July 26, 2013

Catholic radio station broadcasts live prayer vigils at abortion center

Domincan Father Simon Michalski, second from right, leads a prayer vigil as it is broadcast live on July 11 at a Planned Parenthood facility in Bloomington. Monica Seifker, center, coordinator of the vigil broadcast ministry, joins him in prayer. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Domincan Father Simon Michalski, second from right, leads a prayer vigil as it is broadcast live on July 11 at a Planned Parenthood facility in Bloomington. Monica Seifker, center, coordinator of the vigil broadcast ministry, joins him in prayer. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

BLOOMINGTON—The group stands silently on the sidewalk outside the Planned Parenthood in Bloomington, watching as 15-year-old Isaac Seifker holds up three fingers, then two, then points to the woman with the microphone.

“Ave Maria! Welcome to this week’s live broadcast of our prayer vigil in front of the Planned Parenthood on this surgical abortion day to pray for the moms, dads and unborn babies, and all of the clinic workers …”

So begins the 9 o’clock hour every Thursday morning on 89.9 FM WOMB radio station broadcast in the Bloomington area.

Prayer vigils have been conducted at the Planned Parenthood facility on Thursdays from 9-10 a.m.—during which surgical abortions are performed at the facility near the Indiana University campus—for over a decade.

But for the last year and a half their prayers have been broadcast live on the local Catholic radio station.

“This way,” says Monica Seifker, coordinator of the live broadcast ministry, “many people that can’t be [present to pray at Planned Parenthood] because of work can pray along with us, or people just driving in the area.

“We also have a group playing the radio at the Sacred Heart Chapel at the [Mother of the Redeemer] Retreat Center. They pray simultaneously with us before the blessed sacrament.”

The retreat center and 89.9 FM WOMB radio station are located in the hilly outskirts of Bloomington about eight miles west of the Planned Parenthood center. The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate provide spiritual direction at the retreat center and also operate the radio station as part of their apostolate.

According to Bill Dunfee, president of the board of directors for the station, “When school is on [at Indiana University], Planned Parenthood is really crowded [on Thursdays], with 30-40 girls getting abortions.”

Dunfee says Franciscan Brother Augustine Arts, who set up the station, told the friars it would be easy to do a live broadcast of the prayer vigil in front of Planned Parenthood.

Shortly after the station went live in October 2011, the friars asked Monica Seifker of St. John the Apostle Parish in Bloomington to coordinate the ministry. Seifker home schools her children and had been bringing them to pray at Planned Parenthood on Thursday mornings for many years.

While Seifker opens and closes each broadcast with a meditation, the prayers are led either by a friar from the retreat center or a priest from one of the three local parishes.

Seifker feels the ministry has been a success.

“Some go by, flip on the station and their attention is drawn and they’ll pray with us. We had one woman, a fallen away Catholic, who came back as result of the broadcast.”

That woman, Gladys Newsom of St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington, says she had become frustrated with other faiths not recognizing the truth about abortion.

“When I learned what [abortion] really meant, I thought, ‘How can you be Christian and pro-choice?’ I think the live broadcast of prayers is absolutely wonderful. That’s what got me here. I think it’s so powerful. It’s one way of getting the pro-life word out.”

That the station’s call letters spell the word “womb” is a bit of providence, says Franciscan Father Joachim Mary Mudd.

“We got a list from the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] of all the call letters that had been taken. I got our hymnal and looked through all the Marian songs. I found ‘O Mother Blest’, and OMB wasn’t taken.

“Since we’re east of the Mississippi [River], the call letters being with ‘W’. So we made it stand for ‘With Our Mother Blest’. And it just happened to spell ‘womb’. That was unforeseen—it was in God’s plan.”

Mary Dunfee of St. John the Apostle Parish in Bloomington, a regular participant at the Thursday prayer vigil, cites scriptural support for the prayer vigil broadcast ministry.

“We all know the power of prayer. As our Lord said, ‘Where two or more are gathered in my name …’, and we have more than that by using the radio.”

Dominican Father Simon Michalski, associate pastor of St. Paul Catholic Center, led the prayers for the first time at the vigil broadcast on July 11.

“I loved it. They’re doing a great ministry here. I believe this program is absolutely essential.

“Relying on God and calling upon him for the things we want and need is the heart of the Christian life. This couldn’t exist without prayer, and the fact that it’s broadcast is even more powerful.”

Isaac, who alternates setting up the portable equipment with his 17-year-old brother, Andre, is passionate about the ministry.

“The millions of babies who are being murdered across the nation can’t speak for themselves. We’re here to speak for them.

“We use the technology and equipment to make our voices go over the air as loud as possible so that everyone can hear and know that abortion needs to be stopped.”

(The pray vigil is broadcast live on 89.9 FM WOMB Thursday mornings from 9-10 a.m. from the Planned Parenthood at 421 S. College Ave. in Bloomington. Prayers are also said simultaneously at the Sacred Heart Chapel at Mother of the Redeemer Retreat Center, 8212 W. Hendricks Road, Bloomington.)

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