Day 3: Thank you to St. Thomas More Catholic Church (Bethel Park)!

earth…For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Gen 3:19

“Hey!  Who you callin’ dust?”  These words from Scripture, spoken to us just a few days ago on Ash Wednesday, can sometimes make our egos bristle.  Remembering our humble beginning and ending can feel uncomfortable.

Every one of us started as a powerless, vulnerable child in the womb.  And every one of us will die someday.  The only reason that we are able to do anything in between is because God wills it. 

It’s probably part of our fallen nature to want to gloss over that.  We would much rather give ourselves credit for anything that we accomplish.  It’s definitely a part of the humanistic culture of our world today not to acknowledge any power apart from our own.  We see ourselves as in control, and anything contrary to that idea is threatening.

That denial of God’s sovereignty lies at the root of abortion and is arguably our biggest hurdle to ending it.  40 Days for Life is so effective because it tackles the problem head-on with its first two facets, prayer and fasting.  The third facet, outreach, helps to reassure people that it’s “safe” to relinquish control over every detail and to trust God to provide for us.  When we offer concrete assistance to those in crisis, we allow God to reach through us and embrace His beloved children, born and unborn.

Thank you for being part of this 40 Days for Life campaign–let’s give it all we’ve got this time around!  And together, let’s ask God to soften the hearts of all His children so that we can let go of our illusion of control, humbly recognize His Fatherhood, and allow ourselves to be loved and cared for by Him in all circumstances–especially when facing an unplanned pregnancy. 

~Jen M.

Here are stories and pictures from today’s vigil:

7-9: Barbara and Richard

Richard, Patty, Sally, Al, Bob
Richard, Patty, Sally, Al, Bob

It was a rainy, cold, blustery morning but did not stop the great prayer warriors from St. Thomas More Church in Bethel Park, led by Bob H. and Jeannie.  Sally and Al boosted the group, and Bill H. and Vickie also stopped by amidst the raindrops.  It was very quiet in the weather, and we were happily inclined to pray “robustly” with our appeals ringing off the buildings downtown.   We worked our way through the Intercessions on the back of the baby photo posters – they cover a lot of intentions!  Quiet on the streets, lots of smiles and support.

 

9-11: Jeannie

Jack, Marilyn, Jerry, Patty
Jack, Marilyn, Jerry, Patty

Things picked up for the St. Thomas More Group, and on the sidewalk.  Marilyn, Patty and Jeannie were joined by Superstar prayer warriors Jack and Jerry who stayed until 2pm in the rain and wind!!!     This group was a real presence on the sidewalk, and at one point had a “human hug” going as we stationed ourselves just on the life -affirming side of the yellow line!

 

11-1: Marie

Kathy and Terry
Kathy and Terry

More members of St. Thomas More (with children, too) joined the prayer vigil:  Carolyn and Karen and Terry completed a group when Sweet Mimi came from uptown with her friendly demeanor and her grateful heart.   Sidewalk advocate Kathy and Terry joined the vigil, too.
1-3: Dave and Noreen

saville 1
Terry, David, Jack and Caroline

Other than being cold our first shift went well.  We had quite a few positive comments, a few God Bless Yous and a good amount of nods and smiles.
We did have one person who spit on our display.  But other than that, it was a good day filled with love and lots of prayers.
We were relieved by Lisa and family and it was lovely to see young people coming to pray for an end to abortion!!!  



3-5: Lisa and family

First-timer Steve from St. Thomas More joined in here.  A beautiful thing happened during these afternoon hours!  Every weekday during this shift, a line of commuters lines the street waiting for a bus to Beaver County—this happens 2 times a day and the commuters generally stand a foot in on the sidewalk listening to music or using their phones.  In the several years I have been down during these shifts, I have always tried to get our message to these folks- never.any.luck.  NOT TODAY!!!!!!!  One of the would-be commuters asked if he could pray with us for a few minutes! Steve from STM had a nice, welcoming conversation with him and we watched him get into the line.  YAY for public witness, Yay for friendly Christians.  Yay for LIFE!

 

 5-7: Pat

Jeannie F., who coordinated her parish, St. Thomas Moore to be there ALL DAY, along with former SM Julie C. 
Jeannie F., who coordinated her parish, St. Thomas Moore to be there ALL DAY, along with former SM Julie C.
Benson and Julie
Benson and Julie

Unlike yesterday’s unfortunate SMs, I was able to enjoy more traditional February weather out there on the sidewalk this evening.  I was joined by good friend, SM, and now blogger, Jeannie, who made sure that the whole day was covered by her parish.  Then former SM and good friend Julie joined me, allowing Jeannie to go home and thaw-out.  Benson came near the end (and straight from high school baseball practice!).  It was a nice mix of prayer and conversation with just one, very mild, negative comment the whole evening.

Day 19: People of God Covenant Community, St. Bernard, St. Alphonsus, and St. Therese (Munhall)

This morning, while still cold by anyone’s definition, felt almost downright tropical compared to most of the vigil so far! The sun even made its appearance for a few moments during my shift as it passed between the buildings, lighting up our vigil and filling our souls with hope. Praise God that spring is finally detectable!!

Heidi had the morning shift and she writes:

Peace be with you! It was a blessed time of prayer and praise on the sidewalk on Liberty Avenue in the early hours of this Sunday morning. As I reported for my 7 to 9am shift together with my husband Scott, we were greeted by three faith-filled prayer warriors from the Word of God prayer group. What a wonderful surprise in the darkness of this cold morning when we had actually sprung forward in time! Pat, Joanne and her husband Milo, were ready to pray and sing with the accompaniment of Pat who had brought his guitar. The peace and joy of the Lord were palpable as we raised our voices in praise, thanksgiving, and intercessory prayer. We were greeted by many passerby with the usual mix of encouragement and disdain. The joy of the Lord is our strength, however, and most certainly the light won over the darkness. In the second hour, we were joined by more members of the People of God prayer group, and Vince from St. Sebastian Parish, who had joined us for both hours, led us in the beautiful prayer of our Blessed Mother, the Rosary. As the birds chirped harkening the hope of spring to come, I couldn’t help but to think of the verse from Psalms 59:16: “But I shall sing of your strength, extol your mercy at dawn, For you are my fortress, my refuge in time of trouble.” All thanks be to God for His infinite love, mercy, and ever-present faithfulness. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to serve as shift manager. God bless you and all who so generously serve and offer prayers and sacrifice for the success of the intentions of 40 Days for Life!

Members of People of God Covenant Community, with shift manager Heidi
Members of People of God Covenant Community, with shift manager Heidi

 

day 19, people of god

I (Sue) had the next shift. Thanks to the People of God prayer community for some of the most spirit-filled praying and singing I’ve experienced in a long time! The power of the Holy Spirit was so apparent. As Steve P. was leading us in prayer, a young girl walked through our two sidewalk-lining lines and said loudly “Pro-Abortion!” Not missing a beat, Steve immediately went into a beautiful prayer for her. We also were able to pray for a gentleman who came by and told us how distressed he was when his son’s girlfriend aborted his grandchild without even consulting with his son. What a beautiful gift of a prayer moment it was. The man left with a smile on his face.

People of God filled the early morning sidewalk!
People of God filled the early morning sidewalk!
Shift managers Rich and Roseann with the People of God
Shift managers Rich and Roseann with the People of God

Ever-faithful Rich and Roseann had the 11-1 shift. Here’s their report:

We were joined today with the good people from St. Bernard’s Parish (Phil and Cynthia B. and the R. family). Although the R’s have made a personal commitment to pray each Sunday during Lent at the 40 Days vigil, they were unable to fulfill that obligation last week due to the weather and the vigil’s cancellation. However, they were not to be defeated. They decided to hold a vigil at home in which the children made their own signs and we were privileged to see those signs today. We prayed and had a peaceful witness.

Marshall managed the 1-3, He wrote:

A gentleman from a Baptist church came during my time today. There was a witness going on with a twenty something year old man whom was asking questions about abortion and the faith in general.  The gentlemen from the Baptist church did not stay long after that young man left. It was curious because he wrote on the sheet that he was from Elmira OH. I suppose he could have been making a short visit.

Sue was a vigil participant from St. Bernard parish and wrote:

I took a candid of Pat and the kids while we were at vigil today. I think the time change has produced some grumpy R. children. As always, it was a blessing to witness. I stayed on after Pat took the kids home and was very impressed with Marshall the shift manager. He gently answered many questions from a young man who stopped to debate. Marshall was very patient and definitely welcoming of the opportunity to witness. It was wonderful to watch.

Losing an hour of sleep due to the time change didn't stop the wonderful Rocco children from witnessing for life on this cold morning!
Losing an hour of sleep due to the time change didn’t stop these wonderful children from St. Bernard parish from witnessing for life on this cold morning!

Marshall took these photos:

Bud, Nadine and Pauline from St. Bernard
Bud, Nadine and Pauline from St. Bernard

 

Sue, Theresa, Peggy and Joe from St. Bernard
Sue, Theresa, Peggy and Joe from St. Bernard

 

Blessings!

For Life,

Sue M.

Day 12: “(Hard)Shipwrecked” again! — Vigil officially canceled, but hardy prayer warriors still show ….

In addition to all of the persecutions Paul endured (as if they weren’t enough!), Paul endured these hardships:

  • Shipwrecked three times and floated for 24 hours
  • Criticized by other Christians
  • Under arrest for two years without a trial
  • Bitten by a viper

And to these things, Paul said, “Endure hardships with us like a good soldier of

Christ Jesus,” 2 Timothy 2:3

(The above is from media.journeyoffaith.com/podcasts/20090201_PaulExtra.pdf)

As you probably know, due to the hazards of the snowstorm, our vigil was once again canceled today.  In thinking about everything we’ve been through with the 40 Days vigil this Lent, Paul came to mind. Just think – Paul had big PLANS!  Plans to evangelize, in lots of different places at specific times.  Despite the fact that long-distance travel was a whole lot more inconvenient and unpredictable in his time, I’m sure he and his team had as detailed a travel itinerary worked out as they possibly could back in those days.  Aside from everything else he went through, I’m thinking particularly of those times he was detained in his travels.  I’m betting that, during those times – such as when he was shipwrecked and when he was awaiting his trial for two years – he was thinking, “Lord, I gotta get out of here – look, I had big PLANS to win souls for You! I have Your work to do, in so many more places, and this situation just isn’t getting me anywhere for You! I’m no good to You all tied up here. So why are You allowing these huge delays to happen? Lord, what is up?!”

Well, in our Lent 2015 case, we know what is up – in our case it’s just this nasty winter weather messing things up.  Nonetheless, it’s been disrupting our noble PLANS!  And that’s been frustrating!  So I think we can take great heart from Paul’s example.  Despite ALL that stuff he went through, the Lord still was able to achieve so very much through him and win so many souls to His Son.  And Paul is still winning souls for Jesus, via both the inclusion of his life story in the Scriptures and his intercession in Heaven for us to Christ.  So I believe we can be sure that the Lord will still most certainly, despite the “imperfection” of the interruptions to our humble vigil this Lent, honor our prayers toward the ends of ridding our city of the scourge of abortion and of witnessing to many souls for Christ and his ultimate gift, Human Life.  We will endure these hardships like good soldiers of Christ Jesus!  And who knows – Lord willing, just as people are still reading about Paul and his role in salvation history, maybe someday people will even be reading about us and our 40 Days vigil and its role in helping to eradicate abortion in the U.S.!  St. Paul, pray for us!

Despite the fact that the vigil was canceled today due to the snowstorm, a few very hardy souls still headed down to 933 Liberty today!  Many kudos go to Rich and Roseann K., the 9:00-11:00a shift managers, for putting on their layers, lacing up their boots, and going on the job — they may BE R&R, but no R&R for them today! — and to Vince P. from St. Sebastian, who showed up unannounced to help.  Here is Rich & Roseann’s account:

We arrived early around 10:30 and arriving at the same time was Vince P. from St. Sebastian.  He came thinking that because of the weather few people would be there.  He hadn’t realized the vigil was canceled for the day.  Rich shoveled and salted the sidewalk so we wouldn’t have to stand in the snow.  Then we got down to business and prayed all 15 decades of the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet.  Vince stayed with us until 1 p.m.

There is a need for prayer volunteers at the vigil tomorrow (Monday) between the hours of 3pm – 7pm.  Please let us know if you can help!  Between 3-5pm Cathy Z. will be alone and at 5pm Pat will be alone and at 6pm Sue will be alone!  Please don’t let our wonderful shift managers stand alone!  Come pray with them please!!!

May God bless you all!

For Life,

Sue M.

Day 40: A glimpse of heaven on the sidewalk

Thank you today to St. Joan of Arc parish in Bethel Park, St. Bernard parish in Mt. Lebanon and St. Alexis parish in Wexford for keeping the vigil going on the 40th day and finishing strong!  Also thanks to Northway Christian Community for sending a group to help us end our vigil on a strong note!

Here’s the report from the 7am-10am shift manager, Sue:

Day 40!  And it dawned quite beautifully!  We had a few passing drops of rain, but other than that, it was pretty much downright balmy.  (Did anyone think they would ever use the word “balmy” again?!?!!)  I was joined by Robina, Mary, JoAnn, Nina, and Ian & Erin (expecting their second child!), all from St. Joan of Arc Parish, and Bill also came by on his way to church, completing his goal of at least stopping by the vigil each of the 40 Days.  Our shift was prayerful and not too eventful otherwise.  Bill left us with an interesting thought and something certainly to look forward to:  he said not to forget that when we get to Heaven, we will be wonderfully overwhelmed by all of the babies who have ever been aborted, hugging us and thanking us for our efforts to promote respect for Life while here on earth.  What a beautiful thought!!
I would like to personally thank Nikki and Diane, as well as all of the shift managers, for your undying dedication to 40 Days and to Life.  Of course my tiny “thank you” is woefully inadequate to acknowledge your amazingness.  What an inspiration you are to all of us.  I am SO BLESSED to know and be associated with all of you for such a holy purpose!  May God bless you all!
Sincerely,
Sue McGrath
day 40, first shift, st. joan of arc
First shift– St. Joan of Arc parish group
2014-04-13_15-45-50_175
witnesses from St Alexis in Wexford!

Jeff stood the 1-4 shift and reports:

Thanks to everyone from St Bernard’s and St Alexis’ churches for standing with me today, and answering Christ’s question to us all, What more can I do?  Ok, I stole that from the Catholic Men’s Conference from yesterday, but the question remains for each and every one of us.

Maybe your church or group would like to adopt a 2 hour shift during the next vigil.  It is a six week commitment in exchange for  a life-changing event for you, for like-minded people such as yourselves, and for the babies we will never see in this life.

The final half hour of prayer on the sidewalk:

day 40, closing3
Rev. Bryan is holding an Old Testament style horn (shofar) that signifies the fall of Jericho ( Joshua 6:20)
day 40, closing
The group fills up the sidewalk!

 

A family from Steubenville came to pray
A family from Steubenville came to pray
Jen from Women's Choice Network, with her wonderful family
Jen from Women’s Choice Network, with her wonderful family

day 40, third shift6

many witnesses from St. Alexis and other churches
many witnesses from St. Alexis and other churches

day 40, third shift4day 40, third shift3day 40, third shift2day 40, third shiftday 40, closing new8day 40, closing4day 40, closing new3day 40, closing new2day 40, closing new, rose and danday 40, closing new, pat on bull hornday 40, closing new adam and janaday 40 closing new

Pastor Bryan was there during the final hours of the vigil and wrote about a break-through in post abortive healing that happened on the sidewalk:

A young lady stopped by and started talking stridently to me “Do you know what it’s like to be raped?  And at 3 years old?” and we were off and running, from god is light and dark and all over the map, an animated and not too quiet discussion.  I think some there were thinking this is disrupting our group – which it was – but God was telling me that this woman was different from those who come and only want to argue.   It was while discussing agape love, I think, it came out that she had also been raped after puberty and aborted the baby.  Shortly after that revelation, one of our women (I’m sorry, I don’t know her name) came over, talked softly to her (I backed off then), and then picked up one of the fetus in utero models to show her what her baby had looked like.  A great breakthrough came with tears and submission and release, and she fell into our worker’s arms.  After at time of that comfort and release, she and I continued to talk and she apologized for the abrasive way she had treated me, but I told her that it had been the hurt little girl inside that had been crying in despair.   During our initial dialog one of the many things I had mentioned to her was how I read peoples’ faces when counseling.  I then noted that she was now smiling (which she didn’t realize); that when she arrived her face was defiant and hard …. and now her face is soft – and beautiful! — that she was a beautiful woman, and kept marveling at her smile and beauty.  And it was truly a beautiful and wonderful change that God had brought in releasing her from all the rage that had been torturing her.   I gave her some literature to take along explaining more about God and salvation.

  Two footnotes.  We aren’t in this alone, and I’m used to team ministry where the Lord can work through more than one person, as He did last night — it’s not about us, it’s about Him.  The other note I discovered  while riding Paul D home after the festivities – he said he had been praying for the Lord to help me while the dialog was going on.  We need to do this when we see any of us counseling with someone while out there on the sidewalk.  OK one other footnote – we never know what the person is like inside their exterior of bluff, defense, anger, or whatever, but God does.  A when we seek to see what He sees in the person we can be strong – yes, strong – in love and respect countering the Devil’s lies even when that person’s coating over God’ image disrespects us.  But for the grace of God, there goes I.

 

The final day of the 40 Days for Life campaign also included an evening of reflection and fellowship at Catholic Charities downtown.

There were a few points points made this evening by Pastor Adam,  Jen from Womens Choice Network, Al and Nikki  that I would like to share:

 day 31, our signs

We can add the word   “diverse” to the description of 40 Days for Life:  Diverse, Christ-like , Prayerful, Peaceful vigil.  95 Churches and about 1000 participants is not a homogeneous group.  Many came to pray from  at least 2 different states, several different Christian denominations and a few different generations.  In fact, it’s like a glimpse of heaven right there on the sidewalk.

day 40, pastor adam
Pastor Adam gave an encouraging speech emphasizing the peaceful, joyful presence of prayer volunteers that attracts a diversity of passersby to join in prayer.

The 40 Days campaign saves lives:  Jen from  Women’s Choice Network Oakland center enthusiastically shared her experience of meeting clients who have been directly and positively impacted by the prayerful presence at Planned Parenthood and the resource flyers that are handed out to passersby at the vigil.

day 40, jen
Jen speaking to the group at the closing event at the Catholic Charities welcome center.

Even though the 40 Days is over, abortion is still a threat to the vulnerable unborn, so we must continue to pray and pray unceasingly.  We are called to be “doers” of the word and not just hearers.  We must be a united Christian community and do what has been asked of us:   “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.”  (Matthew 25:40)

day 40, closing7
Fellowship at the closing event at Catholic Charities welcome centerday 40, closing6
Fellowship among a community often includes donuts, and this time was no exception!

4-3-14 #5

As Christians united in prayer and fasting for an end to abortion–we are on the winning team:

The proper perspective to maintain is that we are here for only one purpose— to be captives marching in the procession of Christ’s triumphs. We are not on display in God’s showcase— we are here to exhibit only one thing— the “captivity [of our lives] to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)    We should belong so completely to the Victor that it is always His victory, and “we are more than conquerors through Him . . .” (Romans 8:37). –excerpt from My Utmost for His Highest  By Oswald Chambers

day 40, nikki and jen
On behalf of Jen and Nikki — Thank you for your faithfulness to prayer and reading the 40 Days for life blog!

Final Prayer (from today’s devotional):   Father, you are the God of hope. Your word fills us with the vision of the world to come, when every tear will be wiped away, and death will be no more. Father, how we need that hope, how we are strengthened by that vision! Keep our hearts focused on heaven, and diligent in the labors of earth. As we struggle against the culture of death, root our souls in the assurance of victory. We pray through Christ our Lord, Amen.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” — Revelation 21:4-5

Yours, in Christ, Julie C.