WASHINGTON—Over 10,000 pilgrims, many of them youth from schools around the nation, are expected to gather in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to pray for an end to abortion at the Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life, Wednesday, January 21, at 6:30 p.m., the eve of the annual March for Life. The vigil coincides with the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision on January 22, 1973, which legalized abortion nationwide. Since the decision was handed down, an estimated 56 million abortions have been performed legally in the United States.
"The 2015 National Prayer Vigil for Life takes place at the heart of the bishops' 9 Days for Life novena calling for an end to abortion and other offenses against human dignity, as well as healing for our violence-wounded nation," said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). "It's held on the eve of the single largest annual civil rights demonstration, the March for Life. Together we stand in solidarity with the unborn and pregnant women alike, working in peace toward the day when all vulnerable lives enjoy the full protection of the law."
"That is why we march, and that is why we pray," she added.
Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, will be the principal celebrant and homilist at the Vigil Mass, concelebrated by fellow cardinals and many of the nation's bishops and priests. Following the Opening Mass, the Vigil will continue in the Crypt Church of the Basilica with confessions, a National Rosary for Life, Night Prayer according to the Byzantine Rite, and holy hours led by seminarians from across the country from midnight until 6 a.m.
That same evening, The Catholic University of America will host more than 1,000 pilgrims overnight.
On Thursday, January 22, the Basilica will host Morning Prayer at 6:30 a.m. in the Crypt Church and the Closing Mass at 7:30 a.m. in the Great Upper Church. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the USCCB, will be the principal celebrant and homilist.
The National Prayer Vigil for Life is co-sponsored by the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and The Catholic University of America.
For more details on the overnight National Prayer Vigil for Life and other Washington, DC, Roe v. Wade events, see this list of activities during the month. To participate in the 9 Days for Life novena, visit the website.