Praying for, promoting life publicly for 40 days
The statistics support the success of the annual “40 Days for Life” campaign since it began in 2007: 650,000 volunteers working 3,588 campaigns in 579 cities and 30 nations, saving 10,331 lives, encouraging 118 abortion workers to quit their jobs and witnessing the closure of 60 abortion centers.
This year’s international event of prayer and fasting to end abortion will be held Sept. 23 through Nov. 1. Locally, a daily prayer vigil from sunrise to sunset – 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. beginning Sept. 23 – will be held near the Causeway Medical Clinic on Ridgelake Drive in Metairie, where abortions are performed.
The campaign will end Nov. 1 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. with a candlelight vigil at the Planned Parenthood location now under construction in the 4600 block of Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans.
A prelaunch dinner with Archbishop Gregory Aymond at St. Angela Merici Parish Aug. 20 highlighted local campaign details, shared testimonies about 40 Days for Life experiences, and words by Archbishop Aymond as well as pastor Willie Wooten from Gideon Christian Fellowship in New Orleans, demonstrating that the fight for life is not just a Catholic cause. It is ecumenical.
“If the most innocent human is not protected, nothing else is safe,” said Debbie Shinskie, the new director of the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. “That’s what we are focusing on. How do we protect the most innocent life? The best way to protect the most innocent life is to reach out to the mother who is hearing a lot of negative things in society. Motherhood is not valued in our culture. She’s hearing from Planned Parenthood and all their propaganda that if they close down, there is nothing (no other health-care options). We are reaching out.”
Shinskie said being “present” for 40 days next to the Causeway Medical Clinic in Metairie shows those considering abortion that people are concerned for their well-being and that of the unborn child.
“We are there to show (the pregnant woman) love and mercy, and that we care for her,” Shinskie said. “We have a lot of options for her and are there for her to help her raise and care for her child. If she can’t handle that, there are adoption options.”
Biblical underpinnings of ‘40’
She said the 40 Days for Life campaign mimics biblical occurrences such as Christ’s 40 days in the desert.
“We are those 40 days showing women the face of Christ, the mercy of Christ and the love of Christ,” she said.
This year’s 40 Days for Life is especially significant being held in a “Year of Mercy” that Pope Francis will launch on Dec. 8. The pope’s recent comments on absolution for abortion show his “merciful outreach, especially to post-abortive women.”
“The Year of Mercy is about conveying Christ’s love and forgiveness,” Shinskie said, “and that forgiveness is for anything at all. If a mother is walking into a clinic, she may have never had anyone showing Christ’s love of mercy for her. The person standing (and praying) at the clinic represents Christ. We represent Christ also to those who work at the clinic. We image Christ’s love. There is no sin too large to forgive for Christ.”
Shinskie has experience as an R.N., and she has worked in pro-life outreach and served as a Respect Life parish coordinator, an NFP and Theology of the Body teacher and a lactation consultant.
She reiterated the three pillars of the 40 Days for Life for those who participate: prayer and fasting to end abortion; taking a leap out of their comfort zone to acknowledge the reality of abortion and participating in the peaceful and compassionate presence at abortion sites; and making an outreach in the community to promote pro-life awareness and education.
Shinskie’s office will further promote awareness among students of the preciousness of every life, from conception to natural death, with Respect Life Week Oct. 19-23. She is working with Catholic schools to incorporate prayer and corporal works of mercy into their daily activities. The corporal works might include creating toiletry bags for the homeless. She is providing prayer intentions for each school’s Respect Life Mass.
Prayer cards are available at her office at 7121 Catina St., New Orleans (the same location as Louisiana Right to Life) or at 40daysforlifenola.com. For details on the campaign, call Shinskie at 286-LIFE (5433) or the 40 Days for Life campaign at 835-6520.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.