By Susan Bailey
What happens when one dedicated pro-life volunteer meets another? A meeting of minds and hearts, empowered by the Holy Spirit. And that’s when the good becomes extraordinary.
The communities of Leominster, Gardner, Clinton, Fitchburg, Lancaster and Westminster are combining through prayer and action to promote the cause of life with one voice. And it’s all occurring by word of mouth.
“It all happened organically,” said Marcie Allain, parishioner of St. Cecilia’s in Leominster and a leader in the initiative. “I was asked to take over the Mother’s Day rose drive for life and then was invited to St. Anna’s pro-life meeting.” At that meeting she listened to the Josephs, a couple describing their vision of uniting all the churches in the diocese. “I had been thinking that thought for the last year!” said Mrs. Allain.
She was encouraged to talk with her pastor, Father Robert D. Bruso, about uniting the Leominster parishes; “He loved the idea,” she said. The parish held their first meeting last June and they now have meetings quarterly.
As word spread about the group, people from other parishes began to come, including those in Gardner, Clinton, Fitchburg, Lancaster and Westminster.
“They either had little respect-life groups in their parishes, or wanted to start one,” Mrs. Allain said. Participants expressed interest in education and support, wishing to hear how others are doing it. The first meeting covered a wide demographic from mothers with newborns to grandparents and great-grandparents. One 87-year-old couple joined so that they could be a witness to their children.
Experience in the pro-life movement ranged from beginners to what Mrs. Allain called “warriors:” those people involved since the decision of Roe vs. Wade.
Prayer immediately became a top priority. Mrs. Allain dedicated the first meeting to Our Lady declaring to the people that “she would do this.” Tapping into the prayer lives of the participants, organized efforts for praying the rosary for life have already begun in various parishes.
“Picture all the parishes — (there are 99 in the diocese) — wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could dedicate an hour either weekly or monthly to prayer for life?” said Mrs. Allain.
Outreach has begun to parishes who offer adoration all day at least once a week to see if they would dedicate one hour to life or pray a rosary for life. Many are open to the idea. Mrs. Allain’s desire is that all parishioners be made aware of this prayer activity so that they can participate, either at the event, or wherever they happen to be. Making good use of the parish bulletin, announcing it at Mass and listing it on the calendar on parish websites are ways to get the word out to the public.
“In one parish they do a rosary for life every second Thursday – it’s on the calendar. If you have the time, you can go and pray for life. Or if you’re at home you can pray,” she said.
Mrs. Allain is much encouraged by the support of priests and deacons who take time out of their busy schedules to attend the quarterly meetings. One such deacon, recently assigned to St. Cecilia’s, is Deacon Robert Connor who is also the president of the board of First Concern Pregnancy Resource Center in Clinton.
Deacon Connor describes Father Bruso as “extremely supportive of the city-wide initiative, offering the space for the group to meet and participating in the meetings. His witness is very strong, and he is extremely pastoral in his approach.”
Deacon Connor went on to explain his vision for this expanding pro-life effort. “At St. Cecilia’s we have most recently done the rose drive for Mother’s Day, to raise funds and awareness. I have been going to the March for Life in (Washington) D.C. for quite a few years, so I’d like to see the group participate and sponsor a bus, or at the very least ensure we have representation with the diocesan buses that go. I would also like to see the smile on my friend Lee Crowley’s face when we can deliver a lot more representation at the ‘40 Days for Life’ prayer vigils outside of the Planned Parenthood in Worcester. The ability for us to help the work done by our friend Eve Lindquist at Visitation House would be an excellent recipient of our efforts, as well.
“So many things like the ‘40 Days’ campaign struggle because there are just smaller organizations at some parishes or fewer people who can have representation. A real strength I see from this approach is to be able to look at a room of 30 people and say, ‘OK, when are we signing up for slots at the ‘40 Days’ campaign?’ and be able to fill multiple days and times. When you are a group of four in a parish it becomes hard – but when you are many, the work becomes easier.”
One prayerful, com–mitted person with a vision meeting another, and then another. Like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, each person’s act of generosity and love multiplies. It is how the Holy Spirit changes our world.
And the Spirit is definitely at work in our Diocese, uniting together parishes in a common cause for life.