24-hour vigil for 40 Days of Life in front of Southfield abortion clinic
by Joe Kohn of The Michigan Catholic
Southfield — The air is freezing and the sidewalk is an inch-deep puddle of slush. But to Joan Cooney and Barb Yagely, it doesn't matter. They stand in front of the WomanCare abortion clinic on Southfield Road, and they pray.
"I just feel so much for the women and the families," says Cooney of those who seek the life-ending services rendered in the building. "My heart just goes out to them because I know they're acting out of fear and inconvenience and other things, and they're going to pay such a heavy price for doing this."
When it comes to praying in front of WomanCare, Cooney and Yagely do it regularly. But throughout Lent, they'll be joined by a host of Catholics and other Christians and pro-lifers who are participating in a campaign called 40 Days for Life. From Feb. 6 to March 16, anyone driving on Southfield Road just south of 12 Mile Road will see at least two people in front of the abortion clinic. Twenty-four hours. Every day.
"We've embarked on something that seems impossible — a 40 day campaign, in the winter, outside, in Michigan," says Mike Stack, an avid pro-life activist who is an ultrasound technician at Mother & Unborn Baby Care Center in Southfield. "God calls us to be of service, but He blesses us when we respond."
Stack, who with other pro-life leaders in the area organized the campaign, was inspired by a similar 40-day effort in Ann Arbor, which took place in the fall. Both the Ann Arbor and Southfield campaigns are connected to a nationwide 40 Days for Life effort. During Lent, 59 cities in 31 states across the United States are holding similar campaigns.
Nearly 100 people and various pro-life and pro-family organizations were present at Church of the Transfiguration in Southfield for a kickoff of 40 Days for Life the evening of Feb. 5. Those speaking at the event included Levon Yuille, director of the National Black Pro-Life Congress; Fr. Peter West, a member of Priests for Life; and Michelle Yax, director of the Mother & Unborn Baby Care Center.
Yax also told stories of hope. She spoke of a man who prayed regularly in front of a local abortion clinic. One day, while he was praying, a truck pulled up near him and a burly man stepped out of it and reached across the seats.
He wanted to show off his 1-year-old inside.
"We remembered that we were Christian," the man with the child said, telling of how the pro-lifer's witness helped prevent him and his wife from having an abortion just over a year ago.
"Do not underestimate the power of prayer to awaken their consciences, and to change the course of their lives," Yax said.
Those who attended the kickoff — many of whom were signed up to pray in front of WomanCare — said the cause was significant to them for different reasons.
"I've lost some grandchildren, myself, from my own children," said Kathleen Bragg, a parishioner at St. Andrew Parish in Rochester who also volunteers at Crossroads Pregnancy Center in Auburn Hills. "This really is close to my heart."
Kevin Kukla, a 23-year-old who lives in Northville and belongs to Transfiguration Parish in Ypsilanti, said he wants society to see children as gifts from God who should be loved and cherished.
"About one-third of my generation has been killed simply for being unborn or pre-born," said Kukla, who helped lead the 40 Days for Life campaign in Ann Arbor.
Laura Dysarz, one of the organizers of the Southfield 40 Days for Life, says the Catholic community has responded well to their planning thus far — though several holes in the schedule remain to be filled.
Those who have prayed in front of local abortion clinics already have seen their efforts bear fruit. Stack said that 300 women changed their minds about abortions during the fall campaign near a Planned Parenthood clinic in Ann Arbor.
"It's a very sad business," said Yagely, facing WomanCare clinic, "but there's always a little glimmer of hope and light."