40 Days for Life: A Light in the Darkness
by Gail Finke
When the streetlight went dark before the end of the one-hour rally marking the opening of 40 Days for Life Cincinnati fall campaign, organizers passed out a few candles and continued in the darkness.
40 Days for Life co-founder and national president Shawn Carney joined more than 75 men, women, and families in front of the Cincinnati Planned Parenthood abortion center, declaring that “it’s only a matter of time until the building behind me is one of the now-90 abortion facilities that have closed” since the national 40 Days campaigns began in 2007.
Cincinnati is one of the cities that joined that first national campaign, Carney told “The Catholic Telegraph,” and is one of the few that have continued annually with the same director.
“It’s always good to go to any 40 Days launch,” he said, noting that he had come to Cincinnati from Philadelphia, where Archbishop Charles Chaput had celebrated Mass for the campaign there. “But this is special: a 10-year anniversary with the same leadership. We’re here not just to support all that God is doing in Cincinnati, but also to show that these leaders are not going away. We’re here and we’re going to be here as long as it takes.”
Mary Clark, who heads the Cincinnati 40 Days for Life campaigns with support from Cincinnati Right to Life, Pregnancy Center East, and a variety of pro-life organizations and ministries, opened the rally by welcoming Father Jerome Bishop to lead prayer for the first time at a 40 Days rally.
“Father, we may grow weary, but we will not be vanquished,” said Father Bishop, parochial vicar for St. Vincent Ferrer parish in Kenwood, in a stirring prayer that promised “we will keep this vigil until this facility is closed forever. We only ask that you give us the strength to remain in the battle committed to the defeat of the culture of death.”
Teresa and Felicity Kenny sang, Joan Rios read a Gospel passage, and Carney shared the story of 40 Days for Life, explaining that the national prayer vigil was to have been a one-time event modeled on the Lenten vigil he and several colleagues created to counter a large Planned Parenthood center in Texas.
“We were just hoping and praying that 20 to 25 cities would sign up,” he said. Instead, 89 cities signed on to what quickly grew to national, then international proportions, with both spring and fall vigils. This year, he said, vigils are being held in 374 cities in 28 countries.
“You are not alone,” he said. “You are bringing hope to a place that has none. No one wants to come here – no women, no men, no workers, and certainly no doctors. No medical students begin their studies and go through their internships and exams hoping to become abortionists.”
Something goes wrong in the lives of people who have, pay for, or work doing abortions, Carney said. “But you bring joy to the one place that has none. You shed light in this darkness. We know that we’re not guaranteed happiness, but we are guaranteed joy and mercy and love if we are faithful. You bring peace to this sidewalk, and you bring the Prince of Peace.”
Paula Westwood, executive director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, reminded the crowd that the business is open only because it has been granted a series of variances to state law. She shared numbers from the most recent Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio’s annual report. In the abortion business’s last fiscal year, it killed 3,116 unborn babies, she said. And according to Ohio records, it has already received $298,000 in grants from Ohio tax money in this fiscal year.
Calling on the state to cut off all grants to businesses that abort children, Westwood also asked the crowd to pray for the conversion of the area workers, as well as for the business’s board of directors and lawyers, by name, saying that conversions of their hearts would do even more than ending grants and enforcing laws.
“We are up against huge hurdles here, but God is powerful and we know we are privileged to be part of what He is going to do here – not us,” she said.
As the one-hour rally drew close to its end, Clark noted that the business was usually lit by floodlights but that on this evening, they were off “almost as if they didn’t want to draw attention to us,” she said. At that moment, the streetlight overhead turned off, plunging the sidewalk into near darkness. Several people got out their phones to provide illumination, and Clark brought out half a dozen Marian votive candles. The rally ended a few minutes later, lit only by those small lights, as participants sang “America the Beautiful” and a closing hymn.
Abortion requires darkness and distraction, Carney remarked. “Just behind me, the most barbaric thing that happens in America takes place. It’s unacceptable and unjustifiable to divorce the most beautiful bond in the world, that between a mother and her child.”
The devil’s biggest distraction to pro-life people, he said, is discouragement. Although pro-life sentiment is growing around the world, abortion businesses are closing and people are leaving abortion work, and pregnancy care centers now outnumber abortion facilities by five to one, praying in front of an abortion business can still seem discouraging because the gains are not visible from the lonely sidewalk. On Wednesday night, when the light went out, pro-lifers in Cincinnati refused to be discouraged.
For information about the Cincinnati and Dayton 40 Days for Life campaigns, including links to sign up for a one-hour prayer shift at either site, see our story here.
For more photos, see our Facebook gallery.