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Jonathan Roumie: Pro-life advocacy the ‘worthiest and noblest cause possible’

Jonathan Roumie speaks at the March for Life Rally as one of the keynote speakers. / EWTN YouTube screengrab

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 20, 2023 / 14:31 pm (CNA).

Addressing thousands of people assembled on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a man who became famous for playing Jesus Christ on television gave credit to the real Jesus for leading him to speak out publicly, for the first time, about his pro-life views. 

“This guy made me do it,” Jonathan Roumie told the crowd at the 2023 March for Life, pointing at the sky. “And I’m a better man for it.”

Roumie, a devout Catholic widely recognized for playing the role of Jesus on the popular TV series “The Chosen,” approached the podium Jan. 20 to roaring cheers from the crowd. He was the top-billed of the dozen or so speakers who addressed the attendees immediately before the 50th annual march got underway. 

“God is real, and he is completely in love with each and every one of you,” Roumie told tens of thousands of marchers, many of whom clutched homemade banners and signs bearing pro-life slogans.

“History has been made. Life has triumphed in an extraordinary way,” he said, “and the light of world, who is Jesus Christ, the author of life, his light has burned so very brightly within each and every one of you, irrespective of your specific beliefs, compelling you forward for one reason or another to stand together today to fight for the worthiest and noblest cause possible — which is to allow the unborn the right to enter into the world, and defeat those earthly forces who seek to destroy the very evidence of them.”

Friday’s demonstration was the first national March for Life to be held since the overturning of Roe v. Wade last June, a Supreme Court decision that did away with nearly 50 years of precedent allowing abortion nationwide. The theme of this year’s March for Life is “Next Steps: Marching into a Post-Roe America,” which emphasizes the need to continue to work toward legislation, both at the federal level and the state level, that will protect the most vulnerable. 

Roumie spoke primarily about the spiritual battle that is taking place in U.S. society over abortion and cautioned the crowd — especially young people — to take their faith seriously in the face of resistance, including from popular culture and the media. Satan, he said, “wants us to believe that abortion is not harmful,” and those who are not grounded in a solid faith in God are “ripe for corruption.” 

“Just as God is real, Satan is also real … he pushes you to doubt, when you know in your heart the right thing to do,” Roumie warned. 

While Roumie grew up Catholic, he has spoken openly about the deeper conversion he experienced around four and a half years ago, when he began to grow in his faith. Roumie said Friday that “dwelling in the realm of spirit” has changed him “from the inside out.” Practicing one’s faith, you “begin to see the truth manifest itself in all areas of your life,” and you “can’t unsee what you’ve seen.” 

As Christians, Roumie said, “we know how the story ends. God won.” He encouraged those listening to emulate Jesus by seeking to love and pray for their enemies and those who disagree with them. In concert with prayer, Roumie said those present have the ability to affect a pro-life culture and “reveal God’s truth” by using their “financial, spiritual, and temporal” resources. 

“We are beautifully flawed, but not alone,” he encouraged. “God is love, and true love gives way to life, not death.” 

Roumie’s fellow speakers at the 2023 March for Life addressed the march’s theme, “Next Steps.” They spoke to the attendees about the importance of building a culture, both legislatively and in each person’s personal life, of support for women and babies. 

Tony Dungy, a professional football coach, father of 11, NFL analyst, adoptive dad, New York Times bestselling author, and Pro Football Hall of Famer, took the stage to speak about the recent health scare of NFL player Damar Hamlin, and the public outpouring of prayers that took place when it appeared that Hamlin’s life was hanging in the balance.

Unborn babies are not as visible and well-known as famous athletes, Dungy said, but “those lives are still important to God, in God’s eyes.”

Saving their lives is “not the end of the story,” though — mothers and babies need our help, he said. Dungy’s wife, Lauren, took the stage and spoke about their adoption experience alongside the couple’s now 21-year-old daughter.

“We are talking about lives,” Lauren Dungy said. “We need to pray for every woman who is in this situation ... we have to pray that we have enough adoptive families to pray for these precious lives.”

Summer Smith, a student at Liberty University, spoke about the importance of supporting women in need, especially at crisis pregnancy centers.

“For me, being pro-life is personal,” she said, relaying the story of how she found out that one of her own siblings was aborted.

“Speak up about abortion in your family, your friend group, and on your campus. And speak up with love,” Smith said. “Our faith must be well-reasoned and well-informed.”

Several lawmakers spoke as well. State Rep. Trenee McGee (D-Connecticut), a leading pro-life Democrat, took the stage to decry what she called the “systemically racist abortion industry” and passionately encouraged the crowd to advocate for policies that “not only protect life, but sustain life.”

“Pro-life for the whole life, baby,” she proclaimed, to loud applause.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, urged those gathered to vote to support pro-life candidates and lawmakers.

“We ought to continue to march. You know how much is at stake,” Scalise said.

Another member of Congress, Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), said he attended the first March for Life in 1974.

“This rally stirs us all to prayer and hard work, and inspires us to do more and more and more in defense of life,” Smith said.

Smith also decried the continued instances of violence and intimidation against pro-life entities that have taken place since the Dobbs decision, and said they have heard merely “crickets” from the Justice Department in terms of arrests and prosecutions of the many documented crimes against pro-lifers.

Smith said the legality of abortion throughout pregnancy, as many states still allow, is a “barbaric” outlier on the world stage. He encouraged all those in attendance to continue to pray and advocate for an end to abortion.

“The injustice of abortion need not be forever, and because of you, it won’t be. God bless you,” Smith concluded.

The speeches even included one from the daughter of a canonized saint, St. Gianna Beretta Molla. Molla, a doctor, became ill while pregnant with her fourth child and was encouraged to abort the baby in an attempt to save her own life. Molla chose life and passed away a few days after giving birth. In 1962, she died at 39 years old. 

“I would not be here with all of you, if I had not been loved so much!” the saint’s daughter, Gianna Emanuela Molla, who is also a medical doctor, told the crowd.

“The gift of life is truly the greatest, the most precious, and the most sacred gift we always owed to honor, respect, and defend!”

Sr. Mary Casey O'Connor, S.V, and her twin sister who has down syndrome, Casey Gunning, spoke at the March for Life Rally. Screenshot EWTN YouTube.
Sr. Mary Casey O'Connor, S.V, and her twin sister who has down syndrome, Casey Gunning, spoke at the March for Life Rally. Screenshot EWTN YouTube.

Sister Mary Casey O’Connor, a member of the Sisters of Life, spoke with her twin sister, Casey Gunning, who has Down syndrome.

“I came from all the way from Colorado to announce to America and to the whole world that life is good and that life is a gift!” Casey Gunning said, drawing loud cheers from the crowd.

“Your child will be a blessing to you and to the world,” she said, referring to parents with children who have Down syndrome.

‘Because love is the answer’: Pre-March for Life rally fires up young crowd

The theme of the first "Life Fest," sponsored by the Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus, was "Because love is the answer." / Screenshot from live stream of Life Feset

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2023 / 13:25 pm (CNA).

Could the “Life Fest” become a new staple of the annual March for Life?

There were promising signs early Friday morning as an estimated 3,500 people, including many young people, filled a district arena for the inaugural, pre-march rally, organized by the Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus.

“Good morning, Life Fest! Our early arrivers — it’s so good to see you!” Catholic singer Sarah Kroger said as her band got the 7:30 a.m. rally started inside the Entertainment & Sports Arena in southeast Washington, D.C.

The theme of the first-ever event — which included musical entertainment, personal pro-life testimonies, eucharistic adoration, and the celebration of Mass — was “Because Love is the Answer.” You can watch a video of the livestreamed event here.

In her welcoming remarks, Sister Bethany Madonna of the Sisters of Life, who served as emcee, shared the story of meeting a 5-year-old kindergartner named Simeon at a Catholic school in Kansas who told her that the purpose of life was to fill our hearts with love and share it with other people “so we can fight the devil.”

Sister Bethany Madonna of the Sisters of Life at the pre-March for Life rally "Life Fest". Screenshot from live stream of Life Feset
Sister Bethany Madonna of the Sisters of Life at the pre-March for Life rally "Life Fest". Screenshot from live stream of Life Feset

“I was like, ‘Now Lord, let your servant go in peace,’” she said, repeating the words of the biblical Simeon upon seeing the infant Jesus at his presentation in the Temple.

“That’s exactly the plan, my boy,” she said, “to receive the love of God so fully that it overflows from our hearts into the hearts of others so that we can fight the temptations of the evil one and can live in the victory of Jesus Christ. That is God’s plan.”

Life Fest coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973 that legalized abortion throughout the country. That watershed moment in U.S. history galvanized the pro-life movement, which was finally able to celebrate Roe’s reversal on June 24 last year.

“After 49 years of prayer, fasting, and witnessing it was revealed for what it was: bad law that led our country astray and wounded many hearts,” Sister Bethany Madonna said.

“Now we are here to celebrate life and we are here to march,” she said. “We are here to continue until every heart knows the truth that love is the answer because love is a person — and that person is Jesus Christ.”

Singer and guitarist Father Isaiah Hofman of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal peforms at the Eucharistic Adoration proceeding the celebration of the Mass at Life Fest. Screenshot from live stream of Life Fest
Singer and guitarist Father Isaiah Hofman of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal peforms at the Eucharistic Adoration proceeding the celebration of the Mass at Life Fest. Screenshot from live stream of Life Fest

Among the speakers who shared their personal stories were a New Jersey couple, Peter and Tricia DeMaio, who opted for abortion twice as a young, unmarried couple.

Through a series of tragedies, they began to see God in their lives and eventually got engaged.

“From that point on we knew that we needed forgiveness and we needed love because love is truly the answer,” said Peter DeMaio, an insurance agent who is now president of Pennsylvanians for Human Life.

A major turning point was going to confession while on a retreat, he said.

”For the first time in our adult lives we felt that healing grace that comes from the sacrament of confession,” he said. The couple eventually married and now have seven children.

Sister Mary Casey O’Connor, a Sister of Life, and her twin sister, Casey Gunning, a teacher’s assistant and lifelong athlete in the Special Olympics who has Down syndrome, also spoke at the event.

O’Connor said that as children she and her sister wished they were the same. In time, however, she said, “I came to realize that God hadn’t made a mistake.”

“The truth is we all have weakness, we all have needs,” Gunning said. “Weakness gives other people a chance to love.”

Sr. Mary Casey O'Connor, S.V, and her twin sister who has down syndrome, Casey Gunning, spoke at the March for Life Rally. Screenshot EWTN YouTube.
Sr. Mary Casey O'Connor, S.V, and her twin sister who has down syndrome, Casey Gunning, spoke at the March for Life Rally. Screenshot EWTN YouTube.

Four bishops, 75 priests, and 80 seminarians attended Life Fest, said Alicia Mucha, a spokeswoman for the Knights of Columbus.

“What you see here is the whole family of the Church, a whole family of faith, coming together to strengthen one another and … proclaim the beauty of the human person,” said Sister Agnus Dei of the Sisters of Life.

“I have been so moved by the faith in young people’s hearts,” she added.

“What do I see and hear? A spirit of, yes, rejoicing in the victory that is the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” she said. “And yet we all know, actually these first 50 years of the pro-life movement were actually just the warmup. We still have some of the most important battles in front of us.”

6 things to know about March for Life speaker Lynn Fitch, champion of Dobbs case

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch was among the honorees of Live Action's Life Gala in Dana Point, California, on Sept. 17, 2022. / Screenshot of ETWN YouTube video

Denver, Colo., Jan 20, 2023 / 10:10 am (CNA).

This year's National March for Life is the first since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 pro-abortion precedent Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022.

Among its scheduled speakers is Lynn Fitch, attorney general for the state of Mississippi, who helped defend Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban before a court primed to revisit precedent in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The court sided with Fitch and other critics, overturning Roe in a 5-3 decision.

1. For Fitch, the Dobbs era is a new chapter for America.

“This year’s March is unlike any other,” Fitch told CNA on Thursday. “We are saying goodbye to one chapter of American history and starting a new one. In this new Dobbs era, the task now falls to us to ensure our laws reflect the compassion we have always felt for woman and child.”

“As we march into this new chapter, we do so with the same hope and resolve to ensure our laws empower women and their families and respect the dignity of all life,” Fitch said.

Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban passed in 2018, before Fitch had announced her campaign for attorney general. Challenges to the ban proceeded through the federal courts, and in 2019 an appeals court struck down the law. When she won the election in November 2019, it was left to her, the first woman to serve as Mississippi attorney general, to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the law.

2. Fitch grew up on a farm. 

Fitch is Mississippi’s first Republican attorney general since 1878 and the first woman to serve in the role.

The 61-year-old is a native of Holly Springs, Mississippi, near the Tennessee border. There, her father inherited land on the former Galena Plantation and worked to restore the family farm, BBC News reported. Fitch Farms became a famous hunting destination for figures including the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, another skeptic of the Supreme Court’s Roe precedent.

As a young woman, Fitch’s interests included riding horses and hunting quail on the farm. Her former campaign manager Hayes Dent told BBC News she was the “prototypical popular girl… leader, cheerleader, athletic, the whole nine yards."

She attended the University of Mississippi, where she joined a sorority and earned an undergraduate degree and a law degree. After graduation, she worked for the state attorney general’s office before entering private practice. Her hard work, and some family connections, aided her ascent in Mississippi politics.

Before she took office as attorney general, she served as Mississippi state treasurer from 2012 to 2020. She previously served in the administration of Gov. Haley Barbour and as a legal counsel to the Mississippi House of Representatives Ways and Means and Local and Private Legislation Committees.

She was a member of the 2016 Republican National Convention platform committee and worked for pro-life principles there, World Magazine reported in November 2021.

Her official biography reports her support for charities for first responders and juvenile diabetes. She also supports Goodwill Industries and the American Red Cross. Fitch is co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Human Trafficking Committee.

According to her 2020 campaign website, she and her family are “active members” of Madison United Methodist Church in the city of Madison, Mississippi.

3. Her campaign theme was “Empower Women, Promote Life.”

After her divorce, Fitch raised two daughters and a son as a single mother. Her personal success, and the success of many mothers, helped inspire her campaign to defend Mississippi’s abortion ban and overturn Roe. For this campaign, she used the motto “Empower Women, Promote Life.

One of her arguments against Roe v. Wade is that women’s situations have much improved since the 1970s.

In a Sept. 19, 2021, opinion essay for the Dallas Morning News, Fitch invoked the “Olympic Supermoms,” peak athletes who are also mothers.

“As a single, working mother, I raised three children and went from launching the Mississippi Bar’s first Women in the Profession Committee to becoming our first female attorney general. I know from experience that there is nothing easy about this, which is why I commend those Olympic Supermoms for proudly displaying their motherhood while the spotlight is on their professional accomplishments.”

“Abortion policy has been tethered to 1973, but women, men, and the workplace have all changed, facilitating our ability to have both a full family life and successful career,” she said.

“Over the past five decades, revolutions in cultural norms and public policy have opened opportunities for women who were previously told you could be a mother or a career woman, but not both,” Fitch continued. She noted that mothers of young children had doubled their workforce participation from 1975 to 2016.

“Technology and the advent of the gig economy have only increased options for freelancing, part-time work, and independent contracting for women to have more choices in life,” the attorney general said.

4. Fitch authored Mississippi’s Supreme Court brief for the Dobbs case.

Fitch made her case in favor of the Mississippi law and against Roe in a written submission to the court, leaving oral arguments to Mississippi solicitor general Scott Stewart.

She emphasized the need to strike down Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. They “shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she wrote.

“It is time for the Court to set this right and return this political debate to the political branches of government,” she said. “State legislatures, and the people they represent, have lacked clarity in passing laws to protect legitimate public interests, and artificial guideposts have stunted important public debate on how we, as a society, care for the dignity of women and their children.”

She repeated her case that women’s situations, and the ability to care for families, have much improved.

“A lot has changed in five decades. In 1973, there was little support for women who wanted a full family life and a successful career. Maternity leave was rare. Paternity leave was unheard of. The gold standard for professional success was a 9-to-5 with a corner office. The flexibility of the gig economy was a fairy tale,” she said. “In these last 50 years, women have carved their own way to achieving a better balance for success in their professional and personal lives.”

5. Fitch is continuing her legal efforts against pro-abortion federal policy.

After Dobbs, Fitch has continued legal efforts to challenge the spread of abortion.

On Jan. 18 of this year, she joined a brief supporting a Texas nurse’s lawsuit in a challenge to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA is implementing the Biden administration’s plan to allow abortion at its hospitals, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported.

“In direct contravention of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Dobbs, President Biden has taken abortion policy away from state legislators, Congress, and, most importantly, the people and given it to political appointees in his own administration,” Fitch said in a statement. “The Dobbs decision was about the rule of law. This VA rule is precisely the opposite.”

Seventeen other states’ attorneys general have joined the brief.

6. Fitch supports a “safety net” for women and babies.

After the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, a different Mississippi ban on abortion took effect, barring the procedure except in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger.

In response to the new political and cultural landscape created by Dobbs, Fitch insisted on the need for a strong safety net.

“Now, we must all work together to strengthen the safety net that women need not only for healthy pregnancies but also as they build families where both they and their children thrive,” she said in July 2022. “We need our laws to reflect our compassion for these women and their children.”

She called for action to help address the affordability and accessibility of child care, child support enforcement, and requirements for fathers to be equally responsible for their children, workplace policies like maternity and paternity leave, streamlining adoption, and improving foster care.

Twin sisters with a special bond speak out for the unborn

Sister Mary Casey O'Connor, a Sister of Life, and her twin sister, Casey Gunning, teacher’s assistant and lifelong athlete in the Special Olympics / Courtesy of Sister Mary Casey O'Connor

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2023 / 08:40 am (CNA).

Sister Mary Casey O’Connor has more than 100 sisters. But only one of them is her twin sister: Casey Gunning, who has Down syndrome.

“I wish everyone had someone like her because she just taught me what it means to love and to not expect anything back,” O’Connor told CNA. “And I mean, that’s ultimately our experience of God … Casey, for me, is an expression of God’s love.”

The sisters were featured speakers at Friday’s Life Fest and the 50th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Each of them advocate for life, even if in different ways: O’Connor is a member of the religious community Sisters of Life, while Gunning serves as a teacher’s assistant and an athlete in the Special Olympics.

Describing her sister’s pro-life witness, O’Connor explained that “it’s not even like a conscious thing, she is constantly choosing just to live life to the full — and she receives the gift of her own life, and that, I think, is the most powerful kind of witness that she gives off.”

For her part, O’Connor joined the Sisters of Life, an order dedicated to promoting the inherent dignity and worth of every human person, in 2015.

The late Cardinal John O’Connor founded the Sisters of Life in New York in 1991. Based in the New York area, the order has sisters in Denver; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Washington, D.C.; and Ontario, Canada. The community of more than 100 Catholic religious women profess four vows: poverty, chastity, and obedience, and “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.”

Among other things, the sisters dedicate their lives to serving women vulnerable to abortion, offering life-affirming support to pregnant women in need, hosting retreats, evangelizing, practicing outreach to college students, and helping women who suffer after abortion.

O’Connor took her last name from the founder of the Sisters of Life. But her middle name, she said, comes from her sister.

“She was so honored that I took her name that she started going by Casey Mary,” she said, adding that “Mary” is Gunning’s confirmation name.

Even their shared age is a celebration, O’Connor revealed. While she clarified that they are 39 years old, Casey, she said, is “so happy to be [turning] 40.”

“She loves getting older because she really loves life,” O’Connor explained, saying that every year they spend six months preparing for their birthday, and, every year, they spend another six months winding down from their previous birthday.

In other words, she said, Casey “loves life.”

The youngest siblings in a family of four children grew up in Littleton, Colorado. The two older siblings were adopted, and the twins came as somewhat of a surprise — they were born after their mother was told that she could not have children. 

They have been inseparable ever since.

“Just her presence in my life has had one of the biggest effects on just shaping my worldview and my view of life, my view of the faith, my view of the human person,” O’Connor said. 

Casey, she said, helped her gain perspective on life.

“She’s kind of helped ground me in things that are important, and, kind of unintentionally, invited me to let go of things that are not as important, especially eternally,” she said. “And I mean, love literally is oozing out of her.”

Sister Mary Casey O'Connor and Casey Gunning, teacher’s assistant and lifelong athlete in the Special Olympics as babies. Courtesy of Sister Mary Casey O'Connor
Sister Mary Casey O'Connor and Casey Gunning, teacher’s assistant and lifelong athlete in the Special Olympics as babies. Courtesy of Sister Mary Casey O'Connor

“She places no judgment, she always forgives, she always gives the benefit of the doubt,” O’Connor continued. “She always sees the good in the other. And I desperately want that for myself and realize how far I am from that.

“But being in her presence invites me to do it, because she just does it naturally.”

Her sister’s presence also had an impact on her vocation.

“Once I met the Sisters of Life, it kind of all made sense that God had been preparing my heart for so many years, learning how to kind of look at each person for who they were, to see the good in them, to see past what, oftentimes, the world fails to see past,” she said. 

O’Connor shared her approach for instances where she might encounter a pregnant woman expecting a baby prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome — a woman who might feel scared or tempted to choose abortion. She said she would, first of all, listen.

“Because I think it’s so important just to be a space where someone can express the fears, and the sadness, and the sorrow and the kind of maybe a letdown of expectation — and just receive it and validate it,” she said.

“And then, I couldn’t help but share my own experience of Casey and invite a woman to … trust that God gives us gifts in ways that we don’t always expect or want or would choose for ourselves.”

“On a tangible, concrete, human level, Casey has been the tremendous — the tremendous — blessing of my life, and I just want to invite someone else to step out in faith and trust that God desires to be generous in the unknown,” she said.

If people remember one thing from their speeches on Friday, O’Connor said, she wants it to be that “God doesn’t make mistakes, that he knows what he’s doing.”

“And he has a great desire for us to need him, and he actually wants us to need each other,” she added. “That is what Casey and I — the gift that we have in each other — is that he kind of wrote that into the fabric of our relationship from the very beginning.” 

Focus on ‘changing hearts,’ Bishop Burbidge tells packed post-Roe Vigil Mass for Life

Sarah Achenbach (center left) and Heather Kramer (center right) traveled with other pilgrims from a pro-life Wisconsin group to the Vigil Mass for Life on Jan. 19, 2023, celebrated by Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. / Lauretta Brown/CNA

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2023 / 07:20 am (CNA).

The first post-Roe Vigil for Life Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Thursday evening was a standing-room-only event for many as the 9,000-seat upper church quickly filled to capacity.

USCCB pro-life committee chair Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, told the families, college students, and young people gathered from across the country that “a new, important phase of work in the pro-life movement begins now.” He urged those gathered in prayer who would be marching in the 2023 March for Life on Friday to communicate the love of God in their public witness for the unborn.

The annual event began with a greeting from Pope Francis, read by Apostolic Nuncio to the United States Archbishop Christophe Pierre. The Holy Father wrote of his deep gratitude for “the faithful witness shown publicly over the years by all who promote and defend the right to life of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our human family.”

Pierre noted the many young people gathered at the basilica and read that the Holy Father trusts “that almighty God will strengthen the commitment of all, especially the young, to persevere in their efforts aimed at protecting human life in all its stages, especially through adequate legal measures enacted at every level of society.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, celebrated the first post-Roe Vigil Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2023, ahead of the March for Life on Jan. 20, 2023. Lauretta Brown/CNA
Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, celebrated the first post-Roe Vigil Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2023, ahead of the March for Life on Jan. 20, 2023. Lauretta Brown/CNA

Burbidge opened his homily by noting that “for the first time in the 49-year history of the March for Life, we can say that Roe v. Wade, a blight on our nation, our system of justice, and our culture is no more.” The statement was greeted with enthusiastic applause.

Burbidge said this moment was one for joy, gratitude, and also “a moment to recall the countless souls who have dedicated themselves to political and social action, to prayer, and to service in the name of this cause.”

He continued by stressing that in this new moment that the pro-life movement is in, “our efforts to defend life must be as tireless as ever.”

While this means vigilance at the national level, he said, it also means turning “a greater share of our attention to our local communities from where we may cultivate opportunities in our states to limit the scope of legalized abortion, to curb its funding, or ideally to ban it altogether.”

Burbidge said that “the most important work” in this new phase of the pro-life movement “is the work not only of changing laws but of changing hearts with steadfast faith in the grace and power of God.” He encouraged those gathered to learn “new and compelling ways to communicate the harsh reality of abortion and the damage it inflicts on children, mothers, fathers, and society more broadly.”

One portion of the bishop’s homily seemed to be referencing pro-abortion politicians such as President Joe Biden and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who profess to be Catholic but publicly support abortion.

“Charity demands accountability,” Burbidge said, “those in public office who endorse policies that protect or grow the evil of abortion must know they are accountable. Yes, to the public they serve, but most importantly to almighty God, the source of all life.” He added that “this is especially true for those who profess our faith and have the greatest opportunity to protect the child in the womb.”

He also urged those gathered “to communicate our views with love.” He referenced the divisive nature of social media and said that lasting victories will “not come from views or hits or retweets” but “from our sincere efforts to effect true conversion of mind and heart.”

He encouraged those marching on Friday to witness “peacefully and courageously to the truth in love and with childlike trust in the power of Jesus to heal and transform our minds, our hearts, and the world in which we live.”

Following the Mass, Heather Kramer, who traveled to the vigil and the march from Wisconsin, told CNA that she felt it was important to attend “to be a testament to our faith and a peaceful support to the unborn.” She saw Roe being overturned as “just one battle that we’ve overcome now,” but “the battles are really back to our states and we have to still have a united front and show people that we’re still here and still caring for the unborn.”

Sarah Achenbach, who also traveled to the vigil with the Pro-Life Wisconsin group, told CNA that the march is “an amazing example to show that everyone can come together and make a difference in the pro-life movement.” She said Roe being overturned was “a big step in history” and she hopes to see continued change in a pro-life direction.

Anna Callahan, a young professional who recently moved to D.C. from Philadelphia, said that it was “wonderful seeing people from all over the country come together” at the vigil Mass and, for her, seeing the shrine “full of people of all ages, all backgrounds coming together, embodies the heart of the pro-life movement.”

Eva Frank, another young Catholic resident of D.C. who attended the event with Callahan said it’s important to be active in the pro-life community and “it’s very evident to see that other people are feeling that way because it was so packed today, we were standing the whole time at Mass, we couldn’t find a spot to sit, which is a great problem to have.”

Eva Frank (left) and Anna Callahan were among the thousands who attended the annual Vigil Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, 2023, ahead of the March for Life on Jan. 20, 2023. Lauretta Brown/CNA
Eva Frank (left) and Anna Callahan were among the thousands who attended the annual Vigil Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, 2023, ahead of the March for Life on Jan. 20, 2023. Lauretta Brown/CNA

Frank praised Bishop Burbidge’s message that the movement is not just “about changing policy, it’s about changing hearts” and she saw that as starting “with each one of us just talking about it and showing up, one heart changed at a time.”

Vince Duarte came to the vigil Mass and the March for Life with a group of about 60 students, the Catholic Gators at University of Florida. He said the atmosphere was exciting, particularly as he traveled to the march last year before the Dobbs decision, and called it “a grace to be able to see the impact of prayer and fasting and how that’s changing lives.”

Nick Salazar, another University of Florida student, was attending his first March for Life this year. He said he felt it was important to spread God’s message of love in defense of the unborn. He said he liked the bishop’s emphasis on trying to teach people on the pro-life issue with charity, not “try to have division, but to try to approach others and to just have charity in your heart.”

The Prayer Vigil for Life concluded at 8 a.m. on Jan. 20, the morning of the March for Life, with a closing Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph Coffey, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

As it happened: The March for Life 2023

Marchers gather holding their signs at the 50th annual March for Life in Washington D.C. on Jan. 20, 2023. / Caroline Perkins/EWTN

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2023 / 07:11 am (CNA).

The 50th anniversary of the March for Life kicks off today, Jan. 20, approximately seven months following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion across the nation.

Follow along here for live updates of the march. All times are in U.S. Eastern Standard Time:

Jan. 20, 5:00 p.m.

As the 50th annual March for Life comes to a close, here are some highlights from the first march in a post-Roe America.

Jan. 20, 4:23 p.m.

Christendom College (Virginia) shares photos from the March.

Jan. 20, 4:20 p.m.

All clear sounded on the suspicious package investigation, per Capitol Police. The area has reopened.

Jan. 20, 3:30 p.m.

U.S. Capitol Police report an ongoing investigation into a suspicious package at the Taft Memorial. Louisiana Avenue between New Jersey and Constitution Avenues NW and New Jersey Avenue between C and D Streets NW have been closed.

As of 3:52 p.m., Capitol Police are still investigating and the public is advised to avoid the area, which is just north of the Capitol Building, near Union Station.

(This is a developing story.)

The Taft Memorial in Washington, D.C. Public Domain
The Taft Memorial in Washington, D.C. Public Domain

Jan. 20, 3:21 p.m.

The marchers' chants are different from previous years, as CNA's Katie Yoder reports.

Jan. 20, 3:18 p.m.

Marchers pass the Capitol building.

Jan. 20, 3:10 p.m.

Crowds gather in front of the Supreme Court, where Roe v. Wade was struck down June 24, 2022.

Rebecca Kiessling and her group, Save the 1, hold pro-life signs at the March for Life. Katie Yoder
Rebecca Kiessling and her group, Save the 1, hold pro-life signs at the March for Life. Katie Yoder
Crowds gather in front of the Supreme Court at the March for Life. Katie Yoder
Crowds gather in front of the Supreme Court at the March for Life. Katie Yoder

Jan. 20, 2:57 p.m.

Pro-lifers fill the streets while marching with pro-life signs, as many chant pro-life slogans. Crowds marching towards the Supreme Court chanted “Hey hey ho ho, abortion has got to go.” The chant is a slight change from a yearly March for Life chant that typically goes: "Hey hey ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go."

Pro-lifers march on Washington D.C. during the March for Life. Katie Yoder
Pro-lifers march on Washington D.C. during the March for Life. Katie Yoder
Cameron and Genevieve Mercier from Thompsontown, Pennsylvania, hold a sign that says "We will adopt your baby. Please don't choose abortion.". Katie Yoder
Cameron and Genevieve Mercier from Thompsontown, Pennsylvania, hold a sign that says "We will adopt your baby. Please don't choose abortion.". Katie Yoder
Daniel & Michelle Jacobeen from Alexandria, Virginia, hold a sign that says "Our babies birthmoms chose life.". Katie Yoder
Daniel & Michelle Jacobeen from Alexandria, Virginia, hold a sign that says "Our babies birthmoms chose life.". Katie Yoder
Crowds marching towards the Supreme Court at the March for Life chanted “Hey hey ho ho, abortion has got to go.” The chant is a slight change from a yearly March for Life chant "Hey hey ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go.". Katie Yoder
Crowds marching towards the Supreme Court at the March for Life chanted “Hey hey ho ho, abortion has got to go.” The chant is a slight change from a yearly March for Life chant "Hey hey ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go.". Katie Yoder

Jan. 20., 1:40 p.m.

Crowds begin marching toward the Supreme Court. A different route will be used this year, passing the U.S. Capitol building.

Jan, 20, 1:21 p.m.

Jonathan Roumie, the actor who plays the role of Jesus in the TV series “The Chosen,” approached the podium to roaring cheers from the crowd.

“God is real and he is completely in love with each and every one of you,” Roumie said.

“History has been made. Life has triumphed in an extraordinary way, and the light of world, who is Jesus Christ, the author of life, his light has burned so very brightly within each and every one of you, irrespective of your specific beliefs, compelling you forward for one reason or another to stand together today to fight for the worthiest and noblest cause possible — which is to allow the unborn the right to enter into the world, and defeat those earthly forces who seek to destroy the very evidence of them,” he added.

Roumie's full speech can be seen here. Seven interesting facts about the devout Catholic actor can be found here.

Jonathan Roumie speaks at the March for Life Rally as one of the keynote speakers. EWTN YouTube screengrab
Jonathan Roumie speaks at the March for Life Rally as one of the keynote speakers. EWTN YouTube screengrab


Jan. 20, 1:17 p.m.

When asked what President Biden is willing to do to protect abortion rights, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a Friday press conference that “So look we’re going to take a look of the tools that the president has in front of him to see if there is any other executive actions clearly that he can take."

She said the administration support's the March for Life's right to peacefully demonstrate, but added that "we want to make sure that we continue to underscore the ongoing attacks on women’s rights to make their own healthcare decisions."

Jan. 20, 1:15 p.m.

The daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla spoke next. The saint, a doctor, became ill while pregnant with her fourth child and was encouraged to abort the baby in an attempt to save her own life. Molla chose life and passed away a few days after giving birth. In 1962, she died at 39 years old. 

The saint’s daughter, also a doctor, Gianna Emanuela Molla, said: “I would not be here with all of you, if I had not been loved so much!”

“The gift of life is truly the greatest, the most precious, and the most sacred gift we always owed to honor, respect and defend!”

The daughter of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, Gianna Emanuela Molla, spoke at the March for Life Rally. Screengrab EWTN YouTube
The daughter of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, Gianna Emanuela Molla, spoke at the March for Life Rally. Screengrab EWTN YouTube

Jan. 20, 1:05 p.m.

Sister Mary Casey O’Connor, SV, speaks with her twin sister, Casey Gunning, who has Down syndrome.

Casey Gunning said: “I came from all the way from Colorado to announce to America and to the whole world that life is good and that life is a gift!” The whole crowd cheered after she said that.

“Your child will be a blessing to you and to the world,” she said, referring to parents with children who have down syndrome.

“May God bless you,” both Gunning and O’Connor said at the end.

Sr. Mary Casey O'Connor, S.V, and her twin sister who has down syndrome, Casey Gunning, spoke at the March for Life Rally. Screenshot EWTN YouTube.
Sr. Mary Casey O'Connor, S.V, and her twin sister who has down syndrome, Casey Gunning, spoke at the March for Life Rally. Screenshot EWTN YouTube.

Jan. 20, 12:55 p.m.

Christina Francis, M.D., speaks next, talking about being pro-life in the medical field. Then Summer Smith, a student at Liberty University, speaks about the importance of supporting women in need, especially at crisis pregnancy centers.

Christina Francis, M.D. March for Life/Screenshot
Christina Francis, M.D. March for Life/Screenshot

“For me, being pro-life is personal,” she said, relaying the story of how she found out that one of her own siblings was aborted.

“Speak up about abortion in your family, your friend group, and on your campus. And speak up with love,” Smith said.

“Our faith must be well-reasoned and well-informed.”

Jan. 20, 12:44 p.m.

Tony Dungy, a professional football coach, father of 11, NFL analyst, adoptive dad, New York Times bestselling author, and Pro Football Hall of Famer, takes the stage. Dungy spoke about the recent health scare of NFL player Damar Hamlin, and the public outpouring of prayers that took place when it appeared that Hamlin's life was hanging in the balance.

Unborn babies are not as visible and well-known as famous athletes, Dungy said, but “those lives are still important to God, in God’s eyes.”

Tony Dungy gives a speech at his 2016 induction into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame. Credit: NFL YoutTube Channel 2016/Screenshot
Tony Dungy gives a speech at his 2016 induction into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame. Credit: NFL YoutTube Channel 2016/Screenshot

Saving their lives is “not the end of the story,” though — the mothers and babies need our help, he said. Dungy’s wife, Lauren, took the stage and spoke about their adoption experience, flanked by the couple’s now 21-year-old daughter.

“We are talking about lives,” Lauren said. “We need to pray for every woman who is in this situation ... we have to pray that we have enough adoptive families to pray for these precious lives.”

Read the full story about Dungy here.

Jan. 20, 12:40 p.m.

State Rep. Trenee McGee (D-Connecticut), a leading pro-life Democrat, takes the stage to decry the “systemically racist abortion industry” and passionately encouraged the crowd to advocate for policies that “not only protect life, but sustain life.”

“Pro-life for the whole life, baby,” she proclaimed, to loud applause.

State Rep. Trenee McGee (D-CT), a leading pro-life Democrat, takes the stage to decry the “systemically racist abortion industry” and passionately encouraged the crowd to advocate for policies that “not only protect life, but sustain life.”. March for Life/Screenshot
State Rep. Trenee McGee (D-CT), a leading pro-life Democrat, takes the stage to decry the “systemically racist abortion industry” and passionately encouraged the crowd to advocate for policies that “not only protect life, but sustain life.”. March for Life/Screenshot

Jan. 20, 12:33 p.m.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, encouraged all attendees to text “March” to 73075 to show their support for a new piece of legislation that would ban the use of taxpayer funds for abortions.

Jan. 20, 12:23 p.m.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), member of the House Pro Life Caucus, speaks. Scalise urged voters and young people soon to be able to vote to support pro-life candidates and lawmakers.

“We ought to continue to march. You know how much is at stake,” Scalise said.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), speaking next, said he attended the first March for Life, in 1974.

“This rally stirs us all to prayer and hard work, and inspires us to do more and more and more in defense of life,” Smith said.

Smith also decried the continued instances of violence and intimidation against pro-life entities that have taken place since the Dobbs decision, and said they have heard merely “crickets” from the Justice Department in terms of arrests and prosecutions of the many documented crimes against pro-lifers.

Smith said the legality of abortion throughout pregnancy, as many states still allow, is a “barbaric” outlier on the world stage. He encouraged all those in attendance to continue to pray and advocate for an end to abortion.

“The injustice of abortion need not be forever, and because of you, it won’t be. God bless you,” Smith concluded.

Rep. Chris Smith    Credit: EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.
Rep. Chris Smith Credit: EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

Jan. 20, 12:15 p.m.

Lynn Fitch, the attorney general of Mississippi, takes the stage. Fitch made her case in favor of Mississippi’s 2018 abortion law in a written submission to the Supreme Court, leaving oral arguments to Mississippi solicitor general Scott Stewart. The court sided with Fitch and other critics, overturning Roe in a 5-3 decision. In her speech, Fitch spoke about the importance of supporting women and mothers, including advocating for workplace flexibility and other support systems.

“I’m proud to walk with each of you in this new Dobbs era,” she told the crowd. Read a full interview with Fitch here.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch was among the honorees of Live Action's Life Gala in Dana Point, California, on Sept. 17, 2022. Screenshot of ETWN YouTube video
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch was among the honorees of Live Action's Life Gala in Dana Point, California, on Sept. 17, 2022. Screenshot of ETWN YouTube video

Jan. 20, 12:08 p.m.

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington leads the opening prayer. “Each of us has been given unique talents, passions, and roles to play in building a culture of life, where the beauty and dignity of every person is valued, celebrated, and protected,” the bishop said.

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall plenary assembly in Baltimore, Nov. 16, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA
Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall plenary assembly in Baltimore, Nov. 16, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA

Jan. 20, 12:04 p.m.

Tameka Walden opens the ceremonies with the national anthem. Participants break spontaneously into chants of “USA.”

Jan. 20, 11:54 a.m.

In the crowd at the March for Life are a number of abortion survivors. One such survivor, Kim Marvin, told EWTN News Nightly about a bad dream she awoke from when she was 15 years old, and her mother’s message to her.

Jan. 20, 11:37 a.m.

Crowd on the Mall continues to grow. Speeches set to begin at noon.

Growing crowd at the 2023 March for Life. Katie Yoder/CNA
Growing crowd at the 2023 March for Life. Katie Yoder/CNA

Jan. 20, 11:19 a.m.

Sister Mary Casey O’Connor and Casey Gunning, twin sisters, will be addressing the crowd at the March for Life this afternoon. O’Connor is a member of the religious community Sisters of Life, while Gunning, who has Down syndrome, serves as a teacher’s assistant and an athlete in the Special Olympics. Read an interview with these joyful pro-life sisters and speakers.

Jan. 20, 11:14 a.m.

Music from the band We Are Messengers begins on the National Mall as marchers continue to congregate.

Jan. 20, 11:03 a.m.

President Joe Biden, a Catholic, issued a proclamation commemorating the defunct Roe v. Wade decision, calling it a "balanced decision with broad national consensus." The president, who disagrees with the Church's teaching on abortion and has taken steps to expand abortion access, called on Congress to codify Roe v. Wade.

U.S. President Joe Biden. Credit: White House - Public Domain
U.S. President Joe Biden. Credit: White House - Public Domain

"On what would have been the 50th anniversary of protections under Roe v. Wade, my Administration is resolute in its commitment to defending reproductive rights and continuing our Nation’s progress toward equality for all," Biden wrote.

Jan. 20, 10:47 a.m

Life Fest, a pre-march worship event put on by the Knights of Columbus and Sisters of Life, took place from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the D.C. Entertainment and Sports Arena.

The arena was packed with young people and high schoolers who are preparing for the March for Life. Photos from the event can be seen below.

A Sister of Life attends Life Fest 2023. Peter Pinedo
A Sister of Life attends Life Fest 2023. Peter Pinedo
Two young men from Maryland (two on the left) and other kids from Nebraska attend Life Fest 2023. Peter Pinedo
Two young men from Maryland (two on the left) and other kids from Nebraska attend Life Fest 2023. Peter Pinedo

A Dominican Friar attends Life Fest 2023. Peter Pinedo
A Dominican Friar attends Life Fest 2023. Peter Pinedo

Jan. 20, 10:23 a.m.

Over 550 students, faculty, and staff, from Christendom College, located in Front Royal, Virginia, are en route to the March for Life.

Jan. 20, 10:16 a.m.

Excitement is in the air as more marchers appear in groups with pro-life signs near the March for Life rally stage.

A pilgrim holds a sign saying "Save the Baby Humans" in front of the March for Life Rally stage. Katie Yoder
A pilgrim holds a sign saying "Save the Baby Humans" in front of the March for Life Rally stage. Katie Yoder
An excited crowd holding pro-life signs begins to form near the March for Life rally stage prior to the rally. Katie Yoder
An excited crowd holding pro-life signs begins to form near the March for Life rally stage prior to the rally. Katie Yoder

Jan. 20, 10:10 a.m.

The crowd is slowing increasing by the March for Life rally stage, while people from pro-life organizations are walking around and handing out signs to marchers.

The crowd size slowly begins to increase approximately 3 hours before pilgrims begin to march during the 2023 March for Life. Katie Yoder
The crowd size slowly begins to increase approximately 3 hours before pilgrims begin to march during the 2023 March for Life. Katie Yoder

Jan. 20, 9:55 a.m.

Pilgrims don’t begin marching until 1 p.m.; however, crowds begin building much earlier than that. What is usually one of the coldest weeks in the year for the Washington, D.C., area, the weather is about 49 degrees and comfortably sunny, but with some wind chills.

Jan. 20, 9:44 a.m.

Media begins to circulate online of groups en route and arriving at the March for Life.

Jan. 20, 9:20 a.m.

As pilgrims and visitors prepare to march on Washington, D.C., in support of life, some have wondered why the March for Life still continues despite the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Did you know that the March for Life has aspirations not only for pro-life laws but a pro-life culture? You can read more about that here as well as seven other interesting facts pro-lifers should know about this year’s March for Life.

Jan. 19, 5 p.m.

Thousands of pilgrims from across the nation gather at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., for the opening Mass in the National Prayer Vigil for Life. The main celebrant of the Mass was Bishop Michael Burbidge of the nearby Arlington Diocese.

Burbidge was recently elected to chair the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Beginning his homily, Burbidge said: “For the first time in the 49-year history of the March for Life, we can say that Roe v. Wade, a blight on our nation, our system of justice, and our culture is no more.”

People began clapping enthusiastically after he said this. Burbidge’s full comments, a message from Pope Francis to pilgrims, and interviews with pilgrims can be found here.

Pilgrims gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. on Jan. 19 to pray for the unborn. Lauretta Brown
Pilgrims gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. on Jan. 19 to pray for the unborn. Lauretta Brown

The basilica was filled with young people, including loads of high school and college students, many of whom have traveled to the basilica in preparation for the march.

Who is Tony Dungy, the NFL Hall of Fame coach speaking at the March for Life? 

Super Bowl Coach and Hall of Famer Tony Dungy is scheduled to speak at the 50th March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2023. / Credit: YouTube NFL 2016/Screenshot

Boston, Mass., Jan 19, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Tony Dungy is a man who wears many hats: football coach, father of 11, NFL analyst, adoptive dad, New York Times bestselling author, and Pro Football Hall of Famer, among others. 

But the title that the former star athlete and Super Bowl champion puts before any other is “Christian.”

When he is interviewed about his 13 years of experience as a head coach at the highest level of football, Dungy often makes it clear that his faith in Christ has been the primary driving factor of both his life off and on the field. 

He made that particularly clear when he talked about the time he prepared a speech following his team’s victory in Super Bowl XLI.

“I just said I have to let people know my motivation, and it was being a Christian coach,” he recalled on his YouTube show “Beyond the Game.”

Dungy will be speaking at the 2023 March for Life on Friday, the first March for Life since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. 

It will be Dungy’s first time at the march, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Here are seven things to know about the first African American head coach to win an NFL Super Bowl.

Father of 11 children, eight of whom were adopted

Dungy and his wife, Lauren, became adoptive parents around the year 2000 during his head coaching gig with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He and his wife were inspired after Dungy made a public service announcement highlighting the need for African American adoptive parents, The Oklahoman reported in June 2021.

When Lauren Dungy suggested that they take the announcement a step further, the two adopted a baby boy two months later, the outlet reported.

The outlet reported that the couple has adopted eight children total in the last two decades. They are the parents of 11 children. The Dungys lost one child to suicide in 2005, and the former coach speaks openly about how his faith in Christ pushed him through such a difficult time.

Dungy’s 11 kids plus three foster children

On the Today Show in August 2022, the couple talked about their newly released book, “Uncommon Influence: Saying Yes to a Purposeful Life,” in which they write about being foster parents. 

Lauren Dungy said on the show that “we’ve had over 100 children come through our door,” adding that “we’re currently parenting three” foster children.

Baptist News Global published an excerpt from the book: “We’ve been married 40 years. We have 11 children and three foster kids. So, a lot is on our plate,” Lauren Dungy wrote. “It is a lot to unpack, but we wanted to let everyone know that they can live a life and marriage of purpose for the Lord.”

First African American NFL coach to win a Super Bowl

In 2007, Tony Dungy brought the Indianapolis Colts to Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears. The game was Dungy’s first Super Bowl appearance as a head coach and starred quarterback and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as the leader of the Colts’ offense. 

On the first play of the game, the Bears’ lethal kick-returner Devin Hester brought back the opening kickoff for a 92-yard touchdown. The stadium erupted and the Colts looked like they knew they were in the danger zone.

But it would be the Colts who had the last laugh, as Dungy’s team would end up striking back several times to win the game 29-17.

At the trophy ceremony after the game, Dungy said that he was “proud” to be the first African American coach to win the Super Bowl, according to the AP. 

“But again, more than anything, Lovie Smith [the Bears’ head coach] and I are not only African American but also Christian coaches, showing you can do it the Lord’s way. We’re more proud of that.”

Dungy’s postgame Super Bowl speech, where he credits Jesus Christ, can be seen below.

Calling out Sen. Raphael Warnock, a ‘pro-choice pastor’

Dungy took aim at Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia in early 2022 for comments the senator made promoting abortion in the name of Jesus Christ.

Warnock is the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which describes itself as “an urban-based, global ministry dedicated to individual growth and social transformation through living in the message and carrying out the mission of Jesus Christ.”

Warnock, who recently won reelection in 2022, tweeted on May 2, 2022:

The tweet sparked controversy and Dungy weighed in: 

Psalm 139:16 says: “Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.”

A Christian upbringing

Dungy often credits his Christian faith to his strong upbringing by two loving parents, Wilbur and Cleomae Dungy. 

“My dad always preached to us to set our goals high and not complain about negative circumstances. Just look for a way to make things better. My mom taught us as a Christian, your character, your integrity, and how you honor God were so much more important than your job title,” Dungy said in his 2016 speech after being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“One of her favorite Bible verses was Matthew 16:26 — ‘what would it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.’ And I know that she’s happy to know that her son never forgot that verse,” he said.

Hall of Fame induction

Dungy had an impressive career as a head coach, boasting four appearances in championship games, two of which he won, one of which was the Super Bowl.

Dungy has seen his share of losses in big games. As coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 1999 NFC Championship game, Dungy’s team fell 11-6. His Colts lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game 24-14. 

However, in 2006, Dungy’s Colts would see the Patriots again in the same game and win in stunning fashion 38-34, leading them to the Super Bowl against the Bears.

Dungy was named NFL coach of the year in 1997 while coaching the Buccaneers and again in 2005 while with the Colts. He was named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s as well. He only had one losing season in his 13 years as a head coach. 

During his induction into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame in 2016, Dungy said: “The Lord has truly led me on a wonderful journey through 31 years in the NFL, through some temporary disappointments to some incredible joys. I cherish every single relationship that I was able to make over those 31 years, and I’ll always be grateful to the National Football League for giving me my life’s work.”

Tony Dungy gives a speech at his 2016 induction into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame. Credit: NFL YoutTube Channel 2016/Screenshot
Tony Dungy gives a speech at his 2016 induction into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame. Credit: NFL YoutTube Channel 2016/Screenshot

Dungy was a player on the Super Bowl XIII-winning Pittsburgh Steelers

After a successful college career as a quarterback at the University of Minnesota, Dungy played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Dungy made one tackle during the intense 1979 Super Bowl XIII game between the Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys in Miami, according to Pro Football Reference. Almost 80,000 people were in attendance to see the Steelers best the Cowboys 35-31. A highlight of the game can be seen here

Dungy would later become an assistant coach for the Steelers, beginning his successful career in coaching.

Supreme Court failed to find source of leaked opinion overturning Roe v. Wade

The scene outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the court released its decision in the Dobbs abortion case on June 24, 2022. Pro-abortion demonstrators gradually made up a decided majority of the crowd as the day wore on. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court announced today that it has failed to find the person responsible for the leaked draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. 

A joint statement released by the Supreme Court and marshal of the court today said the investigation has not been able to positively identify the culprit, despite concluding that it is “unlikely” the court was hacked and narrowing the search to “82 employees [who] had access to electronic or hard copies of the draft opinion.” 

“It is not possible to determine the identity of any individual who may have disclosed the document or how the draft opinion ended up with Politico,” the Supreme Court statement said.

An unprecedented Supreme Court leak to Politico in May 2022 exposed an unpublished draft opinion in which five justices voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to abortion. The majority opinion in the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, returned the decision regarding abortion regulations back to the states.

Immediate backlash ensued after news of the leak broke in which Supreme Court Justices’ lives were threatened and protests were held for days outside their homes.

“In May 2022, this Court suffered one of the worst breaches of trust in its history: the leak of a draft opinion,” the Supreme Court statement said. “The leak was no mere misguided attempt at protest. It was a grave assault on the judicial process.”

Chief Justice John Roberts quickly directed the marshal of the Supreme Court to conduct a thorough investigation into the leak.

According to today’s statement, the marshal “conducted 126 formal interviews of 97 employees, all of whom denied disclosing the opinion. Despite these efforts, investigators have been unable to determine at this time, using a preponderance of the evidence standard, the identity of the person(s) who disclosed the draft majority opinion.”

Catholic astronomers: Newly discovered planet a testament to Earth’s ‘startling uniqueness’

null / null

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2023 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

A potentially habitable “Earth-sized” planet has been discovered, NASA announced last week.

Catholic scientists from the Vatican Observatory and Benedictine College hailed the discovery of the planet, named TOI 700 e, as “exciting” and a testament “to the marvels of God’s creation.”

The scientists noted, however, that the newly discovered planet is not another Earth, which remains the only planet where life is known to exist.

TOI 700 e is rocky, 95% the size of Earth, and within the distance from its sun where liquid water could occur, according to a Jan. 10 NASA press release.

The planet is the latest discovery made by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a satellite designed to search for exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) that could support life.

According to Christopher Graney, a scientist at the Vatican Observatory, the TOI 700 system “is a very different place from our solar system.”

“The star TOI 700 is itself very different from the sun. It is less massive than the sun, smaller in size, cooler in temperature, and redder in color. Its energy output is not even a 20th that of the sun,” Graney told CNA.

But could there be life on TOI 700 e?

Graney told CNA that there is not enough data to say conclusively one way or another.

“Is it possible that it could have life? That is a much broader question that we really do not know the answer to. Keep in mind that we do not know how life forms in the first place, nor what is required for it to form and thrive,” Graney said.

Christopher Shingledecker, a researcher and physics and astronomy professor at the Catholic Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, also cautioned that the potential for water does not necessarily mean TOI 700 e has life.

“Looking back to our solar system, Mars falls within the sun’s habitable zone, and we know with a high degree of confidence that it did indeed have liquid surface water at one time; nevertheless, all indications are that Mars … does not now or ever has had life,” Shingledecker said.

The "habitable zone" helps determine whether a planet could be hospitable to life based on whether water could possibly exist there. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lizbeth B. De La Torre
The "habitable zone" helps determine whether a planet could be hospitable to life based on whether water could possibly exist there. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lizbeth B. De La Torre

NASA believes that TOI 700 e takes 28 days to orbit its star. NASA and Vatican Observatory experts agree that the planet may be “tidally locked,” which as Graney explained to CNA means that one side of TOI 700 e is always facing its sun while the other is always facing away as our moon does with the Earth. This means that on TOI 700 e there is most likely “no day and night, no rising and setting of its sun,” Graney said.

Graney said the discovery of TOI 700 e shows that “in the same way that God likes planets, [he] likes variety in planets.”

“One of the great trends in the history of astronomy,” Graney said, “has been the discovery of how diverse the universe is.” It’s “a real revolution,” he added.

“Two centuries ago astronomers tended to suppose that stars would be more or less like the sun, and planets would be more or less like Earth — and have life, because life was thought to be spontaneously generated from matter,” Graney said.

“But we have found all this variety, not just a bunch of other Earths. So we should appreciate our Earth all the more — it looks like you don’t find a planet like this in just any old planetary system!” Graney said.

“The discovery of this and other exoplanets are really remarkable achievements that testify to the marvels of God’s creation,” Shingledecker said. “The more exoplanets we detect, the more startlingly unique we realize Earth really is. Indeed, as far as we know, it is currently the only place anywhere in the universe where life exists.”

Is free childbirth the next step for the pro-life movement?

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Denver, Colo., Jan 19, 2023 / 11:37 am (CNA).

Childbirth in America should be free, say two prominent pro-life leaders on both sides of the political divide. Federal funding of all baby deliveries and related costs would help American women, their babies, and their families while reducing abortion rates, they say, and they hope to convince lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to join their cause.

“Making birth free to American mothers can and should be a national unifier in a particularly divided time,” Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, and Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, said in their policy proposal paper “Make Birth Free.”

It’s no accident that their paper was published on Jan. 18, days before the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which had legalized abortion nationwide. In a post-Roe world, they say, it is time for some new thinking about what it means to be pro-life.

Foster and Day told CNA their proposal is an opportunity and a challenge for both parties.

“It’s a challenge to Democrats who proclaim their concern for women but focus obsessively on abortion and contraception rather than real choice, and it’s a challenge to Republicans who imagine that a radically free market will always support a mother’s choice for life,” Foster said. 

“With Roe gone, we believe it’s time to think bigger and escape the false binaries of partisanship. Are we pro-life first and foremost? Or more concerned with other conservative or progressive commitments?” she asked.

“Our proposal can gain traction with both Democrats and Republicans, no matter where they stand on the legality of abortion,” Day said. 

“With Republicans, who tend to be pro-life, we will emphasize that women and parents in underserved communities often lack the resources and support to carry, birth, and raise children. If we want to see the abortion rate drop, we must provide them,” Day said.

“Democrats, even those who are pro-choice, can pass a ‘Make Birth Free’ proposal to ensure that women who feel like they have no other option other than abortion due to the high cost of birth have a real choice.”

Writing in their paper together, Foster and Day say that Americans can “rise above the rancor of partisanship” and address “the disproportionate financial burdens imposed on mothers and families.”

“‘Make Birth Free’ enables mothers to make the choice for life,” Foster and Day write.

In their view, pregnant women in America “often lack real and effective choice when making decisions about birth.” Observations in other countries indicate that removing financial barriers to childbirth can reduce abortion rates.

American women self-report that they have fewer children than they would prefer, with financial burdens a significant barrier. The current state of health care costs for pregnant women is “unworkable and untenable” and prevents families from starting families and having children.

The average cost of childbirth in the U.S. is close to $19,000, while those with private insurance will pay $3,000 just for the delivery of a baby. Families whose babies require neonatal intensive care pay even higher costs: almost 10% of these families pay more than $10,000 out of pocket for childbirth. Some families are surprised to find that contraceptives and even abortion are covered under their health plan, but not childbirth.

“Maternity care in the United States is uniquely expensive,” Foster and Day write. Ireland guarantees free maternity care at public hospitals, while in Finland childbirth costs are almost free.

Foster and Day’s proposal calculates the financial impact. There are about 3.6 million births each year and paying for each of these births costs on average $5,000, resulting in a total estimate of about $68 billion. They note that 42% of births are already paid for through Medicaid, leaving $39.5 billion unpaid.

“If an additional $60 billion were allocated to assist with perinatal care, baby supplies, and expanded paid leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act program, the total additional cost to Make Birth Free in America would still be less than $100 billion per year,” their white paper says.

This represents a “mere fraction of the federal budget.” The country has sent $100 billion to Ukraine in the last year, while federal spending for education is $250 billion. The federal health care spending is about $1.6 trillion.

“America’s mothers and infants are worth the marginal spending increase it would take to Make Birth Free,” Foster and Day argue. “There is no better investment than healthy mothers and a thriving next generation.”

Comprehensive funding for free childbirth would reduce pregnancy and childbirth costs overall, they continue, attributing high financial costs to “misaligned financial incentives” in health care. Cesarean section births are performed in the U.S. two to three times more often than medically necessary, even though they are more expensive and riskier than vaginal birth.

Foster and Day also propose to incentivize using midwives or doulas for pregnancies without complications. Home births and birthing centers would lead to more savings, they say.

The two pro-life leaders defend the idea that childbirth should be free rather than subsidized or provided based on proven need. Administrative burdens and scrutiny of personal finances impose “significant barriers” to many pregnant women in need who would otherwise participate.

Further, high costs deter women from seeking prenatal or postpartum care, which increases the risk that needed medical interventions could be delayed. Reported maternal and infant mortality rates in the U.S. are also much higher than in comparable countries.

Several states of very different political leanings already provide pregnancy support funding. Day noted initiatives in Texas, Minnesota, and Arkansas.

The Texas Legislature expanded Medicaid support for eligible pregnant women from 60 days to six months after giving birth. To promote alternatives to abortion, the legislature more than doubled funding to support pregnant women and pregnancy centers, allocating up to $100 million in its latest two-year budget. Minnesota expanded Medicaid support for eligible pregnant women from 60 days to 12 months after giving birth. Democrats for Life endorsed Arkansas’ Every Mom Matters Act, which passed in 2021 with bipartisan support. The bill funds a telephone hotline to connect pregnant women with public and private resources to support them and their unborn babies.

“We have worked and are working with state and national leaders from both parties on pregnancy and parenting support, including Sen. Mitt Romney and Sen. Marco Rubio,” Day said.

Foster told CNA that federal precedent for such funding includes a Nixon-era program for people suffering from kidney failure, as well as HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.

“Congress is changing. There’s lots of new energy and there are some bold members in both the Senate and the House,” Foster said. “We see a future where making birth free is picked up by a few brave members as a commonsense policy that deserves to ultimately be enshrined as law.”