An Alternative Pilgrimage

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester has released Pilgrims for Life: a digital guide for prayer and advocacy, which “offers ideas and resources for us to continue our strong, Pro-Life advocacy even though we won’t be boarding busses [sic] to D.C. this coming January.”

Some of us have wondered whether COVID concerns might affect diocesan-sponsored transportation to the January March for Life in Washington DC. Now we know. I’m a little sad, but not surprised. I’ve been on some of those diocesan pilgrimages to past Marches, and “social distancing” is at best an amusing notion in that environment.

The March goes on

The national March for Life itself is still scheduled for January 29, 2021, regardless of how scarce bus transportation might be. The Roe v. Wade decision will be 48 years old on January 22, and it still needs to be challenged socially as well as judicially. There’s no word yet about New Hampshire’s own 2021 pro-life rally and march in Concord, which is usually scheduled and managed by New Hampshire Right to Life independent of the national event.

While the annual diocesan bus caravan has always carried hundreds of people to the national March, it’s not the only way to get to Washington. Some faith communities arrange their own bus or carpool. I’ve taken the train from Boston to Washington, overnight both ways. I’ve flown down and back in a day, when I’ve found deep-discount airfares. There’s always I-95. If you want to get to the March for Life, you have options.

Pray, Advocate, Unite

The Pilgrims for Life program is not a virtual march. (I like it already.) It is intended to be an ongoing program of prayer, advocacy, and unity leading up to the March, to “build up a culture of life in New Hampshire and beyond.” To summarize briefly the 13-page guide:

Prayer will include special services at churches throughout the diocese in mid to late January.

Advocacy includes taking action on relevant public policy issues, including life-issue bills in Concord.

Unity – “unit[ing] our intentions, prayers, and actions around the same cause” – includes a suggestion to take the money one would otherwise have spent on a trip to Washington and donating it instead to a pro-life cause. I love that idea. A DC trip for me, even a one-day down-and-back sprint, is easily $200. That includes a couple of bucks for an indispensable hot pretzel purchased from a vendor on the National Mall. (I travel in style.)

The guide has many more ideas for your consideration.

What’s your plan?

If your own church or community group decides to head down to the March, let me know. I’d like to hear about your experience. If you typically make the trip but decide to forgo it in 2021, I’d like to know if you decide to participate in a local effort instead.

I still haven’t decided on whether to travel to Washington for the March. It is an extraordinary opportunity to meet and learn from people from different backgrounds with different pro-life ministries. If I go, I’ll cover it for my readers as usual. If I skip the trip, I’m confident there will be plenty to write about here at home.

For more information: Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, Respect Life and Pilgrims for Life

Bishop Libasci on refugees: “we are called to respond with compassion”

[Since the Paris slaughter committed by jihadists, I’ve heard plenty about what the United States should or shouldn’t do with refugees. I’m skeptical that calls for increased vetting of refugees reflects an understanding what’s involved in the existing vetting. I’m repelled by the comparison of refugees with M&Ms (“if you knew a handful of M&Ms included one poisoned one, would you let your child eat them?”). Thank you, Bishop Peter Libasci, for your statement marked by calm good sense and respect for life.] 

Statement from Bishop Peter Libasci of the Diocese of Manchester, NH on the Syrian Refugee Crisis (11/20/15)

Bishop Libasci: "Through individual acts of mercy we can, in the words of Thomas Merton, 'leaven the mass of human misery with the charity and mercy of Christ' and in the aggregate we can overcome evil by doing good." (photo: catholicnh.org)
Bishop Libasci: “Through individual acts of mercy we can, in the words of Thomas Merton, ‘leaven the mass of human misery with the charity and mercy of Christ’ and in the aggregate we can overcome evil by doing good.” (photo: catholicnh.org)

Here in New Hampshire, we are far away from the violence of the Middle East. The images we see do not capture the enormity of the refugee crisis, the more than 4.2 million people who have fled Syria, and the estimated 7.6 million who are displaced within their own country. Many observers, including Pope Francis, have said that this is the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.

One week ago today, innocent victims in Paris were terrorized by violent extremists. I continue to offer my prayers and support for the people of France. The crisis continues and so does our heartfelt concern for all those coping in the aftermath of these terrorist attacks.

In our shrinking world, events many miles away do impact us here in New Hampshire. In reaction to the Paris attacks, many political leaders have called for the United States to deny entry to those seeking refuge from religious persecution and brutal violence in Syria. The questions and concerns that have been raised are understandable because we all want to keep our nation, our families safe. And for reasons of security, it is necessary to continue to carefully screen those seeking asylum. But we also are called to respond with compassion to those who are resettled in the United States. The Catholic Church in New Hampshire, through Catholic Charities New Hampshire and other ministries, stands ready to offer our assistance to refugees who may come to the Granite State seeking asylum from Syria. I ask the people of New Hampshire to consider the stories of the persecution these poor souls have suffered and to learn more about the existing security screening required before refugees may resettle in the United States.

I urge our elected officials, the Catholics of the Diocese of Manchester, and all people of good will to welcome those who travel here fleeing persecution in other countries, including refugees seeking asylum from Syria. We can continue to be a country that resettles refugees of all faiths while continuing to ensure the safety of our nation and its citizens. We are not required to choose, and we can do both.

Even though we as individuals cannot stop what is happening in Iraq and Syria, we can help. Through individual acts of mercy we can, in the words of Thomas Merton, “leaven the mass of human misery with the charity and mercy of Christ” and in the aggregate we can overcome evil by doing good. I pray that the perfect love of God, as expressed in the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, may inspire in our leaders and ourselves a generous response to those fleeing the violence in the Middle East.

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