WATERLOO — A light breeze fluttered the colorful flags and baby clothes that adorned the lawn of St. Mary Church on Sept. 10. Each of the 120 tiny onesies and dresses — fashioned from laminated pink and blue paper – represented a baby that had been lost to abortion in the United States within the last hour, Kathleen Miller explained to the crowd of approximately 50 people who’d gathered on the church lawn.
“Just imagine that, 120 unique individuals who have gone from this earth before they were even born,” Miller said.
Each of these unique infants would have changed our world as we know it, said Miller, who planned the Sept. 10 event on the church lawn to commemorate the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children. The memorial prayer service at St. Mary Church, which is part of St. Francis and St. Clare Parish, was one of more than 185 similar events held throughout the nation.
Miller hoped the prayer service would make people aware that abortion is not the only option and that it is not just a procedure, but the murder of a defenseless human being, she said.
“We also need to humanize for the public that infants in utero are living human beings made in the image and likeness of God,” Miller said. “With technology and science today, we know that infants in utero have heartbeats, limbs, organs and (can) feel.”
The humanity of abortion’s tiny victims is one element that seems to be conspicuously absent from most public debates about abortion, noted Father Jim Fennessy, pastor of St. Francis and St. Clare Parish.
“People are talking about rights and decisions, but it’s actually about life. You are talking about a human life,” Father Fennessy said. “Something like this (prayer service) brings that to the forefront and makes people realize it’s real. It gets right to the heart of the matter — life.”
During the prayer service at St. Mary, participants prayed for victims of abortion as well as babies still in the womb, expectant mothers and families. Families were among those participating in the prayer service, and as the adults played, several young children sat on blankets spread on the lawn while babies napped in their parents’ arms. Parishioner Lena Shipley led participants in an abridged version of the rosary with pro-life meditations and prayers, and teen parishioners Julianna Struzik and Louis Smith read a story and a letter that had been written from the perspectives of parents who regretted aborting their children.
“There are many different reasons people become pregnant and end up in abortion clinics. Their stories need to be heard to give witness to the truth behind the injustices that we do with each abortion,” Miller said.
Those injustices are not limited to the lives directly lost through abortion, added Sandy Arena, creator of “The Life Ballet,” a stage show that tells the story of a woman who chooses abortion, later comes to regret her decision and eventually finds healing. Dancers performed two scenes from “The Life Ballet” in the gymnasium of the parish’s Ministry Center immediately after the prayer service concluded.
Later that afternoon, approximately 15 people gathered in the Ministry Center again, this time to watch “Arise Sweet Sarah,” which is the film adaptation of “The Life Ballet.” Arena hopes the film, which was filmed in the Rochester area and released in 2015, will show people that abortion is not the answer in a crisis situation.
“People may think it’s the answer out of fear, out of ignorance of resources that are out there or out of shame,” Arena said.
However, having an abortion does not change the fact that a woman who has been pregnant, no matter how brief her pregnancy may have been, is still a mother. Having an abortion is “not going to ‘unmother’ them,” Arena said.
“Anyone who participates in an abortion decision, whatever the situation may be, they need to see that they will always be a mother, a father, a grandmother, an aunt, a best friend. (Abortion) is not going to take that away,” she said.
And yet, as devastating as that realization can be, it is possible for these individuals to find post-abortive healing, she added. It’s a hard, painful process, but Arena, who had two abortions when she was younger, stands as an example of someone who experienced post-abortive shame and guilt and eventually found freedom and healing, she said.