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2021 Night 4 Life
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A Night 4 Life speakers call for pro-life prayer, witness, and action
By Jacqueline Tetrault Pilot Staff
Eucharistic adoration is celebrated at the Night 4 Life pro-life celebration held at Quincy's Veterans Memorial Stadium on June 17. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault
QUINCY -- After a yearlong postponement due to the pandemic, hundreds of pro-life supporters from around the region were once again able to gather for the second-ever Night 4 Life at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Quincy on June 17.
First held in 2019 with the support of the Flatley Foundation, the prayerful pro-life celebration is hosted by the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth and the Men of Divine Mercy prayer group.
The event's two keynote speakers were former Patriots player Benjamin Watson and former Planned Parenthood manager turned pro-life advocate Abby Johnson. Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley and Quincy mayor Thomas Koch also shared remarks. Mother Olga Yaqob, founder and superior of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, emceed the event.
Many clergy and women religious were in attendance, and representatives of local pro-life organizations provided information about their resources to those entering the stadium.
The Night 4 Life program began with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and praying the joyful mysteries of the rosary. Then, Cardinal O'Malley addressed the assembly.
He thanked Mayor Koch, who is a member of the Men of Divine Mercy prayer group, for his courage and witness to the value of life. The cardinal spoke of Catholic politicians who, in contrast, do not stand up for their principles, often saying they cannot impose their faith on other people.
"But life is a precious gift. Life is not just us imposing our Catholic faith on someone, but defending an innocent human being whose life is being threatened. It's a matter of human rights. And we all need to have the courage to defend human rights, especially when humanity is most vulnerable," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He spoke about his experiences meeting notable pro-life individuals, including March for Life founder Nellie Gray. He recalled how, at the time of the first march, the media thought the pro-lifers would die off. Instead, the movement has continued and grown stronger.
"We have a mission that Christ has entrusted to us, to spread the Gospel, and particularly the gospel of life," Cardinal O'Malley said.
Benjamin Watson, the first keynote speaker that night, is no stranger to Massachusetts: he lived in Quincy from 2004 to 2009 while playing for the New England Patriots. He met Mother Olga a few years ago while serving as executive producer of "Divided Hearts of America," a documentary about the history of abortion in the United States.
Addressing the Night 4 Life, Watson said it was "important that we are here," standing not only for the unborn but also for mothers, fathers, and communities.
"Our communities, our nation, our neighborhoods are only as strong as our families. And so it's vitally important that we be people who support the family," he said.
He talked about the Civil War movie "Glory," which tells the story of the all-Black 54th Massachusetts Regiment. They volunteered to attack Fort Wagner in South Carolina, knowing they would face heavy casualties. When the flag-bearer was shot, Sgt. William Carney picked up the flag and urged them onward. The fort was not taken that day but two months later, and Sgt. Carney became the first Black U.S. soldier to receive the medal of honor.
Watson said that those attending the Night 4 Life were doing "much the same thing," battling for human rights and the recognition of personhood.
"We are standard bearers. We are waving the flag. We may not win today, we may not win tomorrow, but your acts of bravery are necessary when we talk about creating a culture of life," he said.
Invoking numerous football images, Watson spoke about the importance of perseverance, fortitude, focus, and cooperation. He said one instruction that stuck with him from his time in the Patriots was, "Do your job." This, he said, means to use the abilities God has given you, and that there need not be rivalry between people pursuing a shared goal.
"We get there faster when we get there together," Watson said.
He also spoke about his family -- he and his wife have seven living children and have experienced two miscarriages -- and about the role of mothers and fathers.
Borrowing imagery from Psalm 127:3-4, he said, "I like to think of our children as arrows to pierce a culture, going to a place that we may never see."
He closed by sharing the story of Irena Sendler, a Polish mother who smuggled Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi occupation. She placed them in adoptive homes and kept their names and information buried in jars, which she retrieved after the war.
Watson challenged everyone present to consider, "What are the names that are buried in the jars in your backyard? My hope is that they are many, and that someday you will be able to read so many of these children because of the work that we did and you did during your time on this earth."
Between the keynotes, singer Mark Carey and the worship band performed "Unplanned," a song by Matthew West from the movie of the same title based on Abby Johnson's memoir. The movie tells the story of her journey from Planned Parenthood employee to pro-life activist. Taking the podium at the Night 4 Life, Johnson shared some of her experiences that are not in the movie.
She began by talking about the adoption of her son Jude. His birth mother became pregnant through "a violent incident," and many said abortion in that case would be an understandable exception to the pro-life position.
"She very bravely said to them, 'It's either a baby all the time, or it's a baby none of the time, and God doesn't make mistakes,'" Johnson said.
Jude's birth mother tried to make an adoption plan for him, but two prospective families changed their minds, the first concern being that he might have a hearing impairment like hers, and the second that he was biracial.
When Johnson heard about their situation through a Facebook group, she immediately offered to adopt the baby. At the time, Johnson and her husband, a stay-at-home dad, already had several young children, the youngest being six months old at the time.
Johnson reflected on how much rejection Jude experienced, first because of the way he was conceived, then because of a possible disability, and then because of the color of his skin.
"So much rejection before he was even born. But his mother chose life, over and over again. And God chose him and said, 'You are mine,'" Johnson said.
In the U.S., Johnson said, a million abortions are performed every year, 2,500 take place each day, and one in four women will have an abortion before the age of 45.
"I recognize, when I look at those statistics, that truly any child who is born today is a miracle," Johnson said.
She warned of the danger of legal abortions and how the abortion industry targets the vulnerable, the ignorant, and the fearful. She also spoke about the power of fear and shame, the two great motivators of women seeking abortions.
Johnson also shared the story of the priest who was recently assigned to her parish. When he was a student at Texas AandM, he frequently came to pray outside the abortion clinic where Johnson worked. Although she was not aware of it at the time, she later learned that prayer volunteers took names of clinic workers to pray for over the course of a year, and he was given her name.
That year, 2009, was the same year that Johnson began to have doubts about her career at Planned Parenthood. Looking back now, she thinks the future priest's prayers helped in her conversion process.
"God tells us that our prayers do not return void. Our work for him does not return void," she said.
Johnson also spoke about the pivotal moment in her journey, the day she was asked to assist in an ultrasound-guided abortion of a 13-week fetus. She said that the worst part was not seeing the child fight and lose its life, but rather "knowing that when I had the opportunity to intervene on behalf of this innocent child, I just stood there, and I did nothing."
She urged those listening to be bold and to sacrifice their time, talent and treasure.
"These children are worth it. These women are worth it," Johnson said.
Mayor Koch spoke briefly at the end of the Night 4 Life. He described how his parents demonstrated their pro-life principles in their political activities. Addressing those gathered in the stadium, he said that they need to continue bringing the issue of life into the public square.
"We are the apostles of our time. We need to be that light of hope, and we need to bring that message in our workplace, in the public square, in our social environments," Mayor Koch said.
Videos of the Night 4 Life will be made available at www.night4life.com.
Quincy Night 4 Life to promote pro-life awareness, action
By Jacqueline Tetrault Pilot Staff
QUINCY -- The Night 4 Life, an occasion to prayerfully celebrate the gift of life and raise awareness of ways to build a culture of life, will take place on June 17 at the Veterans Memorial Stadium in Quincy.
This event will be the second of its kind, the first having taken place in 2019. The second Night 4 Life was originally scheduled for 2020 but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sponsored primarily by the Flatley Foundation, this event is being organized through the collaboration of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth and the Men of the Divine Mercy prayer group at Divine Mercy Parish, Quincy.
The Night 4 Life will feature music, Eucharistic adoration, praying the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, and witness talks from notable pro-life speakers.
Prayer is a central part of the event, as Mother Olga Yaqob, the founder of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, explained in a June 4 interview.
She cited the power of prayer and fasting in pro-life work and said that if the Night 4 Life continues as an annual event, adoration and the rosary will always be at the heart of it.
"Before we become warriors on the ground to defend the culture of life, we also have to be warriors at heart through our prayers, fasting, and sacrifices for the transformation of our culture and the promotion of the sanctity of life," she said.
A Night 4 Life is also an opportunity to educate people about abortion and the pro-life movement, and to raise awareness of the resources available to women who are in crisis pregnancies or have had abortions in the past.
The two keynote speakers will be Benjamin Watson and Abby Johnson, both of whom have a great deal of professional knowledge as well as personal experience of the pro-life movement. Watson, a National Football League veteran, has written two books and executive produced the documentary "Divided Hearts of America," in which he explores the history of abortion in the United States. Johnson is the founder of And Then There Were None, a ministry that has helped over 500 workers transition out of the abortion industry. She documented her conversion from Planned Parenthood manager to pro-life advocate in her memoir "Unplanned," which was adapted into a 2019 movie.
"I feel both of them are very strong, outspoken people about the gift of life, both through their speaking engagements (and) their own personal life and testimonies," Mother Olga said.
A Night 4 Life will close with remarks from Quincy Mayor Thomas P. Koch and a benediction from Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley.
"It's a prayerful night, it's a night of celebration, but also a night of raising awareness, and speaking the truth with compassion, offering resources for people, how to be involved and how to be compassionate, helping other women who might be in pregnancy crisis or experience abortion, and how we can offer them healing and outreach." Mother Olga said.
In her view, she said, "truth and compassion are the two sides of the same coin."
"We want to offer whatever we can for every person, because I believe only when we come together with love and understanding, and all that is bounded by truth, we can really build a culture of life again in our nation," she said.
A variety of local pro-life organizations will be present at the Night 4 Life to provide information about available resources. Among them will be Friends of the Unborn, 40 Days for Life, Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Boston Center for Pregnancy Choices, Knights of Columbus Culture of Life, and the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Office, which includes Pregnancy Help and Project Rachel.
"I think of words and action through resources and ministries (as) like the two lungs we need to breathe the culture of life wherever we go, and the power of prayer and fasting is like the body that carries the two lungs," Mother Olga said.
The Daughters of Mary of Nazareth regularly minister to the mothers and children at Friends of the Unborn, a maternity shelter and program in Quincy. The Daughters have continued this work throughout the pandemic, teaching classes, offering spiritual support, and holding special events for the mothers, many of whom stay in contact with them years after going through the program.
Mother Olga also has experience accompanying people who have lost a child. To honor them, she recently designed a memorial on the Daughters' property to honor children lost to abortion or miscarriage and their parents. They hope to dedicate it on Father's Day.
"We really wanted to do something to honor all these parents and the babies who are in heaven," Mother Olga said.
The memorial will consist of stones in the shape of a heart, with the names of babies engraved on the stones. Mother Olga said she thought of the shape because a piece of the parents' hearts will always be missing, and she wanted them to see a heart being healed.
"We wanted to have a space for families to come and pray, and celebrate the gift of life of their babies, but also give them comfort and consolation," she said.
Mother Olga said she wants to invite people to pray, not only for the success of the Night 4 Life but for the pro-life movement throughout the United States.
A Night 4 Life will take place at 5:30 p.m. on June 17 at the Veterans Memorial Stadium. In addition to being recorded, it will be live-streamed so people can participate remotely. More information about the event and videos of the 2019 Night 4 Life are available at www.night4life.com.
2019 Night 4 Life
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QUINCY -- A Night 4 Life, a night of prayer, education, and celebration for the gift of life, will take place on June 19 at the Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The event is being organized by the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth and the Sacred Heart Men's Prayer Group. The Flatley Foundation is sponsoring the event, which will be free and open to the public.
Mayor Thomas Koch, a member of the Men's Prayer Group at Sacred Heart Parish, had the idea for the event after visiting Medjugorje in October 2018. It was the third time he made the trip.
"Each time I've gotten a little bit of an inner message, and this last time was that 'You have to do more,'" Koch said, speaking to the Pilot on May 30.
He talked and prayed about this with the Men's Prayer Group. He also reached out to Mother Olga, the founder of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth. Her community is located in Quincy and is very active in pro-life activities.
"Our mayor knows of our involvement with this particular ministry, and also our presence at the annual March for Life, so he asked me if I would be open to do something like this. And we both prayed about it, so it came as a fruit of prayer for both of us, for the mayor's men's group and for our community," Mother Olga told the Pilot in a May 30 interview.
A Night 4 Life will include keynote speakers, eucharistic adoration, and a recitation of the joyful mysteries of the rosary. Delmore Worship will provide music. Pro-life groups will have tables and booths set up to provide information about their services.
Mayor Koch said they had been planning the event for a few months when, in January, New York State passed legislation that eliminated many abortion restrictions. He said he thinks that development "kind of woke up some people."
"I think we're going to have some people that show up there based on what's going on nationally, and it's my hope, through the speakers, through the adoration and rosary, that those folks that are pro-life will be reinforced or affirmed in their position," he said.
He said that although the event "has a Catholic theme to it," members of other Christian denominations will be present.
Mother Olga told the Pilot that, as far as she is aware, A Night 4 Life will be the first outdoor pro-life event of this size in the archdiocese. The Veterans Memorial Stadium can seat 3,500 people. In an interview on "This is the Day," Mayor Koch said they expect 3,000 to 4,000 people to attend.
Mother Olga and Mayor Koch both emphasized that A Night 4 Life will not be political in nature, but rather an opportunity to pray, celebrate, and educate about the gift of life.
"It's not meant to be a protest, it's not meant to be a political rally, it's meant to be a night of prayerful hope and love, and hopefully, we'll touch some hearts with it," Koch said.
"We are not doing this event in support of any party or against any party. It's purely celebration for the gift of life and promoting the power of prayer to really change hearts in our country," Mother Olga said.
Father Brian Flatley, episcopal vicar of the South Region, will give the opening blessing.
Among the keynote speakers will be Jason Scott Jones, a film producer and pro-life activist, whose films include "Bella" and "Voiceless." There will also be a witness talk from Cathy "Ki" Morrissey, a South Shore native and adoption advocate who speaks about her experience as a birth mother. Mother Olga and Father Matt Williams, the pastor of the Quincy Catholic Collaborative, are also scheduled to address the gathering.
Mother Olga said she has been asking many priests and religious orders in the archdiocese to pray for the event, and that those who cannot attend in person can still join them spiritually through prayer.
"I'm just thrilled that we've got a great team putting this together and hopefully it's going to be a beautiful night," Koch said.
Information about A Night 4 Life can be found at www.night4life.com.