By Lisa Zengarini
The annual National Prayer Vigil for Life in the United States will take place from January 28 to January 29 in a virtual format, due to the Covid-19 crisis. The vigil is organized annually in January by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to commemorate the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s “Roe v. Wade” and “Doe v. Bolton” decisions which legalized abortion in the country in 1973. Since then over 60 million abortions have been performed legally in the US.
In normal circumstances, the prayer vigil is hosted by the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat and the Catholic University of America’s Office of Campus, in Washington D. C., and is followed by a March for Life in the city, with thousands of pilgrims convening to pray for an end to abortion and a greater respect for all human life.
Taking turns to lead live-streamed prayers all night
However, due to local attendance restrictions imposed because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the National Shrine will be closed to the public this year. So, for the first time ever since 1974, in addition to the televised Mass, bishops in dioceses across the Country will be taking turns leading live-streamed holy hours every hour on the hour throughout the all-night vigil. As reported by the USCCB web-site, the vigil will begin with a live broadcast at 8:00 PM on Thursday, January 28 from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. with a rosary, followed by Mass opening the National Prayer Vigil for Life. The principal celebrant and homilist for the opening Mass will be Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City , who is chairman of Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the USCCB. After the Mass and throughout the night, holy hours led by bishops from various dioceses around the country will be broadcast on the USCCB’s website. The vigil concludes at 8:00 AM on January 29 with Mass celebrated by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore. Archbishop Naumann has invited all Catholics to join the vigil, saying that: “Now, more than ever, our nation is in need of prayer for the protection of the unborn and the dignity of all human life”.
History of Vigil Prayer and March for Life
The first Vigil Prayer and March for Life took place in 1974 with the participation of twenty thousand people. Over the years the number of participants has grown constantly reaching 300 thousand people in 2011, showing increasing awareness on life issues in the United States. Since 2013 the vigil is also preceded by a Novena of prayer and penance.