Prayer is an important element in overcoming the evil of abortion.
That’s why Archbishop Robert J. Carlson acted on his vision to open a house of prayer right next to the only remaining abortion clinic in Missouri. Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent opened in September of 2017 across the street from Planned Parenthood in the Central West End, the fruit of years of conversation and planning by the archbishop and others archdiocesan leaders.
The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, were chosen to live at the convent and offer a ministry of prayer and hospitality for those who stand in prayerful witness on the sidewalk outside of the abortion clinic. Frequent Masses and periods of eucharistic adoration are offered in the chapel. Sisters Delores Vogt and Sue Ann Hall share their hospitality with visitors, offering a bite to eat or something to drink.
The archbishop has described the convent as “a beautiful way of expressing what the Catholic Church is about. We’re not here picketing, we’re here praying. And we know that it’s only through prayer that the evil of abortion is going to be overcome.”
The struggle against the powers of Satan still exists today, he said. “Do we need any clearer example than what exists across the street? I look forward to the day, when through the power of the Blessed Sacrament, that abortion clinic is closed. I don’t know if that will take a day, a month, a year or a decade. I know that through the prayer that will take place here, someday it will close.”
The convent is one of many ways in which Archbishop Carlson has shown his dedication to the pro-life movement. He’s made it an annual tradition since before his arrival in St. Louis to attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C., making 2020 his 15th consecutive trip. He’s also been supportive of legislative efforts at the state level, offered tangible support for mothers in need through the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund, and became involved in a legal challenge to prevent St. Louis from becoming an “abortion sanctuary” city.
“Each one of us has the responsibility to do what we can so that in this nation, in our families, in our archdiocese we choose life unconditionally,” the archbishop said to thousands of teens who attended the Generation Life pilgrimage in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry. “In your witness today, let us declare our beliefs and express our faith. For those who don’t share the same beliefs, let us pray that the love of Jesus Christ overcomes them so that they become a witness — and perhaps witness with us next year. For we have a message that is true and beautiful and from God.”
In October 2018, a federal court ruled that a St. Louis City ordinance intended to make the city a “sanctuary city” for abortion was unconstitutional and a violation of religious freedom. Several archdiocesan elementary schools, O’Brien Industrial Holdings LLC and Frank Robert O’Brien and Our Lady’s Inn filed a lawsuit against the ordinance, which would have provided a protected class status to any woman who chooses to have an abortion and those who support her in that action — while also discriminating against those who promote pro-life alternatives. Our Lady’s Inn president and executive director Peggy Forrest said the ordinance would have prevented her from hiring only individuals who support its alternatives to abortion mission and would have required the maternity shelter to house women who intend to have an abortion.
“As Catholics, we know that all life is a gift from God and our parents, and must be protected at any cost,” Archbishop Carlson said at a press conference on the steps of the Thomas F. Eagleton United States Courthouse Downtown. He also noted that a critical point in the ordinance’s passage: “The lives of babies in their mother’s wombs that are in peril. The passage of this bill is not a milestone of our city’s success. It is, rather, a marker of our city’s embrace of the culture of death.”
Shortly after he arrived in St. Louis in 2009, Archbishop Carlson established the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund to provide direct assistance to pregnant women in need. In the past decade, approximately $130,000 has been distributed through the fund, which is administered by the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate. Funds have been given directly to mothers and families in need. Through this direct support, about 100 mothers have been assisted with rent, utilities and car payments. Items such as cribs and mattresses also have been purchased to help families.
The effort is something the archbishop has done in every diocese in which he’s served. “It’s very simple: If we’re going to have a strong pro-life view, it’s not enough to just show the truth in that message,” he said in a 2010 interview. “At the same time, we need to be able to assist women to bring their children into the world and care for them after they’re born.”