By Kurt Jensen
Many years ago, former Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk felt called to stand up for life.
“Actually, my wife answered the call first,” he said. “She volunteered at crisis pregnancy centers. I followed her lead — being a good husband— and the whole thing grew from there.”
Birk, a graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul who played for the Vikings from 1998 to 2008, joined the board of a LifeCare center and attended local and state pro-life rallies. His desire to stand up for the unborn increased, he said.
This year, Birk will speak at the annual March for Life, set for Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C.
“I think life is beautiful. Also, I think this is a fundamental issue of morality for our culture. Like Mother Teresa said, ‘If abortion is not a sin, then what is?’ That’s why I’m speaking at the March for Life.”
Birk says his message will be simple because “the truth is simple.”
“We should pray [for] those involved with the abortion industry,” he said. “This is not just a women’s issue. Last I checked, a man is involved in conceiving a child. Men need to stand up and be men.”
Birk, who currently serves as the National Football League’s director of football development, will also be the headline speaker at that evening’s Rose Dinner.
“The real heroes of the pro-life movement are women who are abortion survivors,” Birk said. “They are so brave and our strongest advocates. We need to respect them and love them and encourage more women to come forward.”
The annual March for Life will convene in a new location in the nation’s capital for the traditional midday rally.
Because of the ongoing refurbishment of the National Mall and strict new regulations that require temporary flooring to protect the grass, the rally has been moved from the West Front of the Capitol to the Washington Monument grounds.
Other than the venue, the event, which draws busloads of Catholic parishioners and parochial school students, is expected to remain much the same.
Held since 1974, the march marks the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which legalized abortion.
“Pro-Life is Pro-Woman” is this year’s theme.
“We know that abortion takes the life of one and wounds the life of another, so we always try to emphasize … that there’s always hope and healing for anyone who’s made that sad decision, and it’s very important in terms of our messaging,” Jeanne Monahan-Mancini, president of March for Life told Catholic News Service.
Other march-related activities include a Mass opening the overnight National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Jan. 21 and a Mass the next morning at the Basilica; a Mass and interdenominational prayer service at Constitution Hall prior to the march; and two similar events, Youth Rally and Mass for Life, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington at the Verizon Center and the D.C. Armory.
Visitor staff writer Kristi Anderson contributed to this story.