Washington D.C., Jan 31, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Tens of thousands of pro-life advocates went to the national March for Life this past weekend, but that should only be the beginning of a year-round witness to life, one pro-life leader says. “The bishops call Catholics to witness to the beauty of life all year around,” Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the U.S. Bishops' Secretariat on Pro-Life Activities, told CNA in an interview.

The March for Life “is a particular moment, but I encourage people to be energized by it,” she said, calling on Catholics “to really take this beautiful vision of human life that we have and really invite others into it.”

Friday marked the 44th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., the world’s largest annual pro-life rally. Pro-life advocates from all over the country braved the cold winter weather to advocate for the protection of human life in the womb. Thousands also attended the national Prayer Vigil for Life on Thursday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast Washington, D.C.

An estimated crowd of around 12,000 attended the vigil mass Thursday evening said by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, as well as 40 bishops and hundreds of priests, deacons, and seminarians. The mass began a 14-hour overnight prayer vigil that was concluded with a closing mass on Friday morning.

At the 2017 march, the theme was “the power of one.” Officials for the march explained that this referred to the good that just one person can accomplish by choosing to bring a baby into the world, adopt a baby, or pass a pro-life law that reduces abortions. The pro-life movement must make sure to support the life of the unborn child but also the well-being of the mother, McQuade said.

“Being authentically pro-life doesn’t pit women against their unborn children,” she said. “Really, if we’re united with the most oppressed” and “the most disenfranchised, if we have a progressive view of life, we’re going to stand with the unborn in solidarity with his or her mother.” “As Catholics, we can be united with others who stand with women and say ‘women deserve better than abortion’,” she said.

Many Catholics also participated in the U.S. bishops’ “9 Days for Life” campaign of prayer and advocacy “for the protection of human life from conception to natural death.” The campaign included prayers for the end to abortion but also “for healing for those who have been involved in an abortion,” McQuade explained, and a prayer intention “to end domestic violence, which is so important and also tied to abortions.”

“It’s a beautiful way for Catholics and other people of faith to join in with all the tens of thousands of people who are across the country demonstrating in person,” she noted, “it’s kind of a virtual pilgrimage.” However, the campaign and the march should only be the beginning of year-round prayer, advocacy, and works of mercy to build a culture of life, she insisted.

“Your prayers and actions make a difference,” she told participants in the March for Life and the 9 Days for Life campaign. Catholics should be “educating people about the dignity of human life from conception until natural death,” she said. They should also be “praying for that protection and for a culture that would find abortion unthinkable, assisted suicide unthinkable and everything in between,” she added, and they should support laws that protect human life from evils like abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide.

Catholics can learn more about present-day issues through signing up for the bishops’ “action alerts” at HumanLifeActionCenter.org, she said, and by following their own state’s Catholic conference. And lastly, Catholics must work on “putting mercy into action with practical support for women who are pregnant, people who are sick or dying, people who are prisoners on death row,” she said. “We need to be present to all of them, and according to our gifts and talents, serve them.”