A March for Life in New Jersey … And Religious Freedom Week


“… Looking to the future with hope also entails having enthusiasm for life and a readiness to share it. Sadly, in many situations, this is lacking … Openness to life and responsible parenthood is the design that the Creator has implanted in the hearts and bodies of men and women, a mission that the Lord has entrusted to spouses and to their love. It is urgent that responsible legislation on the part of states be accompanied by the firm support of communities of believers and the entire civil community in all its components…”



In his “bull of indiction” for the Jubilee Year of 2025, entitled SPES NON CONFUNDIT or “Hope does not disappoint,” Pope Francis announces the theme and hopes for the Jubilee Year. Pope Francis speaks of the importance of seeing and discovering “Signs of Hope” in the “signs of the times,” telling us: “In addition to finding hope in God’s grace, we are also called to discover hope in the signs of the times that the Lord gives us…” (#7) Pope Francis goes on to mention many circumstances, places, and groups of people where and in whom we can find “signs of hope.” He writes, “The first sign of hope should be the desire for peace in our world…” (# 8)

The second sign of hope he identifies “entails an enthusiasm for life and a readiness to share it,” as quoted above. He also writes the following words and I invite each reader to “hear” Pope Francis, speaking to each of us, directly and personally, “…It is urgent that responsible legislation on behalf of states (could he be thinking of New Jersey?) be accompanied by the firm support of communities of believers and the entire civil community in all its components…”

These words of the Holy Father can be heard as a personal invitation to each of us to ask ourselves, “What are we doing as individuals, families, parishes, dioceses, in collaboration with people of goodwill so that we may enact “responsible legislation” that promotes and supports an “Openness to Life and responsible parenthood.” I am very sad to say that I do not believe that we are fulfilling our responsibilities as a “community of believers” here in our beloved State of New Jersey. Sadly, here in New Jersey, our elected officials have made abortion available through the late stages of pregnancy with little or no restrictions. Further, despite unfettered access to abortions, members of the pro-abortion community continue to demand that New Jersey use taxpayer dollars to eliminate all out-of-pocket costs associated with abortions. With the Christian hope that Pope Francis is calling us to live and share, we should pray for all our elected officials, praying that they enact laws that respect and protect the dignity and value of every human person, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. We also need to be witnesses of hope. We now have a wonderful opportunity to offer to all the people of our State, a loving, compassionate, and peaceful witness on behalf of the dignity and value of every human person, as we will have a Mass, Rally, and March for Life in our State Capitol, in Trenton on Sept. 26, 2024.

If you are not already aware, I am very happy to let you know that the National March for Life, the group that has been organizing the “March for Life” in Washington for the past 50 years, and NJ Right to Life are organizing the New Jersey Rally and March for Life. The New Jersey Catholic Conference, with the bishops, dioceses, and eparchies of our state are organizing the Mass that will be celebrated (prior to the rally and march) by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., the archbishop of Newark, with Bishop David O’Connell of the Diocese of Trenton preaching the homily. For more information and to register to attend, you can go to our diocesan evangelization website: https://insidethewalls.org/njmarchforlife

This coming June 24, the Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, our diocesan patron, will be the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s “Dobbs decision,” which overturned the (infamous) Roe v. Wade decision of Jan. 22, 1973, which legalized abortion throughout the whole of the United States. The Dobbs decision gave the “issue” back to the states and now each state can determine whether or not abortion is legal and, if legal, put restrictions and limits on the stage of a pregnancy when an abortion is permitted.

In the past two years, we have seen states that have made abortion illegal, except in some extraordinary circumstances, such as when the life of the mother may be at risk. Sadly, a number of other states, by means of elections, ballot initiatives, and referendums have seen voters support unlimited access to abortion. There have been some initiatives and efforts here in New Jersey to “enshrine” the (almost unlimited) access granted by Roe v. Wade. Fortunately, those legislative efforts have not advanced. Unfortunately, there is currently wide access to “abortion on demand” here in our state of New Jersey.

It is very important to say, as I have stated many times before, that our efforts to speak on behalf of the dignity and value of life from the moment of conception are, in no way, intended to be “anti-woman” or “anti-choice.” Efforts by the Church and dioceses across the country and here in our Diocese of Paterson to Walk with Moms in Need offer ample evidence that we want to support pregnant moms, offer them whatever help they may need, and are committed to continuing to offer support for as long as may be needed after a child is born.

Also, as I have said many times before, as important as our political activity, as good and faithful citizens may be, “changing hearts” is even more important than changing laws. In the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (Mt. 25: 31-46), Jesus says that we will be judged by what we do or fail to do for the least of our sisters and brothers. As we “see” Jesus in the hungry, homeless, sick, stranger, and imprisoned, we all need to “see” Jesus in the unborn child and in his or her Mom and Dad. The Mass, Rally, and March for Life in New Jersey will be a very important opportunity for us to offer that witness and do so prayerfully on behalf of ALL life.

As I write these words, I am also aware that, for the past 10 years, the bishops of our country have encouraged us to witness to the importance of the “Religious Freedom” that is given to us by the founders of our nation and by our Constitution. In recent years, some who disagree with our beliefs have made efforts to limit our freedom to share and practice our faith in the “public square.” I encourage you to go to the USCCB website to learn more about Religious Freedom Week: Religious Freedom Week | USCCB

At the USCCB website, you will learn more about this year’s, theme for Religious Freedom Week, “Called to the Fullness of Dignity” and that “Religious freedom allows the Church, and all religious communities, to live out their faith in public and serve the good of all. Beginning June 22, the feast of Sts. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, the USCCB invites all Catholics to pray, reflect, and act to promote religious freedom.”


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