Pro-lifers to pray continuously outside Rochester clinic for 40 days - Catholic Courier

Pro-lifers to pray continuously outside Rochester clinic for 40 days

A grassroots group that includes area pro-life Catholics is planning a 40-day round-the-clock prayer vigil from Sept. 24 to Nov. 2 outside the Planned Parenthood clinic, 114 University Ave., Rochester.

The nondenominational effort, called 40 Days for Life, is part of a national campaign to peacefully pray outside abortion clinics. Participants who cannot make it to a clinic may take part in the campaign by offering prayers and by fasting from a food item or making another sacrifice for the duration of the campaign.

The local campaign is being directed by José E. Rivera, a member of St. Leo Parish in Hilton and Knights of Columbus St. Leo the Great Council 9461. The organizing committee also includes about 10 other coordinators who are planning the details of the campaign.

"Getting to know them and seeing their excitement helped me to realize this is the right time to do this," Rivera said.

The group hopes to reach out to pro-life groups and churches of other denominations, he said, noting that prayers are needed for the campaign’s success and for an end to abortion. The group also will be seeking volunteers to peacefully pray at least an hour outside the clinic, to commit to pray and fast during the campaign, and to help publicize the campaign.

Nationally, the campaign will involve people in about 175 cities in 45 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa and two Canadian provinces. The number of cities involved has grown by 94 percent over the number of cities that participated in the first nationwide campaign last fall, according to the 40 Days for Life national organization.

Campaign organizers in Rochester first met July 23. During that meeting, they received encouragement from Ellen Stanford, the Buffalo 40 Days for Life campaign director, who prior to organizing last year’s campaign had no pro-life activism experience. She told the group how the first-year effort to pray outside an abortion facility in Buffalo attracted more than 300 volunteers and prompted 30 women to tell Buffalo activists they had changed their minds about getting abortions.

"When they change their minds, they want you to know it," said Stanford, a Penfield native.

Stanford said a study program, a Benedictine leadership retreat and information about the 40 Days for Life Program that she heard on Catholic radio helped convince her to get involved in the campaign.

She said she initially received an underwhelming response from a pro-life group at her parish, but when she went public with the campaign, she said she met a Buffalo-area doctor who had prayed a novena to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel for someone to lead the 40 Days for Life campaign in Buffalo.

"Our campaign in Buffalo began in prayer — from a dead stop," Stanford said.

Using support from the national campaign, including Web site assistance, promotional materials and advice, Stanford organized a kick-off rally that helped her recruit prayer groups, rosary groups, school groups, families and individuals.

"At least half of these people have never been to the clinic, and at least half were under 30," Stanford said. "We had lots of teens and 20-somethings."

The 40 Days for Life campaign started in 2004 in Bryan/College Station, Texas, and soon spread to other cities in 2005 and 2006. The first coordinated national campaign took place in the fall of 2007, and the second took place in the spring of 2008. These two campaigns have involved 139 cities in 43 states, and all told the 40 Days for Life movement has involved 35,000 people in the efforts.

According to the national organization, more than 500 people told activists they decided not to have abortions, and five abortion workers quit their jobs. Two Planned Parenthood facilities stopped performing abortions and another abortion facility shut down following a 40 Days for Life event.

Stanford said participants in the Buffalo campaign were motivated for several months to buy billboard space near the clinic that contained the words "Pray to end abortion." Many participants also continued praying outside the clinic even after the campaign ended.

"When you have that constant prayerful presence, things happen," she said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To get involved in the Rochester 40 Days for Life effort, e-mail or call 585-305-1224.

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