Officials from the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Catholic students marked the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion Friday with a Youth for Life Pilgrimage and anti-abortion demonstration in frigid temperatures.
The church and students from nine Catholic schools prayed at the Cathedral of St. Agnes in Rockville Centre during a Mass to preach the value of life and also commemorate the Feast of St. Agnes — the 12-year-old martyr who later became known as the patron saint of young girls and chastity and purity.
The students also stood on the lawn of the cathedral holding signs depicting babies that read, "life is sacred" and ultrasound photos with captions saying "future doctor" and "future president."
Church officials said they wanted to offer a local demonstration in lieu of the annual pilgrimage to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Friday
"Today marks an American tragedy and brings us to this place today," the Rev. John Crozier, associate pastor at St. Mary Church in East Islip, said. "Today is also a somber day of remembrance and marks the Supreme Court’s decision it made on that dark day as it legalized abortion on a national level and the threats to life that ought to be protected in the safety of a mother’s womb."
Crozier said St. Agnes gave witness to the cause of life — life that begins in the womb, and asked, what is life worth? He said the dignity of life and of the unborn needs to be declared every day.
"So much of our life is centered around usefulness and convenience. If something doesn’t fit or isn't part of the plan, it’s tempting to get rid of it," he said. "We don’t gather as a people who despair in front of these challenges. We place ourselves in the presence of the Lord and we go out there and tell the world how much we’re worth and how much every single human life is worth."
Other priests at the church said Friday served as a moment to stand up for life on Long Island and spoke of a dark age in America in need of a renaissance to celebrate life.
"The pro-life movement is a young movement," said the Rev. Michael Duffy, rector of the cathedral. "Most of those demonstrating in Washington, D.C., are young people who know it’s important to defend the defenseless who can’t defend themselves."
Planned Parenthood marked the anniversary of Roe v. Wade by issuing an open letter to the U.S. Senate urging it to protect abortion rights by passing the Women’s Health Protection Act, noting half the states could ban abortion and restrict access to 36 million people.
"If the Supreme Court of the United States decides to dismantle or even overturn Roe v. Wade, there is no telling how it might dismantle voting, immigrant, LGBTQ+, and a multitude of other rights. The Senate must follow in the House of Representatives’ footsteps now and pass WHPA to protect access to abortion and ensure that no one is denied this fundamental right."