CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. —In what could only be hailed as a huge success, Catholics turned out at a record number of 675 churches in the United States and Canada to adore the Blessed Sacrament and offer prayers of reparation in a sixth annual National Night of Prayer for Life on Dec. 8th and 9th.
With parishes in 45 of the 50 states from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska participating, and with Our Lady of Guadalupe as the special patroness, this year's Night of Prayer surpassed 1994's previous high of 455 by a whopping 220 churches.
In all, eight bishops opened their cathedrals to the worshipers, as did the rectors of three basilicas, for four hours of adoration from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. It commemorated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and, in the final hour, Our Lady of Guadalupe's first appearance in 1531 to Blessed Juan Diego in Mexico.
In most churches, eucharistic adoration was accompanied by 15 decades of the rosary and special prayers of reparation to God for the killing of tens of thousands of "God's most helpless beings'' through abortion. The worship concluded with a solemn benediction.
Bishop John R. Keating opened St. Thomas More Cathedral in the Diocese of Arlington, Va., for the Night of Prayer, as did Bishop Edmond Carmody at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. Bishop Frank Rodimer of the Diocese of Paterson, N.J., granted permission for St. John's Cathedral, and so did Bishop Anthony O'Connell for Sacred Heart Cathedral in the Diocese of Knoxville, Tenn.
Bishop John J. Nevins for the fourth straight year permitted the use of Epiphany Cathedral in the Diocese of Venice, Fla. In the Diocese of Belleville, Ill., of Bishop Wilton Gregory, St. Peter's Cathedral hosted the worshipers. Sacred Heart Cathedral in Bishop John G. Vlazny's Diocese of Winona, Minn., welcomed praying pro-lifers.
In Bishop John R. McGann's Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., home of Anne Murphy, the widowed mother of four who founded and heads the volunteer undertaking, a record 60 parishes opened their doors, up from 52 in 1994. One was St. Agnes Cathedral which remained open an extra hour after the last evening Mass on Dec. 8th to pray "for the Night of Prayer's success."
Mrs. Murphy in her home diocese had the cooperation of Msgr. James Lisante of the Family/Life Office, as well as a number of enthusiastic pastors such as Msgr. Edward Donnelly of Holy Family in Hicksville and Fr. Robert Mason of Our Lady of Lourdes in Massapequa Park. Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life was also helpful, Mrs. Murphy said. She thanked Hugh McEneaney and Joan Glasser for contacting scores of out-of-town laity.
In Canada, with some 25 churches hosting the Night of Prayer, none was more supportive than the Diocese of London, Ont., where Alex Schadenberg, the diocesan pro-life director, reported ten participating churches.
In the tally of states, New York led with 132 participating parishes, up from 113, with the Buffalo area contributing 23. Florida was second in line with 52 churches; Texas was a close third with 50, including parishes in Lubbock, Arlington, KcKinney, Rio Grande City, McAllen, Tyler, Temple, and La Rosita.
Louisiana had 35 parishes, up markedly from last year's 12, with right-to-lifer Brenda Desormeaux reporting 20 participating churches from the Diocese of Lafayette.
Two other exemplary southern states were North Carolina with 28 parishes, including the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, and Virginia with 25, 18 of which were in the Diocese of Arlington.
In the northeast, Pennsylvania weighed in with 29 churches, second to New York in the region. New Jersey ranked third with 25, including Holy Faith Monastery in Kearney and St. Peter's College Chapel in Jersey City.
Missouri topped the Midwest (snow was a serious factor in a number of states) with 32 churches. Second in line were Minnesota and Illinois with 21 churches apiece. Iowa had 18, including the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier in Dyersville.
On the west coast, California led with 33 churches that included St. Joseph Shrine in Santa Cruz, and parishes in Lolita, Santa Barbara, North Hollywood, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, South Lake Tahoe, Sacramento, and Lakewood. St. Augustine Church in Honolulu and Blessed Sacrament Monastery in Anchorage, Alaska, also took part.
At Our Lady of Grace in Romney, W.Va., parishioners showed extra enthusiasm by placing a quarter-page ad for the Night of Prayer for Life in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston's newspaper, The Catholic Spirit. The ad included an "everyone welcome" invitation to non-Catholics to join in bowing down "in unison across the nation in continuous common prayer. "
At St. Brigid's in Westbury, N. Y ., where fathers Claude D'Souza and Michael Maffeo led prayers, 35 stalwart worshipers stayed for the 1 a.m. benediction. Especially edifying moments came midway, just after special prayers to St. Joseph, St. Gertrude, and St. Michael, when, led by parish prolife head Mike Posillico, ten persons proceeding in single file placed long-stemmed red roses before a special statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the main altar.
During the Presentation of Roses, recordings of the rich voices of sopranos Rosa Ponselle and Patrice Munsel and tenor Luciano Pavarotti, singing Ave Marias by Schubert and Gounod, lent a moving musical background.