Texans come together in prayer, rally for life

By Hannah M. Hepfer

Catholics from around the state gathered for Texas Catholic Pro-Life Day on Jan. 24. The day, sponsored by the diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities and Chaste Living, began with a prayer vigil at Planned Parenthood in Austin. A rosary and Mass followed at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, both celebrated in memory of the lives lost since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the legalization of abortion. It was standing room only in the church, noticeably filled by teens from Catholic schools around Texas. Students from the choir at Holy Family Catholic School provided the music.
Bishop Joe Vásquez, who concelebrated the Mass with priests from Austin and with Bishop Wm. Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi, said that human life is undervalued in today’s society and that each person has been called by God from the moment of their conception. 
“Before we were born, God already knew our name,” he said, “He already had a plan.” 
The bishop noted that in the Gospel, when asked by the disciples who would enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus placed a child before them and said, “Unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” 
“Why the little child?” asked the bishop. “It is well-known historically that children in the time of Jesus were not considered valuable. They were a commodity — they could be sold into slavery or to pay a debt,” he said. 
“[Yet] Jesus says to us, ‘This person may not have great value in this society. But this is the one that we should be paying attention to,’” the bishop explained. “It is in the faces of these little ones that Jesus can be found,” he said. 
Bishop Vásquez affirmed the church’s teachings on life issues. 
“Abortion, assisted suicide, the destruction of human embryos and euthanasia are always morally wrong … because they are incompatible with the love of God and the dignity of each person,” he said. “Any attack on innocent life is an attack on what is most sacred.”
He encouraged the congregation to stay steadfast in their efforts to protect life and oppose abortion. 
“We must ask for strength to go forward,” he said. “Let us view every day as an opportunity to defend the life of the unborn and all human beings.”
Several hundred roses were placed around a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe — the patron saint of the Americas and the unborn — and blessed by the bishop and distributed at the end of the Mass. 
The St. Vincent de Paul Knights of Columbus served a taco lunch in the parish hall, and buses took many attendants to downtown Austin, where they joined hundreds of other pro-life Texans to march a mile and a half to the steps of the Capitol building. There the annual Texas Rally for Life, emceed by former Planned Parenthood facility director Abby Johnson, and featured speakers Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, among others.
Judy Hunter and her daughter Carrie Hunter, both from Austin, have been attending the rally together for more than 10 years. 
“We’ve been coming since Carrie was little and now my granddaughter is here, too, marching with Pro-Life Aggies,” Judy said. “So we’re trying to keep the generations attending.”
“I believe that life is precious all the time, not just when it’s convenient,” Carrie said. “Life is precious … every life is valuable.”
Mary-Cate Machalec, from New Braunfels, and Hillary Camp, from Houston, attended the march representing the Catholic Longhorns for Life at the University of Texas at Austin. 
“It’s been really eye-opening, especially since I came to college to stand up for what I believe in,” said Machalec of her decision to march. “The sanctity of human life is so attacked today and I just wanted to come out and stand for truth.”
For Hillary, her reasons to attend were more personal. 
“I was born nine weeks early and could’ve have had a lot of problems. I was a baby that I guess could’ve been aborted,” she said. “But I grew up in a pro-life family. It’s just a miracle that I was born, so it means a lot to me stand up for life. It’s hidden in Scripture everywhere that life begins at the moment of conception.”
“It’s really empowering and unifying to see so many people out here,” Machalec said.

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