Church leaders across the U.S. expressed both grief and renewed determination on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout America.

"Forty years after Roe v. Wade, the scourge of abortion is still a part of our land," said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., "but the faith, love and witness of our young people is a reminder to all of us that in the end, truth, goodness, life and love will win out."

"Abortion continues to be the defining human rights issue of our age," the cardinal said in a Jan. 22 blog post.

He called for "serious reflection, prayer and action" on the millions of lives that have been lost in the name of "choice." At the same time, he said, there is ample reason for hope.

Recalling the Holy Spirit's "palpable" presence at Pentecost, the cardinal pointed to the vibrant energy of the huge crowds of young people that gather in Washington, D.C. every year to stand up for life.

This "next generation of pro-life disciples" sheds the light of hope on the darkness of the past four decades of legalized abortion, he said.

"As I process into the Verizon Center each year to celebrate the Mass for Life, I experience their faith and their joy and their incredible witness for life and love," he reflected. "Each year, their witness reminds us of the urgency of the moment, the commitment of our young people, and the power of the Eucharist."

Catholics are called "to be confident in the truth of our faith and share it with others," particularly in this Year of Faith, Cardinal Wuerl said, stressing that "the Gospel of Life will continue to change hearts and will ultimately change our nation."

Other Church leaders also joined in expressing both sorrow and hope at the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, using the internet and social media to convey their message.

"Today is a day of mourning for our nation," Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City posted on Twitter. "Forty years after Roe v. Wade we beg the Lord's mercy and pray for conversion and repentance."

Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison posted on Facebook that he was praying in a special way "for our nation, that individually and as a society we might experience the conversion of heart necessary to view every life as sacred."

"The forces of death press on from every side in contemporary American culture," added Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn. He called for "direct conversation" and political courage to restore a sense of respect for both life and religious liberty.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston observed that it is "wondrous to see so many young people who have become enthusiastic participants in the pro-life movement."

In a Jan. 22 blog post, the cardinal reflected on both the growing numbers of pro-life Americans and the "somber" and "daunting" task ahead of them.

"What was not foreseen in 1973 was that the fledgling Pro-Life Movement of that time has not only remained, but also has grown in tenacity and confidence," he explained.

In addition, he said, through programs such as Project Rachel, those who have been harmed by abortions have found healing, forgiveness and peace.

Looking to the future, Cardinal DiNardo acknowledged that changing hearts "requires much work, much persuasion, good teaching and financial backing."

However, he added, these elements alone "will never accomplish anything if they are not matched by insistent and consistent prayer to the Lord to grant us what we need to turn hearts towards the true meaning of human life."