‘the interplay of light and shadows,’” Father Miller said.

He noted that this is a good time for respect life advocates to pray and live the “Serenity Prayer.”

Pro-life advocates are seen near the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, the day justices heard oral arguments in a case about a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

“Let’s be united in focusing on what we can do, indeed must do, to defend those who are in danger from the prevailing culture of death, especially children at the beginning of life in their mother’s womb,” Father Miller said. “We all need to stay informed and engaged in the related legal battles going on while not limiting ourselves to this aspect of fighting the good fight.”

And pray for the conversion of everyone in the abortion industry, he said. “This is a practical and powerful way to ‘love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you.’”

Father Miller added that supporting and caring for expectant mothers goes a long way to advancing the cause of life.

Quoting the theme for the National March for Life, “Equality Begins in the Womb,” Cecilia Soñé said simply, “I agree.”

“Most of the statistics show that it is usually people of color . . . that are basically targeted with this nonstop attack on human life. In the state of Illinois they’ve added fuel to the fire by rejecting parental notification of abortion,” Soñé, director of respect life for the Diocese of Peoria, told The Catholic Post.

Not only does that give children the ability to get abortions without their parents knowing anything about it or even providing a waiting period, but it allows human traffickers to procure abortions for those they control, she said.

There are other issues that need watching, such as “chemical abortions,” she said. There are many ways this could go wrong and harm the women who are taking these pills.

“It’s not over,” Soñé said.

“So we need to get on our knees and really pray,” she said. “I continue to pray. We continue to move forward and educate and pass that baton to the young people, that they get fully educated, correctly, and with the right resources.”

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