On the day hundreds of thousands of people historically gather for the March for Life in Washington, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., reminded the faithful that being pro-life is more than a label.

Instead, he preached, it is a “pre-eminent priority,” as asserted by “the bishops of our country.”

“Today, I do not wish to focus time or attention on those who oppose us, those who labor under the banners of ‘pro-choice,’ ‘reproductive rights’ or ‘reproductive freedom’ as their rationale for advancing a ‘culture of death.’ Instead, let us lift up our pro-life cause to foster building a ‘culture of life,’” Bishop O’Connell said during the Mass of Thanksgiving to God for the Gift of Human Life.

The Mass was pre-recorded in the diocesan Chancery building chapel for safety reasons amidst the pandemic, with a few members of the Office of Pastoral Life and Mission staff in attendance.

It was streamed across diocesan media Jan. 29 – the day of the annual March for Life in Washington. For the first time in its history, this year’s march was being held virtually due to security and COVID-19 concerns.

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell preached that creation – the life of every person – is very much intentional.

“Our creation, our very lives, therefore, are no mistake, no accident. That is truth,” he said. “We should give thanks to God for this truth, for this gift of life. Giving thanks to God for the gift of human life is the humble disposition, the truth that joins us together today in prayer. It should be our prayer every day.”

He continued by saying that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion represents the opposite of love.

“Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use violence to get what they want,” Bishop O’Connell said. “That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion. ... If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

He continued, “Today, as we join together in the greatest of all prayers, the Eucharist, let us ask the Lord Jesus … to give us the grace to protect the innocent, most vulnerable child in the womb; to encourage their mothers and fathers to let them live; to work with renewed strength to build ‘a culture of life’ and a ‘civilization of love.’ Together, let us give thanks to God for the gift of human life.”

After Mass, Terry Ginther, diocesan chancellor and executive director of Pastoral Life and Mission, reflected on why those who are pro-life continue to mark the Roe v. Wade decision 48 years later.

“Each year, it causes me to think about the impact that this decision has had on society,” she said, explaining that while attending the national 2020 March for Life, she saw signs stating how many lives had been lost to abortion.

“Sixty million,” she said. “That’s an entire generation of people lost. So I do think it’s important that we take the time to mark this anniversary each year, to mourn the loss of all of those children, but also to stand up – as our Bishop has called us to – and to celebrate the gift of life, to be the voice that says, 'No, life is not disposable, that life is a great gift from God.'”