A woman encountered them on the sidewalk outside of the abortion facility. She told them her daughter planned to have an abortion, but she turned around and left, influenced by the group of women praying on the sidewalk. The woman came back later to share her thanks and to report that her daughter had a healthy baby boy.
For the better part of five years, these Catholic women — and a few men — have been meeting on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood every week to pray for an end to abortion and that mothers will choose life for their baby. They said they hope to influence those visiting the clinic to turn away. For the most part, they don’t interact with others; rather, they pray the Rosary and other prayers for almost an hour each Wednesday morning. That’s followed by a visit to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent, staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, as a house of hospitality and prayer.
The group came about mostly through personal, friend-to-friend invitations. They represent a variety of ages, and different parishes in the archdiocese, too.
Cathy Roche, of St. Raymond-St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Crestwood, helped spearhead the effort. She had been praying at the sidewalk for years prior, starting in the summers when she was off from work. She spoke to a friend about joining her, and it took off from there.
“We just started mentioning it to people one by one,” she said.
Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis are preparing to head to Washington, D.C., later this month for the 49th annual March for Life. The march observes the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, which made it unconstitutional to ban abortion. Hundreds of thousands of people, including several contingents from the St. Louis Archdiocese, are expected to attend the march and rally, which will be held Friday, Jan. 21.
Ask any of them, and they’ll tell you, it’s all about saving babies, and helping the mothers and fathers who feel they have no option other than abortion.
“You have to do something — these are babies we’re talking about,” said Paulette Capes, a member of St. Ambrose Parish on the Hill. “Their lives are being ended. We hope that they see us and think, ‘Wow, maybe I’m not doing the right thing. Maybe I need to think about it.’”
Kathy Hotze was spurred into praying at the sidewalk after seeing others doing it. “I thought, what am I doing?” Hotze, a member of St. Justin Martyr Parish in Sunset Hills, participated in the 40 Days for Life campaign during Lent and decided to keep coming after the end of the campaign, which promotes prayer and fasting to raise awareness, save lives, bring healing, and lead the nation to repentance for the sin of abortion.
Anne Woods, who attends St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Brentwood, invited a friend to come along to the prayer group, encouraging her that “it’s a wonderful thing. It fills you more than anything else.” She added that the group has been yelled at in the past, but others have offered encouraging words. They also see their presence as a support for those who stand outside of the facility, offering alternatives to abortion. “You don’t know who you’re going to influence; you don’t know whose mind you’re going to change.”
“We’re not going away, we’re not backing down,” said Kristi Weiland of Incarnate Word Parish in Chesterfield. “Our presence makes a difference.”
>> January pro-life activities
• Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski will be the main celebrant at the annual Roe v. Wade memorial Mass at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. The Mass, organized by the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate, will include a pro-life generation memorial and a collection for the LifeLine Coalition, which benefits thousands of local women and families annually. The Rosary walk to and from Missouri’s last abortion facility will follow Mass, marking the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion on Jan. 22, 1973.
• The national 9 Days for Life Novena, organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, will be held Jan. 19-27. For more information, see www.respectlife.org/9-days-for-life.
• The Generation Life pilgrimage for teens to the March for Life, organized by the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry, will take place Jan. 19-23 and include 1,200 pilgrims. Programming will be livestreamed at genlifestl365.com.
• A pro-life Holy Hour for young adults ages 18-39 will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Young adults are invited to pray for an end to abortion and promote a greater respect for all human life. Kathy Fowler will share her inspirational adoption journey as well as her professional work as executive director of Good Shepherd Children & Family Services. After her talk, eucharistic adoration, the Rosary and the sacrament of reconciliation will be offered. The event is sponsored by Anima Christi, the Office of Young Adult Ministry and the Respect Life Apostolate.