Order of Malta

2023 Pilgrimage for Life

The American Association’s 2023 Pilgrimage for Life took place on January 19th and 20th, in coordination with the 50th anniversary of the March for Life. This annual pilgrimage puts Knights and Dames in the midst of tens of thousands of supporters from around the country who gather in the nation’s capital each year to raise a cry, a song and a prayer for the unborn whose voices would be unheard, and snuffed out in a society that has lost its way, having evolved into a culture of death.

This year, more than fifty Knights, Dames, Auxiliary, Year of Formation Candidates and Staff participated in the two-day event that has become more than a tradition and more than a March; it continues to be a spiritual exercise. Many long-time pro-life advocates know that Roe was overturned by prayer and prayer is needed to continue the transformation at the state levels where the battles will be fought. Sometimes, the only real weapon that people of good will have is prayer.

This year’s Pilgrimage for Life had a number of key elements that combined to create a two-day ‘prayer service’ for the unborn, those whose lives were cut short by abortion and the future unborn whose existence continues to be at risk.

On Thursday morning, hosted by the Franciscan Sisters at their Washington, DC, Retreat House, a reflection was presented by the Sisters of Life. These presentations have become a mainstay in the Association’s Plgrimage for Life. At the Thursday morning reflection, Sr. Catherine of the Sisters of Life asked the pilgrims to consider what occasion or event in their own past brought them to become actively pro-life. A brief discussion with the person sitting next to them helped to focus on that past trigger that planted a seed in each heart that needed expression and moved them to participate in the Pilgrimage for Life. Sister Catherine recalled events in her own life and spoke about Cardinal O’Connor’s realization at Dachau that the inhumanity he saw at the camp was the same as the evil of abortion. This insight inspired him to create the community of the Sisters of Life, whose mission is dedicated to protecting all human life.

After lunch at the retreat house, the pilgrims proceeded to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception to prepare for the Vigil Mass, which was filled to capacity by people from all around the country. The Order of Malta had the privilege of assisting those with disabilities, ushering them into the Basilica, and escorting them to reserved seating upfront. Mrs. Graebe was assigned to choose two couples from among them to present the gifts. Mr. Oussani had the opportunity to meet both couples and said their stories would bring tears of joy to those blessed to hear them!

The Vigil Mass for Life on Thursday evening at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was inspiring by the numbers, by the enthusiasm and by the reverent commitment to the liturgy. The Mass was concelebrated by several hundred bishops and priests, including two Cardinals and the Apostolic Nuncio, Christophe Pierre. The main celebrant was Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, the chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge made several important points that those who care need to reflect on and direct their prayers and their energy toward to continue to make a difference. He noted that the overturning of Roe was not the end but the beginning. He said that we must now work to defund abortion nationally and globally, work to end home abortions and to make abortion unthinkable and illegal. He went on to say that we must learn to communicate with love and with respectful discussion to convert hearts, not to cancel them. Out of charity and with clarity, Bishop Burbidge said that we must hold those in public office who support abortion accountable for their views. He reminded us that we will be held accountable for what we did and did not do to protect the child in the womb, whom Bishop Burbidge called, “God’s child.” And lastly, quoting Pope Francis, he said that God‘s love must fill the empty spaces of evil – the empty spaces of abortion – through prayer.

On Friday morning, the day started with Mass for the Pilgrimage attendees at Saint Patrick’s Church. The celebrant was Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, ChC, a chaplain from Albany. Monsignor Frank Caldwell, ChM, a chaplain from Long Island, concelebrated. Bishop Scharfenberger has become a familiar face to the Pilgrimage for Life Participants over the years with his support for the event and his steadfast commitment to pro-life activities.

In the afternoon, the Pilgrimage participants attended the rally at the Mall, and then joined the tens of thousands from all around the country and beyond who came to the nation’s capital to participate in the March for Life. The Association’s flag bearer for the March this year was Michael Marino, a Knight from the New Jersey Area, taking the place of the late Kenn Sapeta, who for years was our flag bearer with honor. Our group was joined by members of the Federal and Western Associations.

The group was led by the Association’s 15-foot wide banner, carried by several of the Dames. A beautiful icon of an Our Lady of Philermo, mounted on a wooden platform, was carried, in turn, by Knights and by priests and seminarians from the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri in Red Bank, New Jersey. The Association’s pilgrims were at the very front of the March, and at the end, they stopped to pray a decade of the Rosary in thanksgiving for the overturn of Roe and for our Blessed Mother’s intercession to gird them for the work ahead.

On Friday evening, many of the participants attended the Annual Rose Dinner, sponsored by March for life, with over 1,000 like-minded people; it is the largest pro-life dinner in the world!

Order of Malta

American Association, U.S.A
St. Patrick’s Cathedral Parish House
14 E 51st Street
New York, NY 10022
(212) 371-1522