October is Respect Life Month, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) calls upon the Church to help foster a culture that cherishes, nurtures and protects life through worship and prayer, education, pastoral care and public policy.
Answering this call, the Diocese of Orange, in partnership with the Orange County Chapter of the Knights of Columbus recently hosted the Orange County Walk for Life.
Held on Oct. 7 at the 34-acre Christ Cathedral campus for the second year in a row, close to 1,500 worshipers gathered at the Our Lady of La Vang Shrine to pray the Rosary, celebrate Mass and participate in a Eucharistic procession around the campus.
This year’s theme is “Praying for Life, the Dignity of Life.”
Very Rev. Angelos Sebastian, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Orange, who was the main celebrant of the Mass, said life is a precious gift from God and no one has the power to take it away.
“This is a very powerful testimony that we are giving to the world that we love life, we cherish life, we fight for life and we stand for life,” said Fr. Angelos. “That’s the message that we are sharing with the whole world today.”
Bishop Kevin Vann was also in attendance.
Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference in Sacramento and the day’s guest speaker, shared her insights on the importance of witnessing for the dignity of human life at every stage.
Domingo also expressed her happiness at being present on Christ Cathedral campus for the Walk for Life.
“I think it’s wonderful to be praying the Rosary at this beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang and speaking before Mass and Eucharistic procession,” she said. “Our Lady, through sacrificial love, said yes to being the mother of Jesus. And Jesus, through dying on the cross for us, showed us the ultimate sacrifice.”
Domingo spoke about seeing visibly pregnant women on the streets of Los Angeles begging for money and food.
These women are often forgotten about by society and feel their lives have no meaning or purpose, she said.
“I’ve noticed that they are in great need of hope and love,” Domingo said. “Some have spent years being abused and mistreated, and they don’t remember that they are children of God and that they have worth. I’ve been privileged to meet some amazing people who are helping others to recognize their human dignity.”
The Knights of Columbus supplied free food to all attendees and raised awareness about programs offered by the organization for new and expecting mothers.
The Knights’ ASAP program (Aid and Support After Pregnancy), provides formula, diapers and other necessities.
The nonprofit also supports the Life Center of Santa Ana, which provides a variety of medical services to mothers and their babies.
“We are very much in support of life and one of the things that we do is to let people know, especially those in Congress, that there is a large block of votes that’s pro-life,” said Don Franson, deputy for the Knights of Columbus District 128. “We’re hoping that they’ll get that message.”
Horizon Pregnancy Clinic in Huntington Beach was among several service providers on hand to share information on their programs for pregnant women and women who have recently given birth.
“When they’re terrified and they feel like they have nowhere else to go, we simply love them and give them the option for life,” said Kelly Hudson, volunteer advocate for clinic. “We can just put them on the path to whatever it is they need for healing and hope.”
Linda Ji, director of the Office for Family Life for the Diocese of Orange, talked about the department’s mission to support marriage and family formation, provide pastoral care for families and offer services for all stages of life, “to the sick and homebound and all the way to end of life.”
“We believe in the dignity of life, so it is important for us to be here,” Ji said.
The emcee was Mark McElrath, executive director of the Santiago Retreat Center and a member of Knights of Columbus Council 4922 in Orange.