There is great hesitancy to hold events that bring large gatherings of people together out of concern for spreading the COVID-19 virus, which has seen a surge in cases in recent months. But there are still numerous ways the faithful in the Diocese can support respect life efforts, especially through prayer.

“Pray, pray, pray, it’s so important,” said Father Joe Noche, diocesan respect life chaplain for Burlington County.

Father Noche, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Hainesport, and Rachel Hendricks, diocesan respect life coordinator, shared ideas on what folks in the Trenton Diocese can do locally in the coming weeks, especially as the 49th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., approaches on Jan. 22, and only a handful of the Diocese’s 98 parishes are sponsoring buses to the March.

Along with encouraging all the faithful to turn to personal prayer, Father Noche suggested that respect life intentions be included during the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass and that priests and deacons address the issues in their homilies. Father Noche said his homilies will be directed toward respect for life especially during the week of the March for Life.

While Father Noche is not traveling to Washington on Jan. 22, he plans on attending the Jan. 14 Mass for Life in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, at 9:30 a.m., with members of his parish staff. The Mass precedes the annual Rally for Life that New Jersey Right to Life sponsors each year on the steps of the State House. The rally, which runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., typically features addresses by pro-life clergy of varying faith traditions and politicians as well as witnesses by persons who may have had an experience with an abortion. The rally is attended by several hundred people from throughout the state, including a significant number of Catholic school students and teachers.

Hendricks provided the following schedule of upcoming activities:

Jan. 19-27 – 9 Days for Life Novena • All parishes in the Diocese are encouraged to support participation in this initiative spearheaded by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops whether it’s through in-person prayer and reflection; individual participation or through parish social media and/or website platforms. Information may be found at www.respectlife.org/9-days-for-life.

School initiative • Notre Dame High School will display a pink and blue pro-life flag and banners on the Lawrenceville school’s campus during the week leading up to the March for Life and Roe v. Wade anniversary.

Want to go to Washington? • As of Jan. 5, the following parishes have announced that they will sponsor buses to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21:

Monmouth County:

St. Mary, Middletown – Contact Bill Large: blarge712@gmail.com

St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold – Contact Tom Panettiere: tpanettiere@victorypackaging.com

St. Rose, Belmar – Contact Italia Testa: italiatesta@gmail.com, 732-604-9449

St. John the Baptist, Allentown – Contact the parish office: 609-259-3391

Burlington County:

St. Charles Borromeo, Cinnaminson – Contact John Loftus: 856-701-3985 or Peg Campbell: 856-296-4440

St. Mary of the Lakes, Medford – Contact Gene Kotowski: 609-238-6807; eugenekotowski@aol.com

Ocean County:

St. Peter, Point Pleasant Beach – Contact Ellen Conaghan: 732-899-7322 or 732-322-1873

Visit  TrentonMonitor.com for possible updates to this list.

Jan. 26 – Mercer County Respect Life representatives will hold an “Educational Conversation on Pro-Life Issues in New Jersey” forum at 7 p.m. in Ferrante Hall of St. Gregory the Great Parish Center, 4620 Nottingham Way, Hamilton Square. Forum presenters include Marie Tasy, New Jersey Right to Life executive director; James King, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, and Dr. Gerald Burke, president of the New Jersey Medical Association Guild. John Zefutie, a Catholic lawyer and member of St. Gregory the Great Parish, will serve as moderator.

Forum topics will address the following questions:

“The NJ Reproductive Freedom Act: What is it? What impact will the NJ Medical Board abortion rules changes have?

“What is the current state of the Supreme Court abortion law? What is the current state of the law protecting the unborn in New Jersey?”

“If Roe v. Wade is overturned by June, what happens next in New Jersey?”

“What is the pro-life strategy to support life?”