Lenten pro-life prayers are helping save babies

Pro-life prayer warriors stand across the street from Edmonton's abortion clinic.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Pro-life prayer warriors stand across the street from Edmonton's abortion clinic.

March 7, 2016
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

John Lankreijer believes prayer might help in the battle to end abortion. So every Wednesday morning for the past five years he's been coming from Spruce Grove to pray the rosary across from the Women's Health Options at 12409-109A Ave.

"I come at 10 o'clock, rain or shine, and stay here an hour," the 78-year-old Catholic says.

He was there again Feb. 24. Beside him was an unidentified man who has been coming for 22 years and two women who come sporadically. They all prayed and sang together around an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe set up on the ground. Some held up anti-abortion signs.

Lankreijer said this time he made his personal crusade a part of the biannual 40 Days for Life, an international community-based campaign that draws attention to abortion through the use of prayer and fasting, prayer vigil and community outreach.

The campaign started Feb 10 and continues until March 20. Participants take turns praying in front of the abortion clinic for at least an hour a day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Around 12 people a day have been praying across from the clinic since the start of the campaign, said campaign coordinator Melody Berscheid. "We try to be there when the abortion clinic is open; that's our main focus."

Participants pray the rosary, the Stations of the Cross and special prayers for the unborn. This time the group sang at the end of their hour.

"Only God knows if we have made any difference," Lankreijer says. "But at least we do something; in a world that doesn't care, we do something."

Bonnie Fleming of Beaumont believes actions like 40 Days for Life do make a difference.

"We get discouraged when we see these girls go in there (the abortion clinic) but every once in a while one of them will come over here and ask for help," she said. "We have had success. We have had some that have changed their mind. If we save one life, it's worth it."

Fleming, 73, said she decided to join the campaign "because God wants me to."

CONTRIBUTING

Donna Boyle, 69, joined the prayer campaign hoping it will make a difference. "I get the feeling that I'm contributing a little bit to the end of abortion." She vowed to come at least once a week for an hour or two on behalf of St. Andrew's Parish.

A makeshift shrine helps participants in 40 Days for Life in their prayer.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

A makeshift shrine helps participants in 40 Days for Life in their prayer.

The 40 Days for Life campaign is held twice a year: during Lent and in the fall from September to November.

"Last fall we had 360 people come out and pay a visit to the site and we saved two babies," noted Berscheid. "This (Lenten) campaign has just begun and we've saved two babies already."

The first baby was saved during the first hour of the campaign on Feb. 10, she said.

At about 7:30 a.m., a pregnant woman walked unexpectedly into the Back Porch across from the abortion clinic looking for somebody to talk to. After 40 minutes talking with the Back Porch staff, she left and announced she would not have an abortion. "I changed my mind," she told those praying outside. "I'm going to parent this baby."

CHANGED TACTICS

Things are going better this year "because we changed our tactics," Berscheid said of the campaign. Instead of asking priests to send people to 40 Days for Life, campaign coordinators approach pro-life people in each parish directly.

"We realized the priests are busy so we made it a grassroots movement," the coordinator explained. "We've gone to all the people that we know are very pro-life and we asked them to take their parish (to the abortion clinic). We asked each parish to cover a day a week during the 40 days."

As a result, numbers have increased. People from about 13 parishes are taking part in the campaign, in addition to groups such as Couples for Christ.

GLOBAL CAMPAIGN

Since 2007, almost 3,900 campaigns of 40 Days for Life have taken place in 607 cities in 32 nations across the world. Almost 675,000 volunteers have joined in this historic display of unity, prayer and fasting for an end to abortion.

According to the Campaign Life Coalition website, 40 Days for Life has succeeded in shutting down 64 abortion facilities and has documented saving at least 11,165 babies.

"In addition to the babies, 127 abortion workers have quit their jobs and walked away from the abortion industry, and thousands of women have been spared the suffering and trauma that comes with the decision to abort one's own child."