Sharonville Respect Life Ministry changes hearts, saves lives
January 3, 2011
By Patricia McGeever
ARCHDIOCESE — Catholics and non-Catholics alike are working together to prove that the power of prayer can change minds, hearts, and ultimately, a woman’s decision to have an abortion. The Sharonville Regional Respect Life Ministry is made up of people from several area churches, and members say they are aware of at least three unborn babies who have been saved by their actions.
The grassroots effort was started by the Respect Life Committee at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Liberty Township. It is the most recent in a series of efforts that focuses on a facility that relocated to Sharonville just over a year ago. Women’s Med Center promotes itself as abortion care specialists. A spokesperson from the center did not immediately return calls for a comment.
Concerned about what takes place inside the facility, members of the newly formed prayer group began to gather on a strip of private property outside the clinic to pray. They have since moved their prayer picket to the public right of way.
“We don’t stop cars or yell out to people. It’s really a more prayerful presence and a witness to the community, said Mary Jo Suer, a member of St. Maximilian Kolbe who’s been instrumental in organizing a series of prayer campaigns outside the facility.
There are also what they call “sidewalk educators,” who will try to approach women arriving at the facility and provide them with child development information. Many of the sidewalk educators are from Grace Bible Presbyterian Church, where the assistant pastor has been a vocal opponent of abortion.
Angela Horn belongs to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish in Reading and regularly shows up to pray outside the clinic. Last spring, she occasionally volunteered as a sidewalk educator. At the time, she was pregnant with her fifth child. Baby Simon Henry Horn was born just after Thanksgiving.
“Being pregnant and knowing what’s going on in my body and seeing women go in there was just heartbreaking,” Horn said.
Since the abortion facility opened in November 2010, two pregnancy help centers have opened nearby. One is inside the offices of Liberty/ Sharonville Pediatrics, which is next door to the facility. It is operated by the Pregnancy Care Center of Cincinnati. The group offers counseling to women. Technicians from Healthy Beginnings provide ultrasounds and pre-natal care. Dr. Steven Brinn has offered up three rooms in his office for the cause.
With interest in their efforts increasing, the Shraronville Respect Life Ministry organized a 40 Days for Life campaign outside the center. From Sept. 28 to Nov. 6, people pledged to gather from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to say rosaries, read Scripture and pray for an end to abortion.
Brinn said he thinks the impact on the Women’s Med Center was “large. I think 40 Days got to him more than anything that has been done before,” he said, referring to the doctor who runs the center.
Energized from the positive response, the group has made an appeal to area churches to “Adopt a Saturday,” during which parishioners from each church will lead the rosary and other prayers at 9:15 a.m. each Saturday morning. St. Maximilian Kolbe, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, St. Susanna in Mason, Sts. Peter & Paul in Reading, St. Gertrude in Madeira and Sacred Heart of Jesus in Fairfield have each taken a Saturday.
“It’s been building. Every time we gather there’s more people,” said Sue Sanders, a member of St. Susanna Parish. “People have asked us, ‘why are you praying there?’ People didn’t know there was a clinic there.”
Horn added, “The community is really supportive. People acknowledge us as they drive by.”
The newest prayer effort is a weekly candlelight vigil. The first one, held on Nov. 16, brought out a small number, but organizers expect it to gain momentum once the word gets out.
The group knows it’s been able to reach some women. Members say one woman who had scheduled an abortion couldn’t bring herself to turn into the driveway. She sought help at another pregnancy clinic, and that clinic relayed information the woman decided to have her baby. Another woman, pregnant with her sixth child and deserted by her husband after more than 20 years of marriage, considered ending her pregnancy. Organizers say the woman told them she changed her mind after she saw them praying. And, a third woman, upset and unsure of being able to go through with an abortion was met in the parking lot by sidewalk educators. She was looking for a free ultrasound and they steered her toward a pregnancy center nearby.
In addition to these prayer campaigns, members of the group keep vigil outside the center four days a week for five hours.
“I believe the success of this is because it is based in prayer,” said Suer. “It’s pretty powerful when you’re there.”