40 Days pro-life vigils set for local abortion clinics

by Joe Kohn of The Michigan Catholic
Published February 20, 2009

Detroit To coincide with the Lenten season, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit have organized 40-day, round-the-clock prayer vigils in front of abortion clinics in Southfield and Sterling Heights.

The Vigils

What is it? Forty Days for Life is a national campaign of pro-lifers, both Catholic and non-Catholic, praying in front of abortion clinics around the clock for 40 consecutive days.

When is it? The next campaigns start the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 24, and run throughout most of Lent.

Where is it? Locally, campaigns are at two abortion clinics: WomanCare of Southfield, 28505 Southfield Road, south of 12 Mile Road, Southfield; and WomanCare of Macomb, 11474 Fifteen Mile Road, Sterling Heights.

How do I participate? For the Southfield campaign, call (248) 321-2105, e-mail 40dayssouthfield@gmail.com, or visit 40 Days for Life - Southfield. A kickoff rally in Southfield will be held at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 24 at Mother of God Chaldean Church, 25585 Berg Road in Southfield. For the Sterling Heights campaign, call (586) 264-4671, e-mail SterlingHeights 40DaysforLife@yahoo.com, or visit 40 Days for Life -Sterling Heights.

The vigils are part of the national 40 Days for Life campaign, which has become popular with pro-lifers over the past two years across the country. This marks the third such campaign in front of the Southfield WomanCare abortion clinic on Southfield Road. One was conducted there last Lent, another was conducted last October, which is known as Respect for Life Month.

"We've got enough people sitting in the churches, but if we get them activated we could make an impact on the abortion business in our town," says Mike Stack, organizer of the Southfield campaign.

Stack, a member of National Shrine of the Little Flower Parish in Royal Oak, says the past two campaigns in Southfield were successful in that they maintained a constant presence for 960 continuous hours. More important, he says, people were reached during that time.

"I did a check with the state there are 7.3 million cars that pass by us in those 40 days, so people are preaching the Gospel to millions," Stack says.

The national 40 Days for Life campaign reports that 1,100-plus women across the country have decided to forgo abortions because of the witnesses given by those praying in front of clinics. In Southfield, Stack says they've had good conversations with people who don't agree with them on abortion for example, those who had seen the pro-lifers as judgmental.

"Occasionally we'll get someone who's angry with us," he says. "Most are people who have had abortions, or whose (family members) were involved in abortions, and they see us as being judgmental. We frequently have been able to talk with them and share with them God's mercy and forgiveness, and have them leave with a totally different heart."

He pointed out, too, that a national survey shows that those who have prayed in front of abortion clinics have experienced personal and spiritual growth themselves.

"It changes you to stand out there and pray," he says. In Sterling Heights, Maribeth Criscenti is one of the organizer's of the area's second 40 Days for Life campaign, also in front of a WomanCare clinic.

A member of St. Martin de Porres Parish, Warren, she says she couldn't believe all the blessings that came from the initial Sterling Heights campaign last fall.

"We're definitely hoping people come out again," Criscenti says. "Just as God's presence is so important, our (humble) presence in front of a clinic is so important for the public."

Although there were a few gaps in the 40-day campaign in October hour stretches where no one could be in front of the clinic early in the morning and on Saturdays she says the participants did show the campaign tremendous support.

She has more than 100 people on a mailing list, and received regular participation from about 40 people. A team of about 20 people even stayed intact and met weekly following the October campaign.

Lent, Criscenti says, is an ideal time to start the campaign again.

"As Catholics, I truly believe we're called to take a stand for the vulnerable, and Lent is a perfect time because it gives us time in the desert to open our eyes and find out where we're needed mostly," she says. "We need to put ourselves out there and become what Jesus and John were in the desert, and have our eyes opened on that glorious Easter morning."

Related Links: Pro Life/Respect Life - Michigan Catholic News Articles