Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 20, 2008
Ottawa, Halifax hold 40-day prayer vigil against abortion
'Mission of love' aims to save lives of the unborn
- CCN photo by Deborah Gyapong
The 40 Days for life fasting and prayer campaign in Ottawa kicked off last month with a rally and candlelight march.
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Hundreds of people in Ottawa and Halifax are fasting, praying and holding sidewalk vigils as part of the 40 Days for Life campaign Sept. 23 to Nov. 2.
Campaign Life Coalition organizer Nicole Campbell, 32, described the 40 Days for Life campaign that originated in the United States four years ago as “the most successful initiative in the pro-life movement.”
Those holding a prayer vigil and sidewalk counselling in front of the Morgentaler abortion clinic in downtown Ottawa believe they may already have saved at least one unborn baby’s life.
The campaign kicked off Sept. 23 with a rally on Parliament Hill, followed by a candlelight procession to the nearby Morgentaler abortion clinic on Bank Street. Almost 300 people, predominantly under 35, attended the rally.
Since David Bereit started the movement four years ago, more than 600 babies lives are believed to have been saved, Campbell said. Over the first two weeks of the campaign in more than 170 cities across the United States, they have counted 113 babies.
Hundreds of people in Ottawa and Halifax, bolstered by prayers from Prince Edward Island and monasteries and convents across North America, are participating.
In Ottawa, with the support of Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, various Catholic parishes are taking turns making sure the sidewalk vigils are staffed 24 hours a day. In Halifax, the vigil in front of the Victoria General Hospital where 1,700 abortions a year take place, the vigil runs 14 hours a day.
Campbell, who had done some pro-life work in the United States, wanted to bring the campaign here.
It’s the fasting that makes the campaign so effective, she said. “It’s not a protest. It’s a mission of love.”
Campbell said the Ottawa vigil may have saved one baby’s life. On Oct. 1, a couple talked to one of her friends outside the Morgentaler clinic for almost a half hour. The couple told her they did not want to have the abortion but felt they had no choice, Campbell said.
They went upstairs to the clinic, but not long afterwards the young man came downstairs and said he found it extremely cold in the clinic and the environment made him feel ill, Campbell said.
Later, his girlfriend came downstairs crying. She told Campbell’s friend she would think more about open adoption.
“We’re praying she won’t make another appointment,” Campbell said.
Priests have been coming to join them, she said. One priest comes every day. Many conversations develop with passersby, especially men who are troubled by having participated in abortion in the past, Campbell said. One even asked to talk with a priest.
But the group is facing opposition. The clinic manager and staff are “very angry,” Campbell said, and have asked to look at their literature. Police have warned them not to enter the building and businesses have complained.
On the sidewalk, the vigil members pray the rosary, they pace back and forth, and they hold signs. “I believe in this,” said Anne McDougall of St. Mary’s Parish in Ottawa. “It’s the only way we’re going to see an end (to abortion) is through prayer.”
Inez Gignac of St. Augustine’s Parish said she believes the power of prayer may eventually make this clinic “disappear.”
Campbell pointed out that in cities that have held 40 Days campaigns, some clinics, including one that was 30 years old, have closed and abortion rates have dropped up to 15 to 30 per cent.
More information can be found at www.40daysforlife.com/ottawa. The group is blogging about the experience at http://40daysottawa.blogspot.com.