Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - 40 Days for Life, an international campaign that coordinates prayer and fasting to end abortion, is kicking off in 251 communities in 11 different countries March 5, including the Diocese of Lincoln.
An all-faith candlelight vigil at Lincoln’s Planned Parenthood clinic is scheduled from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 5, Ash Wednesday. Catholics are encouraged to invite their non-Catholic, pro-life friends and family members to participate.
The twice-a-year campaign started in 2004 with just a single hour of prayer outside an abortion clinic each day for 40 days. Since then, more than 600,000 people have offered prayers and fasting for the protection of unborn babies and their mothers, and for workers to leave the abortion industry.
The program has been quite effective. According to organizers, more than 7,500 babies have been spared, at least 41 abortion centers have closed, and at least 80 abortion workers have quit their jobs, as of last fall’s kick-off.
Lincoln’s sole abortion clinic is the diocese’s target location during the Lenten campaign, although anybody can participate, even if they can’t make it to Lincoln to pray in person. Prayer and fasting can be practiced from anywhere.
Some parishes are making organized efforts. Connie Consbruck of St. Michael Parish in Hastings said her parish has participated in the 40 Days for Life campaign from their own pews.
During past campaigns, Mrs. Consbruck has read the daily devotional published by 40 Days for Life after the Rosary that parishioners pray each morning before the 7:20 a.m. Mass.
Written by various pro-life leaders including Father Frank Pavone, the devotionals include updates about the number of babies saved during the campaign, notices of any abortion clinic workers who have left their jobs, or clinics that have closed.
“When you hear about it, even if you don’t go to the center to pray, you feel more like you are part of it,” she reasoned.
At St. Cecilia School in Hastings, about 150 or so students in grades 6 through 12 get involved with each campaign, according to vice principal/science teacher/Teens for Life sponsor Sandy VanCura.
A committee of five to 10 juniors and seniors organize the effort. In past campaigns, students have pledged to pray for an unborn baby boy or girl throughout the 40 days.
Drives to collect diapers, wipes and other supplies for the local Pregnancy Resource Center encourage students to serve the practical needs of women who may face financial hardship if they choose life for their babies.
The student committee has researched and developed special all-school announcements that give important information about the campaign, human development in the womb, and so on.
Also on the typical agenda is a field trip to pray silently at the Lincoln abortion mill. The group plans to go on a Tuesday in late March, when abortions are being performed.
Mrs. VanCura said she believes it is the youth who will eventually see to the end of legalized abortion in this country.
“The youth being so involved and so dedicated energizes those of us who have been fighting this battle for so many years,” she said.
Lincoln Right to Life board member and Lincoln outreach coordinator Melissa Zierke is in the process of reaching out to parishes from Lincoln and the surrounding area, as well as to other Christian churches, to encourage them to get involved with the campaign.
“As Catholics, we need to reach out to our Christian brothers and sisters and encourage then to come,” the Blessed Sacrament parishioner said.
She takes the challenge of being separated from the clinic entrance by a large parking lot in stride.
“We might have two or three seconds to catch a car driving in,” she said. “If there is a group of people, it brings out a little bit more presence… Those women who are going into the clinic know that someone’s out there.”
She continued, “They are probably scared and they don’t know what to do. There might be a moment when they turn, and they know people are out there to help them. No questions, no condemnation, we’re just here to help them.”
Lincoln’s Helpers of God’s Most Precious Infants have indeed seen a number of women exit the clinic without going through the abortion. Every “save” is a victory.
The clinic workers and abortionist are also prayed for.
“We would hope that they would realize what they are doing. If they are a nurse or whatever they are, they can use their profession in a better light,” Miss Zierke said.
Mrs. Consbruck is equally sympathetic to the plight of clinic workers, once they realize they are participating in the culture of death.
“Sometimes that’s the only job they can get. Sometimes they have had abortion themselves and they have very low self-esteem. They are single moms, divorced women who need that job, and it pays very well… And because people are praying on the sidewalks, they feel those prayers and they can walk away from it.”
All are invited to the March 5 kick-off outside the Lincoln Planned Parenthood at 7:30 p.m. Bring a candle or flashlight and meet at 48th and Old Cheney. Parking is available in the nearby residential area or at Christian Cornerstone Church, southeast of Planned Parenthood. Do not park in the Planned Parenthood lot.