More than 2,000 people of all ages are expected to fill the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in downtown Los Angeles Jan. 23 for the annual Requiem for the Unborn Mass at 5 p.m. The archdiocesan-wide event, which falls a day after the anniversary of the historic Roe vs. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S., is being held following the close of OneLife LA earlier that same afternoon, when pro-life marchers will walk from nearby La Placita Olvera to Grand Park.

“In order to embrace the marchers before they simply disperse to their homes, we have moved … our liturgy up by one hour. Tennis shoes, T-shirts, shorts, backpacks, water bottles, perhaps that sweet fragrance of sun block mixing with incense — we want the pro-life marchers to ‘come as they are,’” said John Bonaduce, music director at Our Lady of Peace in North Hills, who composed the original hymns and music for the pro-life Requiem Mass.

Bonaduce first held the Requiem for the Unborn Mass in 1995 at his home parish, St. Bernardine of Siena Church in Woodland Hills. The Requiem for the Unborn’s popularity grew and became part of the liturgy at the annual Respect Life Conference. Parishes like St. Andrew’s in Pasadena and St. Charles Borromeo also hosted the Mass before the annual event moved to the cathdral in 2002.

Under Bonaduce’s direction, the Shantigarh Choir will sing at the Requiem for the Unborn Mass, which it has done since its inception. The roughly 100-member choir is made up of singers from St. Bernardine of Siena Church, Louisville High School of Woodland Hills, Notre Dame High School of Sherman Oaks and other parishes and institutions.

The Requiem Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, who requested that Bonaduce use the readings of the day, honoring the status of the Mass as a vigil for the weekend. The liturgy will conclude with a “ceremony of lights” — hundreds of candles will encircle the altar representing souls lost to abortion.

“We should recognize each candle as standing in place of a soul, a real person. Recalling that a million deaths is a statistic and that one death is a tragedy, the number should be one people can envision,” said Bonaduce.  

Various pro-life groups will be in attendance, including the Southern California Right to Life League, the California Pro-Life Council, the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women and OneLife LA. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, retired Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson, Auxiliary Bishops Joseph V. Brennan and Edward W. Clark, and the Knights of Columbus will also be present along with other clergy and laity members.