by Kathryn White
Special to The Leaven
TOPEKA — This year’s Ignite Rally and Mass for Life starting at the Topeka Performing Arts Center Jan. 24 and ended at the state Capitol. Nearly 1500 participants from across the state attended, ranging from infants to seniors and all ages in between.
The sixth annual event opened with worship music by the band, All Things I Am. Deb Niesen, archdiocesan consultant for the pro-life office, followed with a message of hope and courage — the courage to support moms in need and the courage to say yes to life and to rescue with love.
“To rescue means to save someone from danger,” Niesen explained. “Abortion is dangerous. It ends the life of an innocent child and harms a woman — emotionally, spiritually, and many times, physically.
“To rescue with love means we as Christians must have the courage to step in to help, with love. We can see the 20,000 abortions in Kansas last year as cries for help, and that is an opportunity for us to rescue with help and hope.”
Each speaker on the program echoed that same theme of rescuing with love. Melissa Ohden of the Abortion Survivors Network and Maddie Martinez from Embrace Grace were both inspirational as they spoke about their stories of survival.
Best-selling author and speaker John O’Leary was 9 years old when he had an accident which left his body with burns over 100% of it. Now an adult, he shares his story to bring hope to others.
While he could not attend the event, he did challenge the group by video to “say yes to being used for good. Your life — and the lives of those around you, both born and unborn — is a priceless precious gift.”
Madelynn Gaggero from St. Matthew Parish in Topeka was moved to make a difference by simply smiling at classmates or giving a compliment in the hallways of Hayden High School where she is a sophomore.
“Doing these small things can help others know their dignity. Being pro-life means so much more than just being against abortion,” Gaggero said. “John O’Leary’s little sister showed him dignity by hugging him when he was naked [from the burns of the house fire].
“She splashed water on him from their burning home. We never know who is burnt on the inside from fiery words or pain, and small actions of kindness can splash cool water on their internal burns.”
The rally stage transitioned quickly from a worship music and speaker venue to an altar for nearly 20 priests from across the state concelebrating with Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, including Bishop Carl A. Kemme from the Diocese of Wichita.
“I’m old,” Archbishop Naumann said with a chuckle during his homily, which represented a call to action to the young people gathered there. “I’ve been privileged to be involved with this pro-life movement for almost 50 years.”
“You’re the next man up,” he continued. “You’re the ones that have to reach this generation. . . . Whether our nation goes down the path that it’s going to celebrate abortion as this great human right, or is America going to be what [it] was founded to be — this beacon of hope for the world? Where every human being is equal because they’re made in the divine image that every human being, every life is celebrated.”
Kicking off the Kansas March for Life to the Capitol was Lucrecia Nold of the Kansas Catholic Conference who explained the three areas of life-affirming legislative proposals: First, protect the safety of all pregnant women; next, highlight the humanity of the preborn child; lastly, provide aid for women who choose life for their babies and those who serve them.
Marchers heard from pro-life legislators, the Knights of Columbus about their efforts to support pro-life efforts in the state and members of Kansans for Life on the steps of the Capitol building — all promoting the pro-life movement.
Each represented, in different ways, what Archbishop Naumann had said: “Every one of us has a purpose and a mission that no one else can do. Life will be victorious.”
To view more photos from the rally, Mass and march, click here.