By Christina Galeone
The recent revelations about Planned Parenthood doctors taking money for fetal organs and tissue from aborted babies did not surprise people here who pray for an end to abortion.
“I’m not surprised. Because once you’ve decided it’s OK to kill an unborn human being, anything goes,” said Lee Crowley, a campaign coordinator 40 Days for Life Worcester.
Twice a year, participants in the 40 Days for Life Worcester campaign have been tirelessly praying, fasting and spreading the message that human life is sacred – and saving lives. They stand outside the Planned Parenthood facility on Pleasant Street in Worcester, no matter the weather.
The recent Planned Parenthood scandal could create more hostility toward 40 Days for Life participants, or could draw more people in to stand against abortion, Pauline Morris, the director of the Worcester campaign, said.
Nevertheless, they are Christ’s soldiers in a spiritual war – bearing witness to his love – on the front lines. And while they have enriched the lives of many, their lives have also been enriched in the process.
Mrs. Morris refers to herself, and all 40 Days participants, as “workers in the vineyard” who are bearing fruit, because they’re doing God’s work. But it hasn’t always been easy for Mrs. Morris to participate. Involved since 2008, the parishioner of St. Mary’s Parish in North Grafton, has spent much of that time battling cancer. Cancer-free for more than two years, she has refused to let the disease stop her from the 40 Days mission to save lives.
On her refrigerator, beside photos of her grandchildren, is a photo of one of those lives – a baby named Deborah. Mrs. Morris was overjoyed when a woman approached her and other volunteers at a 40 Days vigil. She thanked them for praying for her and being there to help her choose life for baby Deborah. Mrs. Morris said the woman told them, “She is the focus of my life!” The woman gave them copies of her baby girl’s photo and even happily played a ringtone of Deborah giggling. After experiencing days when pro-choice people have cursed at and even thrown things at the volunteers, Mrs. Morris became choked up when recalling that experience. She said “They make the bad days bearable.”
Mrs. Crowley, a member of Saint Luke the Evangelist Parish in Westborough, also recalled an interaction with a girl that affected her life. A campaign coordinator – and also a volunteer since about 2008 – Mrs. Crowley admitted this past winter’s campaign was “an exercise in perseverance” due to the brutal weather. But during that campaign, which ran from Feb. 18 until March 29, she was reminded of how important the volunteers’ presence is.
Mrs. Crowley said that although she tried to be there almost every weekday, there was one day when she only had about half an hour between an appointment and work. She wondered if it would be worth it to go to the vigil for only 20 minutes or so. But after she arrived, a girl walked out of Planned Parenthood and saw Mrs. Crowley. After seeking advice from a councelor there, the girl approached her. Mrs. Crowley gently directed her across the street to Problem Pregnancy, a pro-life organization that also offers counseling. When she returned, she told Mrs. Crowley that she was so grateful someone was there to tell her about Problem Pregnancy. It gave her the different perspective she needed.
“God can take the tiniest bit of time and use it,” said Mrs. Crowley. She added “I see more and more how Planned Parenthood’s messages to our culture have distorted and devalued sexuality and led so many people down the wrong road, and I am more determined that those of us who see the truth about God’s plan for love and marriage … really have an obligation to try to share the Christian understanding of these issues with our community.”
Mrs. Crowley has also been following the news about the Planned Parenthood scandal. She noted “It gives us an additional reason to pray and…to be out there.”
Like Mrs. Morris and Mrs. Crowley, Sandra Kucharski – who is now a counselor for Problem Pregnancy – has compassion for the women as well as their unborn babies. While the campaign coordinator looks forward to 40 Days for Life and was thankful for the opportunity to pray the rosary in English, Spanish and Polish with fellow volunteers during a recent vigil, her heart goes out to the women who enter Planned Parenthood.
“No matter what campaign it is, I am always struck by the young ages of the women going into the clinic for an abortion. Oftentimes, the women – accompanied by their mothers, boyfriends or husbands – look as if they are being forced into the decision to end their pregnancy. They are never smiling or relaxed,” said Ms. Kucharski, who belongs to Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Worcester.
“To observe the interactions of those going into Planned Parenthood – knowing the woman is about to kill her baby in the womb – is a tough thing to watch from across the street. You don’t ever get used to it, which is probably the way it should be.”
She also hopes that the recent scandal will make everyone more aware of the grave situation. “It’s an answer to our prayer, but you still have people entrenched in a culture of death. This is not news to people who are fully involved in the pro-life movement,” said Ms. Kucharski. She added “For people who were not previously aware of how evil an organization Planned Parenthood is, this is shocking. And hopefully, they can turn their disgust into activism, because there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Sister Marie-Jean of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Still River, hopes children will never get comfortable with abortion either. She has brought busloads of students to past campaigns. Sister Marie-Jean recalled a campaign in which she and fellow sisters were accompanied by students in the St. John the Baptist Pro-Life League. They prayed the rosary with Bishop McManus.
“As we stood and prayed on the sidewalk, a couple bound for the abortion mill approached our group. They accepted counseling from us and proceeded to walk right into the Problem Pregnancy crisis center! The students were so amazed to see this event occur, and it was particularly dramatic as the couple passed down the sidewalk by the bishop,” said Sister Marie-Jean. She added, “They were rewarded for their prayers by seeing a direct result. But we, of course, reminded them that it’s not always like that. Many people who change their mind keep driving by and remain anonymous. Others may have a change of heart much later due to prayers. Furthermore, the reparation and glory given to God is an intangible result which will only have its reward in heaven.”
Although Mrs. Morris fears that the recent news about Planned Parenthood could incite more hostility toward their next campaign from the abortion provider’s workers and abortion advocates, she hopes it will also inspire more people to join them. She said she hopes this is the beginning of the end of abortion.
Mrs. Morris said, “I’m hoping our presence out there – peacefully praying – will have a greater impact on people…”
Although these women know the challenges of joining a 40 Days for Life campaign and standing against Planned Parenthood and abortion, the rewards are amazing. They’re found in the giggles and smiles of baby Deborah and the other 10,330 sacred lives that have been saved, around the world, since 40 Days for Life started in 2007.
– The next 40 Days for Life campaign will run from Sept. 23 to Nov. 1. For more information, visit the website, www.40daysforlife.com/local-campaigns/worcester, its Facebook page or contact your church’s pro-life ministry.