During the spring 40 Days for Life campaign in Cleveland – Ash Wednesday through Palm Sunday (April 14) – an estimated 750 people will take to the sidewalks in shifts for 12 hours daily praying for an end to abortion.
John Noall, campaign chairman, said there are measurable successes from the campaigns, which take place twice yearly – during Lent and in the fall -- at three abortion facilities in Cleveland, Bedford Heights and Painesville. The effort is part of a nationwide movement to end abortion.
“As Pope Francis tells us, it is not our job to play creator – it never was. That is God’s role, not ours,” Noall said.
The spring campaign kicked off with a rally on March 5 at St. Columbkille Parish in Parma. About 200 people turned out on the frigid winter night for food, socializing, prayer, song and an address by Bishop Nelson Perez.
“This is our biggest kickoff rally ever,” Noall said as he surveyed those gathered in the St. Columbkille School gym.
Locally, Noall said about 200 babies have been saved because their mothers decided not to have an abortion. In addition, the number of area abortion facilities is decreasing. At one time there were nine facilities in the area; three remain.
“Thank you for supporting life. Thank you for being a voice for the voiceless,” Noall told those gathered for the rally. “Life is a gift from God and it comes with a responsibility. We are a ministry of reconciliation; we are ambassadors for Christ. We speak the truth with charity.”
He said the 40 Days for Life campaign is growing. It has a presence in 377 cities and 40 countries. The local campaign began in the fall of 2009, Noall said, so this is the 20th event in Cleveland.
Bishop Perez’s visit to the group came on the 18-month anniversary of his installation as the 11th bishop of Cleveland, Noall said. “We are so happy he is able to be with us.”
The bishop asked for a show of hands of those who participated in last year’s 40 Days for Life campaign. Many hands were raised and he asked if any of them had stories to share from their experience.
One woman talked about standing in front of an abortion clinic and seeing a woman with tears streaming down her face. She asked that they pray for her because she decided not to go through with the abortion.
Another person said someone told them, “You don’t know how powerful you are.”
Bishop Perez said he learned that 40 Days for Life national statistics show that about 750,000 people have joined the cause with 300,000 on the streets and about 19,000 church congregations active in the movement. He said the group knows of more than 15,000 children who were saved. In addition, about 186 abortion facility workers have quit their jobs and about 100 facilities have closed.
“Prayer is powerful,” he said.
Spending 40 Days for Life is a positive thing to do, Bishop Perez said, “and we are seeing the fruit of that.”
He talked about a Scripture story during which a possessed child was brought to Jesus. The disciples had been unable to help the child, so they asked for Jesus’ help. “He told them some things really only change through the power of prayer. And this is one of them.”
He said life is under attack. “There is a part of us humans that wants to be like God – taking control of things. We forget our role.”
Man was given many gifts by God and he said we’ve been able to do some incredible things with those gifts, including putting a man on the moon and bringing him back safely.
“But there is more power in this one little thing than in the computers that powered the space ships,” he said, as he held up the pectoral cross he wears. “Sometimes we humans play around in areas where we shouldn’t.” He used the Roe v. Wade decision by the United States Supreme Court -- which legalized abortion 46 years ago -- as one example.
“Something happened and if we can made decisions like that (abortion), there are no limits,” he said. “We are trampling on the greatest gift – the gift of human life.”
The bishop said there have been heresies throughout Church history.
“I think this will be our heresy. When they look back on this time in 500 years, our heresy will be radical subjectivism – I decide. And if I can decide about life, I can decide what marriage looks like and what I should look like. People are taking it on themselves to decide things that they shouldn’t – things that God should decide.”
The bishop said Americans live in the most legalistic country in the world. “We have a great love of law. It’s a black and white thing – if the traffic light is red, you stop – it’s not open for interpretation. We’re a democracy, we vote and we love the law, but there is a part of us that doesn’t like being told what to do,” he said.
Bishop Perez shared some inspiring quotes with the group, reminding us that all part of God’s family and that the Church raises its voice to protect human life.
“We have lots of praying to do. Don’t ever underestimate the power of prayer,” he added.
Noall acknowledged the clergy who support 40 Days for Life and its mission, including Father Anthony Susso, St. Columbkille pastor, who welcomed the group to his parish; Father John Betters, is pastor at St. John of the Cross Parish in Euclid, who composed a prayer for the campaign; and Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries, who serves on the local 40 Days for Life board and was among those at the kickoff rally.
The spring campaign will end with a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. on April 13. For more information on the campaign, the vigil or to sign up for a prayer vigil slot, visit 40daysforlife.com/cleveland.
Email inquiries can be sent to Noall at firstname.lastname@example.org.