September 29, 2010 // Uncategorized

Rosary for Life is a powerful weapon against culture of death

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades leads the joyful mysteries from the “Prayer Peninsula,” just outside a South Bend abortion clinic.

By Diane Freeby

SOUTH BEND — “Prayer is our most powerful weapon against the culture of death!” exclaimed Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades as he led a record-breaking crowd of about 1,000 faithful who gathered to pray the rosary outside the Women’s Pavilion, a South Bend abortion clinic.

The Sept. 22 prayer vigil marked the official kick-off of the local 40 Days for Life campaign, part of a national pro-life effort consisting of prayer and fasting directed at protecting the unborn by changing the hearts and minds of those who support abortion.

People from all walks of life gathered at Ironwood Circle just before 6 p.m., with crowds spilling out into every available space surrounding the abortion clinic. Priests and religious mingled with young families and senior citizens, and everyone in between.

Sarai Rodriguez is a senior from Marian High School who said she believes in making change through witness and prayer.

“By everybody coming together and praying, that’s the only way we can actually do anything about it,” said Rodriguez, referring to strengthening the culture of life.

Seventeen-year-old Francis McDonald, a senior at Saint Joseph’s High School, was amazed at the great numbers who showed up to pray, pointing out that the original goal was to get at least 250 people to come. He thinks Bishop Rhoades motivated a lot more people to attend the Rosary for Life.

“You can pray the rosary anytime,” explained McDonald, “but it’s just great to have everyone come together for something like this, with the bishop at the center. I liked it a lot!”

Bishop Rhoades greeted the crowd, flanked by 40 Days for Life South Bend organizers. Several Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration provided music, joining the group on the “prayer peninsula.”

The “prayer peninsula” is a newly paved area just past the property line of the Women’s Pavilion, covering what used to be a patch of dirt and thorny bushes. It provides a more stable place for people to pray outside the abortion clinic. The words, “Life Begins at Conception” are prominently displayed across the pavement.

Bishop Rhoades began the joyful mysteries, praying an invocation before every Hail Mary. The special rosary reflections were written by the U.S. bishops to pray for the cause of life.

“I thought it was very peaceful and very prayerful,” reflected Liz Appleton, a young wife and mother of five children. “I was moved by the prayers said before the Hail Mary’s … it was really inspiring and very beautiful.”

Appleton, who had several small children in tow, including her youngest in a back-carrier, said she brought her family to the Rosary for Life despite the challenges.

“Part of it was the sacrifice of the work of bringing them here, but also for the witness of seeing happy moms and happy children all together!”

Not everyone appeared happy to have so many people gathered together. Workers from the Women’s Pavilion stood behind vehicles with bumper stickers and hand-made signs specifically insulting the Catholic Church and supporting abortion rights. Today’s Catholic spoke with one of the workers, who identified herself at Grace.

“I’ve been here five years, and I love working here,” said Grace, a self-described former Catholic who believes a woman should have the choice to abort her baby. Grace says she has spoken with pro-life supporters over the years who pray outside her office.

“I don’t mind that they say, ‘Grace, I’m going to pray for you.’ And I say, “Please, all the prayer I can get is good,’ but don’t tell somebody that they can’t or they shouldn’t do something.”

While the small group of workers stood outside, at times laughing during the Rosary for Life, they couldn’t help but hear the prayers during the hour-long vigil.

“I am so thrilled to see so many gathered together in prayer, as we offer a great cry to heaven, asking the Lord to bestow His grace upon all who come to this place,” said Bishop Rhoades as he concluded the rosary. “We ask the Lord to especially touch the hearts and the souls of all the mothers who come here. And we also pray for the conversion of those who work here.”

Mary Akre, South Bend 40 Days for Life campaign director, said she was “in awe” at the turn-out and thanked Bishop Rhoades for his leadership.

“He was standing up there and I’m thinking, ‘This guy is a warrior!’ What a fatherly figure. What an example!”
Akre added that the same doctor who performs abortions at the South Bend facility works in Fort Wayne as well, where there is also a 40 Days for Life campaign. She says both groups are praying in solidarity.

In Fort Wayne, a prayer vigil is being held in front of the abortion clinic on Inwood Drive. Parishes and other churches in the Fort Wayne area are praying at the vigil. On Sept. 30, students from St. Charles, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Jude schools were scheduled to meet and pray together.

The holy rosary is “Our Weapon of Choice!”

Shawn Sullivan, the South Bend vigil director, is optimistic but knows there is much work to do.

“Just a few days after the Rosary for Life, I have seen some new faces at the ‘prayer peninsula,’ so I know there will be fruits from the bishop’s Rosary for Life,” said Sullivan. “The parable of the seeds scattered on the path comes to mind. So our goal is to keep the faithful engaged with our efforts, to keep them excited about it, and to urge them to evangelize others. John Paul II urged us to spread the Gospel of Life, and that is our chief mission.”

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