October 31, 2008

‘Made in the image and likeness of God’: Thousands pray for unborn children during national ‘40 Days for Life’ campaigns

Archdiocesan Catholics pray in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Indianapolis on Sept. 21 after a two-mile rosary procession from the kick-off prayer rally at the St. Augustine Home for the Aged Chapel. Catholics in southern Indiana and Kentucky are praying in front of the E.M.W. Women’s Surgical Center, an abortion facility in downtown Louisville, as part of the national “40 Days for Life” prayer campaign from Sept. 24 through Nov. 2. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Archdiocesan Catholics pray in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Indianapolis on Sept. 21 after a two-mile rosary procession from the kick-off prayer rally at the St. Augustine Home for the Aged Chapel. Catholics in southern Indiana and Kentucky are praying in front of the E.M.W. Women’s Surgical Center, an abortion facility in downtown Louisville, as part of the national “40 Days for Life” prayer campaign from Sept. 24 through Nov. 2. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

Rain or shine, in sweltering heat or bone-chilling cold, more than 625 pro-life supporters from archdiocesan parishes and schools have faithfully maintained the second annual “40 Days for Life” peaceful prayer vigil in front of Planned Parenthood’s largest abortion clinic in Indiana. (See a photo gallery)

Pro-life supporters will continue to pray outside the Planned Parenthood clinic at 8590 N. Georgetown Road in Indianapolis as well as in churches, adoration chapels and homes through the end of the day on Nov. 2, the Church’s commemoration of All Souls. Many participants also are fasting as part of their pro-life prayer commitment.

By Day 35 of the national, ecumenical pro-life prayer vigil, which began on Sept. 24 in more than 177 cities in 47 states, 11 unborn babies’ lives had been saved in Indianapolis.

More than 700 Catholics in southern Indiana and Kentucky are participating in a “40 Days for Life” prayer vigil outside the E.M.W. Women’s Surgical Center, an abortion clinic on Market Street in downtown Louisville, and their prayers have helped save the lives of at least seven unborn babies.

Jenny Hutchinson, the spokesperson for “40 Days for Life” in Louisville, said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville is scheduled to participate in a candlelight rosary from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Nov. 2 at the E.M.W. Women’s Surgical Center.

Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary parishioner Eric Slaughter of Indianapolis, co-coordinator of the “40 Days for Life” prayer vigil in Indianapolis, said “many new prayer warriors have stepped out of their comfort zone to be a witness to life.”

Slaughter said men, women and children from Catholic and other Christian Churches as well as priests, Protestant ministers and women religious have joined the prayer vigil outside the abortion clinic, and countless other pro-life supporters, including the homebound, have offered prayers from their homes. (

Bundled up in a coat, Our Lady of the Greenwood parishioner Virginia Kopach of Greenwood prayed in the cold wind for five hours outside the Planned Parenthood clinic on Oct. 25.

“It’s so worthwhile,” said Kopach, who is the mother of seven children ranging in age from 18 months to 21 years.

“Once a year … isn’t enough,” she said. “It’s so important that people [who come to the clinic] know that people care [about them and their unborn babies].”

St. Barnabas parishioner Susie Walsh of Indianapolis, who has five children aged 6 to 17, was praying and fasting outside the abortion clinic from 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 24, the first day of the prayer vigil, when she was able to help save the life of an unborn baby.

“It was very hot that day,” Walsh recalled. “I had never done anything like this. … One mom came and she had five kids with her, and I thought, ‘I should never have been afraid to come out here with my kids.’ There were a lot of people witnessing out there and praying together.”

Walsh said she decided to pray the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary for “all the women that might be going in there who feel very alone and abandoned, … those who participate in the abortion industry, that they be converted, … women who are post-abortion, for the scars and the mental anguish they still carry, … our whole country and the more than 50 million people gone [who were killed in abortions].”

Praying the rosary in front of the abortion clinic was a “very emotional” experience, she said. “As I finished the rosary, I was standing there and I looked around. There was a car coming out of Planned Parenthood, and a woman in the van was motioning to me. I thought it was an employee who was going to yell at me, but we had a permit [to be there]. I had a name tag on that said ‘shift leader,’ and I went over and smiled at her. There were two women in the car.

“The driver said, ‘I just wanted to tell you to tell your friends that their prayers are working. She decided not to go through with it,’ ” Walsh recalled. “I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say at first. … I looked the other woman in the eyes and I said, ‘You made the right decision. … You’re going to need some help.’ The woman who was driving said, ‘I’m going to help her.’

And I said, ‘We have parishes through the Gabriel Project that help women with a pregnancy,’ and she wrote down the phone number before driving away. Then I told the others and we all burst into tears.”

On her way home, Walsh stopped to pray at the adoration chapel at St. Barnabas Church.

“I put my prayer for her in the basket and I thanked God for giving us a witness to his grace so quickly,” she said. “It gives me chills just thinking about it. I will never forget the woman’s face.”

The Indianapolis prayer campaign began with a rally on Sept. 21 at the St. Augustine Home for the Aged Chapel followed by a two-mile rosary procession along West 86th Street to the Planned Parenthood clinic.

David Bereit of College Station, Texas, the national campaign director of “40 Days for Life,” and Father James Heyd of Priests for Life, based in Staten Island, N.Y., spoke during the rally.

Bereit led the first “40 Days for Life” prayer vigil in his hometown in 2004 and the first nationwide campaign last year with more than 35,000 people praying for life at abortion clinics in 89 cities in 33 states, which resulted in at least 514 pregnant women turning away from scheduled abortions.

Also during the campaign, he said, several clinic employees quit their jobs and “two abortion facilities—one in Dallas, Texas, and one in Rockford County, N.Y.—following ‘40 Days for Life’ campaigns, after decades in business, closed their doors and went out of business for good.”

Bereit told the gathering that, “We are starting a movement [to end abortion] because we are willing to take our faith [to the streets] … to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, … innocent [unborn] children made in the image and likeness of God.”

In the fall of 2004, he said, four people sitting around a table in College Station, Texas, prayed for God’s wisdom for help in stopping the death toll from abortion.

“We decided to pray for one hour,” Bereit said. “During that one hour of prayer, we felt that we had to do something with the time frame of 40 days. … Throughout biblical history, … 40 days is a very significant spiritual time frame. … So many times, when God has wanted to bring about transformation in the lives of his people or in nature, … he has done it in periods of 40 days. How long was Noah on the ark? Forty days. How long was Moses up on Mount Sinai? Forty days. How long was Jesus out in the wilderness? Forty days. And the Apostles had 40 days with our Savior following the Resurrection.”

The world desperately needs spiritual transformation, he said. “So why not apply ourselves to the time frame that God has used throughout history? That was what, on that day in 2004, we felt convicted to do. … The three things that we felt led to do during those 40 days were to pray and fast for an end to abortion and invite all people of faith and conscience to join that prayer, fasting and [pro-life] outreach.

“The only way that abortion will end in this nation is through God,” Bereit said, “because with him all things are possible. Fasting is a very important part of our spiritual journey. … Scripture even tells us that some demons can only be turned out through prayer and fasting. Jesus, in his ministry, said ‘when you fast.’ Many times, when we give up things that keep us away from God, it draws us closer to him. Many times, God provides transformation through the fasting of his faithful people.”

Bereit asked every person who recognizes that life is sacred to pray, fast and give up television for 40 days then invest that time in prayer outside an abortion facility to help save the lives of unborn babies.

Prayers, fasting and peaceful vigils outside abortion clinics for 40 days must also include grass-roots community outreach, he said, to educate people about alternatives to abortion and help women experiencing crisis pregnancies.

“We were amazed by what God had done [during the first prayer campaign in Texas],” Bereit said. “One by one by one, other communities, on their own, driven by the Holy Spirit, conducted 40 days of prayer and fasting, 40 days of vigil and 40 days of outreach. In every community, we saw lives saved, we saw women healed, we saw news stories generated, we saw new volunteers coming in by the droves, and we saw new hope in the eyes of the people in the communities, who after 35 years of abortion, after 50 million lives have been lost, have begun to believe that with God this will end. … But to whom much has been given, much is expected.”

Father Heyd told the pro-life supporters that prayer is crucial in ending abortion and the use of artificial contraception.

“We are going to take this culture [of death] and transform it into a culture of life,” he said. “… Let us build, through our Christian values, a new civilization of [respect for] God and [respect for] life.” †

(Related story: Priests to be honored as ‘good shepherds’ at closing prayer rally)

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