Notre Dame community prays together in D.C. for a culture of life

Over 400 Notre Dame students attended Mass on Friday, January 20 as a part of the university’s pilgrimage to the March for Life in Washington D.C. This liturgy took place at St. James Catholic Church in Falls Church, VA, the parish of Fr. Paul Scalia, son of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. 

The Mass marked a joyful commencement to Notre Dame’s first March for Life since the June 24, 2022 decision in  Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade. “The atmosphere was very joyful because we were celebrating the end of Roe, and the Mass really embodied that,” commented Kathleen Farnan, a first-year student in attendance. 

“Being in the church and hearing so many voices sing with joy and hope was very important to the liturgy, and knowing that we were all about to march for life was a very powerful thing,” commented Olivia Van Meter, another first-year student.

This year, the march fell on the feast of Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross. But the celebrant and homilist, Fr. Pete McCormick, C.S.C. chose to celebrate the votive Mass For Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life.

This text, along with the Mass For the Preservation of Peace and Justice, is one of the two liturgical options for the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, which normally falls on January 22, the anniversary of the decision in Roe v. Wade. As Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, they may also be celebrated on other days. 

When asked about Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, Dr. Gabriel Radle, the Rev. John A. O’Brien Assistant Professor of Liturgical Studies told the Rover that although “the Church understands each and every Mass to be a universal act … tradition holds that the Mass can also serve as a means for praying for specific needs.”

While particular intentions can be prayed for “using the common texts of the Mass for that day … historically, the Church has also celebrated the Mass with unique texts composed for specific occasions and intentions.”

Dr. Radle explained that the Mass For Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life was the initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was approved by the Holy See for use in the U.S. in 2011.

In an interview with the Rover, Fr. Karl Romkema, C.S.C. described how “before the Dobbs decision, half of my heart didn’t really even believe that the court would reverse Roe v. Wade. Because of this, my prayer was more focused on those things that we can change on our own initiative, as a society, and as a Church towards fostering the culture of life.”

Fr. Romkema also noted that “there’s such a powerful impact of the Church uniting over a real life issue, a very heavy issue like abortion, and saying that our faith has something concrete to speak to that issue, something joyful, hopeful, and healing.”

In the wake of the Dobbs decision, “we also need to do what the prayers of this Mass give us permission to do: to give thanks for the gift of life and for this new decision, which opens up so many more freedoms,” he continued.

Fr. Romkema told the Rover how important it is for Notre Dame students to attend the Washington D.C. March for Life on an annual basis, “so that they can see, through the witness of their peers and their peers across the country, that they’re not a fringe group … that we make up a whole half of the population or more of people who are, at heart, pro-life.”

Looking at the world after Dobbs, Fr. Romkema noted how “the prayer has become somewhat less political.” Because of this, “[The pro-life] movement, which has been so intent on judicial rulings, can now become more local and focused on actually reaching women and families … and on providing the friendship and accompaniment that people need in order to actually live a culture of life.”

Freshman Right to Life representative Theo Austin told the Rover, “The focus [of the movement] has changed, but as a Catholic I know that nothing can be accomplished without God. Prayer obviously has to be an integral part moving forward, at least for me and for the Right to Life community here at Notre Dame.”

Notre Dame Right to Life continues to organize opportunities to pray as a community for the promotion of the culture of life, and will host Mass on Tuesdays at 9 pm followed by Adoration until 11 pm in Baumer Hall.

Joshua Velasquez is a first-year Architecture student from Edinburg, Texas. Having experienced both extremes of the weather, he finds the cold to be much more tolerable (for now). Feel free to ask him about his nuanced weather opinions at