By Lauretta Brown
(OSV News) — Just ahead of the 51st March for Life in Washington, the Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus are hosting their second annual Life Fest with a focus on solidarity with mothers in need and commissioning a new generation committed to the cause of defending the dignity of all human life with love.
Sister Catherine Joy Marie of the Sisters of Life, told reporters in a Jan. 11 media call that after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022 and sent abortion policy back to the states, the event came out of a desire to “share anew the gift of the human person and, especially before the March for Life, to gather those who are going to be marching to pray together.”
Sister Marie Veritas of the Sisters of Life said their hope with Life Fest is to “create a new language of life and love” through “understanding the heart of women who are pregnant and understanding the heart of women who have suffered after abortion.”
One way the event seeks to inspire its attendees is through personal testimonies, including one from a woman who sought healing after an abortion. Identical twin Sisters of Life, Sisters Pia Jude and Luca Benedict, also will tell their story of coming into the order, which ministers to women vulnerable to abortion, from their respective careers in law and medicine.
Attendees also will hear from Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Knights of Columbus supreme chaplain; and Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston.
Drew Dillingham, director of programs and member engagement for the Knights of Columbus, highlighted that Life Fest will include the veneration of relics of saints and recently beatified figures with stories that speak to building a culture of life.
Life Fest will have a relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis, a 15-year-old who died in 2006 from a form of leukemia. Acutis, who was beatified in 2020, developed a website documenting Eucharistic miracles; Dillingham called him “a missionary of the blessed Eucharist, especially appealing to young people.”
A relic of Knights of Columbus founder Blessed Michael McGivney will be there for veneration as well. “He had a great commitment to the poor and the widows and the orphans,” Dillingham reflected, calling mothers in need and the unborn “the modern-day widows and orphans that we’re trying to support.”
The rally also will have a relic of St. John Paul II and relics of the recently beatified Ulma family. The Catholic family of nine was killed by Nazi soldiers in Markowa, Poland, for hiding members of two different Jewish families. The youngest Ulma was still in the womb during the execution of his mother and ended up partially born around the time of his death.
Sofia Maurette, director of intercultural ministry at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, told reporters the Ulma family’s relics will be on display at the shrine at least through March. She said their story was “a beautiful testimony of the power of family to build the civilization of love and a culture of life.”
At the conclusion of the event’s Mass, Life Fest attendees will be asked to consecrate themselves to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and the unborn, and pledge to defend human life from conception to natural death.
The Knights of Columbus will bring a list of Life Fest attendees who make this consecration to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on her feast day, Dec. 12, 2024, to bless their continued pro-life work.
Doors open for Life Fest at 6 a.m. on Jan. 19 with music by Sarah Kroger and Damascus Worship. The event concludes at 11 a.m. at which point attendees can head over to the noon March for Life Rally on the National Mall.
Lauretta Brown is culture editor for OSV News. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @LaurettaBrown6.