Cardinal Dolan, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called the U.S. bishops' nationwide "9 Days for Life" campaign "a great way to put our faith into action.”
He made the comments in a video posted on a website about the Jan. 21-29 campaign, www.9daysforlife.com. The site offers four ways for participants to receive daily prayers, suggested reflections and practical actions for the campaign, along with links to the free "9 Days for Life" smartphone app.
"We're praying for a lot of things this month, including racial harmony, Christian unity and the protection of all human life," Cardinal Dolan said in a Jan. 19 statement inviting Catholics and others to take part in "9 Days for Life." He noted that the beginning of the campaign overlapped with the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, observed this year Jan. 18-25.
"As we pray for that unity, I invite our brothers and sisters in Christ to join in the '9 Days for Life' prayer campaign. Together, our prayers and actions can witness to the dignity of the human person," he said.
"9 Days for Life" is the U.S. bishops' annual prayer and action novena taking place around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout nine months of pregnancy. This year's annual March for Life to mark the Roe anniversary is Jan. 27.
At "the heart" of the campaign is prayer "for an end to abortion," said Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro Life Activities. "But each day treats a different aspect of respecting human dignity— from the beginning of life to its natural end. The most delicate, defenseless members of society deserve the most legal protection, but under Roe v. Wade, they have the least.
"That has an eroding effect on respect for everyone else, including their mothers and other vulnerable people," she told Catholic News Service. "During the '9 Days for Life,' we will beg God to make all forms of violence and exploitation a thing of the past."
"We live in an abortion-wounded nation," Ms. McQuade said, "but we also know that God's loving mercy is limitless. He offers it so freely to us if we ask. So we're also praying for the healing of those who've been involved in abortion in any way." She noted that the intention for the campaign's second day is for post-abortion healing.
During the nine days, "thousands of individuals will make a kind of 'virtual pilgrimage' in solidarity as we all pray the same daily intentions together and consider making the suggested acts of reparation," she explained. Participants can pray daily, gather for fellowship and discussion, and share their experiences on social media with the hashtag #9daysforlife.
"The four ways to receive the daily intentions—mobile apps, text messages, emails and social media—will unite us in prayer and action on the 'digital continent,'" Ms. McQuade added.
Parishes, schools, families, youth groups and others are all encouraged to participate using the available resources and materials "as they see fit," she said.
The "9 Days campaign" was started in January 2014, and according to Ms. McQuade, participation "has grown by leaps and bounds every year.”
"As a massive spiritual project, we may never know all the fruit it yields in this world," she told CNS. "But God is certainly at work and we entrust the future to his providence."
Ms. McQuade pointed to "two encouraging signs of hope" that the campaign is having an impact. "We do know that abortion rates are going down each year, and more people are reaching out for confidential post-abortion healing as Project Rachel expands across the country."
She also remarked on the novena's overlap with the prayers for Christian unity.
"Cardinal Dolan beautifully invited our brothers and sisters in Christ to join us in the effort," she said. "Promoting the dignity of the human person throughout the life span isn't just a Catholic task. Praying and working together, we can make a difference for our most vulnerable neighbors."