GLENDALE — Carrying rosaries, pushing babies in strollers and bearing images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Catholics from throughout the Diocese of Phoenix gathered in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic in a Glendale neighborhood Good Friday.
Local police estimated the crowd of faithful exceeded 500.
The clinic provides medication-induced abortions up to nine weeks and surgical abortions up to 24 weeks when women are visibly pregnant and feeling the unborn child within them kick.
The Hope Ultrasound Mobile Unit was parked nearby offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasound exams for women, hoping to persuade them to choose life. Pro-life advocates have often stated that about 90 percent of women who view ultrasound images of their unborn baby decide against abortion.
Fr. Mike Straley, pastor of nearby Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, said his parishioners pray outside the abortion clinic at least monthly.
“I think it’s important on Good Friday to pray not just in our churches but to pray publicly and to take a stand for life,” Fr. Straley said.
Jennifer Blackstad of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Tempe was one of those who took a public stand. Blackstad brought her three young children, one in a stroller, to the rosary event.
“We came because it’s Good Friday and one of the best things that we can do is teach them about the sacredness of life,” Blackstad said. “Good Friday is the one of the best days of the year that we can reinforce that with them.”
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted thanked those who organize the yearly gathering as well as those who participated in the 40 Days for Life prayer campaign during Lent. The prayers, he said, are changing people’s lives.
It was important to gather for prayer at the abortion clinic on Good Friday, Bishop Olmsted said, “because the innocent are killed here every day and today, in this time in history, this is precisely where Jesus would want us to be with Him.”
Mike Phelan, director of the Office of Marriage and Respect Life for the Phoenix Diocese, helped organize the rosary gathering and was there with his family.
The killing of innocent lives is “happening here today and so we’re present like Mary the Mother of God and St. John were at the foot of the cross,” Phelan said. “This is part of the redemptive work of the Church.”
Catholics, Phelan said, need “to be present in solidarity with the babies that are being killed and the mothers and those in the clinic who work there and don’t even know why their lives are miseries.”
Kevin Barraza, SSJ, a seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum, led one of the rosary decades in English and Spanish.
“I came to pray in celebration of life and for an end to abortion,” Barraza said.