One of about 60 people who gathered on Oct. 31 for the 40 Days for Life campaign’s closing ceremony sends a message with a sign and rosary. Advocates for life gathered for a prayer ceremony at the site of the 40-day pro-life vigil near the Hartford GYN Center. Many held red roses, symbolic of life and love. (Photo by Lenora Sumsky)
HARTFORD – Forty days of vigil, prayer and education outside of an abortion clinic in Hartford meant life for 13 babies who otherwise might be dead by now.
Mary Lou Peters, who directed the local 40 Days of Life campaign that ended on Oct. 31, said that it saved 13 babies from abortion this year.
Each saved baby is a victory for the men and women who stand on the brick island outside of the Hartford GYN Center during each 40 Days for Life Campaign.
Under a cloudy sky and chilly air on the second-to-last day of this year’s campaign, the prayer group found support from passers-by. Some drivers going past read signs saying, “Pray to End Abortion,” and then tooted their horns and waved.
A man in a car at a stoplight made a slow, deliberate Sign of the Cross and extended his arms toward the group. Two young women with youngsters glanced over their shoulders with tender smiles. Even a firefighter in a fire engine, whose lights were flashing and sirens were blaring, waved.
The 40 Days for Life Campaign is the brainchild of David Bereit, who initially got involved in the pro-life movement when Planned Parenthood wanted to build a clinic in his Texas hometown in 1998. In 2005, he became the executive director of the American Life League and national director of Stop Planned Parenthood until he took leadership of 40 Days for Life.
The campaign has three major components: prayer and fasting; keeping vigil at an abortion clinic; and community education.
Mrs. Peters recalled a woman who told two people, both keeping vigil outside of Hartford GYN on the last day of the campaign, that her seeing them praying with their signs persuaded her not to abort her baby.
Like others who change their minds, the woman subsequently talked to Theresa Krankowski, director of the nearby St. Gerard’s Center for Life, a pregnancy resource center at 22 Maple Ave. Mrs. Peters’s count of saved babies comes from St. Gerard’s Center.
Vigil participants do not approach women entering the clinic; they stand nearby and pray and/or hold signs.
Bill Dziatko, a member of St. John Fisher Parish in Marlborough, stood on the center island at the busy intersection for three mornings during the campaign.
He said he was “moved” and felt he “had to be involved in this wonderful campaign.”
“I looked up the Web site and saw this site in Hartford,” he said.
“It’s a blessing to be here. It’s a wonderful event and it’s working; I recommend this event to everyone.”
On Oct. 29, Steve Krok’s 12th full day of participating in the vigil, he recounted what he saw from his vantage outside of Hartford GYN.
Mr. Krok, who belongs to the Shrine of St. Anne in Waterbury, noted that it is mostly younger girls who go to the clinic, either with a female friend or boyfriend.
“Your heart literally breaks,” he said, “like something stabbing you inside. It gets you deeper into prayer.”
He also said that a woman approached him and said, “God bless you. I have my baby. If you weren’t here a year ago, I would’ve aborted.”
Another woman told him that she was seven months pregnant. “I came here seven months ago and saw people praying. I said, ‘I can’t do this; I can’t be that selfish,’” he recalled.
“These hopeful stories keep us doing what we’re doing,” said Mr. Krok. “There are misconceptions that it’s scary. It’s really peaceful. After the first time people come out, they’re changed; they have to come back.”
Stopping by that day, Mrs. Peters shared a story about a woman who came to the clinic two years ago. She was separated from her husband and pregnant with her fourth child, feeling incapable of dealing with another baby. When she saw people praying at the clinic, she walked back to her car and asked God to help her decide what to do.
“She didn’t do it,” said Mrs. Peters, who also is the assistant program coordinator for the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Pro-Life Ministry. “She’s back with her husband and came here, crying, with two-year-old Joey to say how grateful she was.”
She said this year’s campaign went “very, very well. As in the last two years, the response from people driving or walking has been overwhelmingly positive.”
She said that attendance was up at the vigil this time around, and that people of more faiths were involved.
Louise Carroll, a parishioner at St. Mary’s in Simsbury, said that she’s been involved in the pro-life ministry in her parish, attending the March for Life in Hartford or in Washington when she could.
“The answer is prayer and education,” she said. “Demonstrations provide a good witness. In order to change people’s hearts, it’s prayer [that] hopefully will change their lives.”
The local 40 Days for Life campaign coincided with similar efforts internationally this fall, Mrs. Peters said. The fall effort saved at least 635 lives, she added.