Maria Consuelo Carrera has dedicated her public — and private — life to defending the rights of the unborn and praying for an end to abortion.

The 49-year-old mother of four has routinely participated in pro-life events since she was a teen, and remained open to life even after having two children with autism and doctors warning her that any subsequent babies could have special needs as well.

On Saturday, Carrera lovingly tended to her adult son in his wheelchair during the Requiem for the Unborn Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, celebrated after the 10th annual OneLife LA Walk for Life Jan. 20.

“I came here today to use my voice to speak up for the children who have no voice,” said Carrera, one of the 2,200 faithful from around Southern California who attended the Requiem Mass celebrated by Archbishop José H. Gomez. “If I stay quiet, if we all stay home, then who is going to speak up?”

Michael Donaldson, senior director for the archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, opened the Mass by congratulating OneLife participants who braved the rain and pushed through fatigue that day.

“We thank you for your willingness to accept God’s mission, advocating for the unborn, the most vulnerable in our society, the poor, the sick, the prisoner, the migrant and the refugee,” he said.

Among those at the Mass were LA’s five active auxiliary bishops, Cardinal Roger Mahony, Bishop Joseph Brennan of Fresno, leaders from various faith traditions, and deacons and Knights of Columbus from across Southern California.

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Matthew Elshoff gives the homily during the Requiem Mass for the Unborn at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Jan. 20. (Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

In his homily, Auxiliary Bishop Matthew Elshoff compared California’s 2022 decision to enshrine a right to abortion up to the point of delivery into the state constitution to the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Constitution did not guarantee the rights of American citizenship to people of African-American descent, even if they were no longer slaves.

“When you think about it, government is not supposed to define who is created in God’s image and likeness,” he said. “Government is not supposed to define who is created equal or not. And they are not to define who has certain inalienable rights or not. Our democracy is designed to protect the rights of all people, and in this case, the unborn.”

Elshoff also encouraged the faithful to keep advocating for life “from the womb to the tomb” even when laws don’t.

“Let’s not be discouraged that we seem to take two steps forward and one step back,” he said. “Rather our goal is to listen, to respond, to follow God’s call, and to embrace this vision with our whole being, with Jesus at the center.”

The Requiem Mass also included a witness reflection by Jess Echeverry — a Catholic speaker and family advocate who experienced healing and discovered Christ and the Church after undergoing an abortion 32 years ago as a young homeless woman.

Echeverry — who is now married with five children and started a non-profit ministry called Sofesa to help homeless and low-income families — said research shows that one in five women seeking an abortion is homeless, and urged attendees to show empathy for those who’ve had an abortion.

“My brothers and sisters, if we want to end abortion, which we all should, we need to open our hearts and our minds to the truths of the traumas and the life experiences of the women who are walking into the abortion businesses,” she said. “We need to recognize their dignity, seek out their story and relationship, and accompany them into God’s love and mercy.”

Echeverry’s remarks were followed by a ceremony of light, in which Mass participants carried 120 tall, white candles up to the sanctuary and placed them side-by-side on the altar, representing the lives that were lost to abortion that day in the greater Los Angeles area. As in years past, the candles will be placed in the windows of the cathedral colonnade for the coming week, visible from the 101 freeway below.

Hundreds of attendees carry candles to the altar representing lives lost to abortion that day in the greater Los Angeles area during the Requiem Mass for the Unborn at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Jan. 20. (Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

Those who attended Saturday’s Requiem Mass said they did so to stand up for life, and to pass faith traditions onto their children.

Karina Salas, of St. Hedwig Church in Los Alamitos, has attended OneLife LA with her family every year since its inception. She said she was particularly touched by this year’s personal testimonies.

“It’s always good to put faces to stories and know that real people are impacted by the awful reality of what abortion is,” she said. “It’s not just something that you can just brush away, a one-and-done thing. It follows you your entire life and it impacts everyone, it impacts generations.”

Minh Hoang, of Annunciation Byzantine Church in Anaheim, said he attended the Requiem Mass and OneLife LA to be a witness to the pro-life position. He said he was inspired by the sense of community that he found being among thousands of like-minded Catholics.

“To see so many college students gives me a lot of joy,” said Hoang, 21.

Attending the Requiem Mass and placing candles in the cathedral colonnade has become a tradition for the Angeles family, of St. Edward Church in Corona.

Reirich Angeles said it allows him and his wife Maggie to pass down the faith to their four children.

“I’m happy to see that they participate in Mass, that they are engaged in their Catholic faith, and that they are intrigued and that they ask questions,” he said.

Watching the crowd disperse, Carrera said she plans to attend next year’s Requiem Mass and OneLife LA event even though she’s moved from Cudahy to San Bernardino.

“It’s important that we stay united in prayer for an end to abortion,” she said, “and that we don’t lose faith that one day it will end.”