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Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Gloria Purvis to help lead pro-life prayer vigil in Maryland

Two of the nation's most prominent pro-life Black Catholics will join the bishops of Maryland for a prayer service Thursday in the capital city.

(Maryland Catholic Conference)

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington will join Maryland’s Catholic bishops for a Prayer Vigil for Life and Lawmakers on Thursday evening in Annapolis, advocating on issues related to abortion and end-of-life care in the state’s current legislative session.

The event, now in its second year, will take place at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, located half a mile from the state capitol building. Gregory, whose archdiocese covers Southern Maryland, will be joined by Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Bishop William Koenig of Wilmington, and the Baltimore auxiliary bishops.

Also speaking will be the Black Catholic journalist Gloria Purvis, a nationally known Whole Life advocate and podcast host for America Media.

“This is a particularly difficult legislative session with a number of abortion expansion bills, including a second effort to enshrine abortion in the constitution, as well as efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide,” said Susan Gibbs of the Maryland Catholic Conference, the local bishops’ lobbying arm and the organizer of this week’s event.

“We are submitting testimony this week against another bill that would allow human remains to be used as composting Our Action Center also has a new bill to require a policy, posted on a public college or university website, for pregnant and parenting students to know their Title IX rights and accommodations, which will help support them in their pregnancies..”

Last week, the Maryland House of Representatives voted to send a constitutional amendment on abortion to the floor, as it did last year before the effort failed in the Maryland Senate. The supporters of the re-upped bill hope to get the issue on the ballot for the 2024 general election.

One of them, Democratic Del. Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk of Prince George’s County—herself a Black Catholic—is helping to lead efforts not only in favor of abortion rights but physician-assisted suicide as well.

“You are making a personal decision about your own quality of life, and no one should have the ability to exert control of your body during pregnancy or at the end of life,” she told The Washington Post this week.

Opponents of the abortion bill say the procedure is already legal in Maryland and could result in increased late-term abortions and what pro-life advocates have called “reproductive tourism” in the wake of last summer’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Peña-Melnyk’s fellow PG County Black Catholic in the Maryland legislature, Democratic State Sen. Malcolm Augustine, opposes the assisted suicide bill because of vulnerable Black populations who may not have a real choice in their end-of-life care.

“This is about people being taken advantage of,” he told the Post.

“People who are alone, no family members, in a nursing home, and the nursing home decides that this person is better off if they are no longer living.”

The event at St. Mary’s may serve as a rallying cry for legislators and other Marylanders who agree on that point, and who have long fought for an end to elective abortion and other acts that unnecessarily end a human life.

One issue not on the docket for the prayer service is the death penalty, another important issue for many pro-life Catholics. Maryland is one of the few states to have already abolished the practice, completed via a bill passed by the legislature and signed into law in 2013.

The vigil at St. Mary’s will begin on Thursday at 7pm ET and interested parties can RSVP on the Maryland Catholic Conference website.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger and a seminarian with the Josephites.

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