‘40 Days’of saving lives: ‘Respect Life Month’ focuses peaceful efforts statewide

From left to right, Vaneshia MacArthur, Elizabeth DeWitt, Benjamin Cook, Ezra Copeland and Zoe Copeland hold signs on the corner in front of the shopping center with Planned Parenthood in Flagstaff on Oct. 2. The students were supporting the 40 Days of Life international vigil. (Lisa Dahm/CATHOLIC SUN)
From left to right, Vaneshia MacArthur, Elizabeth DeWitt, Benjamin Cook, Ezra Copeland and Zoe Copeland hold signs on the corner in front of the shopping center with Planned Parenthood in Flagstaff on Oct. 2. The students were supporting the 40 Days of Life international vigil. (Lisa Dahm/CATHOLIC SUN)

Respect Life Month

40 Days for Life Locations

Phoenix: Outside Family Planning Associates, 1331 N. Seventh St., #225

Flagstaff: Outside Planned Parenthood, 2500 S. Woodlands Village Blvd.

Glendale: Outside Planned Parenthood, 5771 W. Eugie Ave.

Tempe: Outside Planned Parenthood, 1250 E. Apache Blvd., #108

40 Days Events

Oct. 27, 7 p.m., Stand for Life statewide rally, Phoenix Location

Oct. 28, 8:30 a.m., United for Life tour stop, Flagstaff Location


First Pro-Life Gala
6 p.m., Nov. 18,
the Fall Event Center, 4635 E. Baseline Rd., Gilbert
Bilingual Congreso
Nov. 19-20, Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. Third St.
Actor Eduardo Verástegui will be at both events.
Info: (602) 354-2132

Thousands of lives spared, 133 abortion workers who quit their jobs and 75 centers that closed their doors forever. The stunning success of the 40 Days for Life movement in the midst of a culture of death has pumped new energy into the movement dedicated to protecting human life from conception to natural death.

October, set aside as Respect Life month by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is traditionally the time in which efforts to uphold the dignity of human life gain momentum. The 40 Days for Life fall campaign takes place throughout the month and in many ways has become the face of the movement.

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Mike Phelan, director of the Office of Marriage and Respect Life for the Diocese of Phoenix, lauded the work of the organization that first sprouted in Texas in 2007. This year, for the first time ever, the 40 Days for Life campaign of prayer, fasting and peaceful presence at abortion facilities will take place in all 50 states. The movement has spread to 36 nations and 636 cities.

“I think 40 Days for Life is where the victory is going to be,” Phelan said. “We have to do all we can do in the public square, but we are facing a very entrenched culture of death.”

It can be tempting for pro-lifers to become mired in the purely human, political aspects of the movement, but “if it’s not grounded in prayer and fasting, it’s guaranteed to fail because we do not have the culture,” he said.

The diocese is also sponsoring a bilingual pro-life gala Nov. 18 followed by a Congreso Nov. 19-20 at the Phoenix Convention Center. Eduardo Verástegui, star of the pro-life film “Bella” and who played Blessed Anacleto Flores in “For Greater Glory” will deliver the keynote at the banquet.

40 Days for Life Participants in the 40 Days for Life campaign pray in front of Family Planning Associates in Phoenix where a baby was born alive following an abortion last spring. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Brady) 40 Días por la Vida Partidarios del movimiento pro-vida rezan afuera del “Family Planning Associates” en Phoenix. (Foto Cortesía por Nancy Brady )
Participants in the 40 Days for Life campaign pray in front of Family Planning Associates in Phoenix where a baby was born alive following an abortion last spring. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Brady/40 DAYS FOR LIFE)
Pro-Lifers on why they participate in 40 Days for Life

allan-sheets-web“I’m involved because I was almost aborted and my dad decided to have me. It just hit me when I was at Mass that it’s my birthday and this is the day I was saved so it all came together pretty good.“
— Allan Sheets


margaret-mowery-web“I’ve always believed that it’s really important to stand up for what you believe in and it’s a good way to try to end abortion with other people who believe the same thing I do. There are 15 kids in the Youth for Life club at St. Mary’s.“
— Margaret Mowery


diana-rivera-web“I think all life is precious and it’s important to pray to end abortion. I am planning to go to Glendale’s Planned Parenthood. I’ve prayed there before with the bishop on Good Friday and Christmas.“
— Diana Rivera


matthew-cook-web“I like to participate (in 40 Days for Life) because there are a lot of friends there and it’s fun.”
— Matthew Cook


faith-kyaruci-web“My grandmother wanted me to join the Youth for Life club freshman year. At school, during the 40 Days for Life campaign, Miss Salgado definitely involves the whole school. One time she put crosses out for all the babies who have been killed by abortion and last year she went to the art club and they made these 40 Days for Life quotes all over the sidewalk.“
— Faith Kyared


alice-st-germain-web“I do this to honor our Almighty Father. It’s a call to all God’s churches to become more active in praying and charitable works. I encourage more people to actually pray as a war tool to protect the lives of innocent babies.”
— Alice St. Germain

The Congreso will feature speakers such as Alejandro Bermudez, director of the ACI Prensa news service, and Mexican actor and promoter of the Rosary Manuel Capetillo.

Dcn. Mike Johnsen of St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Chino Valley, knows well the power of prayer and faith in motion. Planned Parenthood in nearby Prescott closed after an ongoing prayer effort plus the relocation of a pro-life pregnancy resource center, Life Connections, close to the abortion facility. The abortion provider then moved into Prescott Valley. Pro-lifers again relocated Life Connections so as to be in close proximity, offering alternatives. Ultimately, Planned Parenthood closed because no doctors in the area were willing to perform abortions.

“Today we don’t have the presence of Planned Parenthood, but we continue our 40 Days for Life campaign,” Dcn. Johnsen said. Each Thursday at 8 a.m. during the 40 Days for Life, a respect life Holy Hour is held at Sacred Heart Parish in Prescott.

Nancy Brady, who has been coordinating the fall and spring 40 Days for Life campaigns in Phoenix, said the effort has led to increased pro-life activity throughout the year in the form of parish ministries, outreach and a regular, prayerful presence outside abortion facilities. Parishes that once did not have an official pro-life ministry are now holding baby bottle drives to support local pregnancy centers. When The Catholic Sun interviewed Brady, it was only day five of the fall campaign. “Already, we have 39 babies that we know of that were spared from abortion,” she said.

At a 40 Days for Life kickoff Mass held Sept. 28 at St. Mary’s Basilica, Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM, pointed to St. Francis’ deep respect for all life. “Maybe the greatest gift we can give as Roman Catholics is to reverence life, that we start recognizing the beauty of human life and let it drop it to our knees in awe of God,” Fr. Weldon said.

Ellen Sweeney, who first became involved in the pro-life movement as a teenager in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, spoke following the bilingual Mass. She referenced St. Teresa of Calcutta in her remarks, calling her a “champion for the unborn and for all human dignity.”

Stopped by security guards once and asked if she carried any weapons, St. Teresa had a ready reply. “Her answer was to pull her rosary out of her habit and say, ‘Only this, the most powerful weapon in the world.’ We at 40 Days can attest to the power of the Rosary and all the other prayers that are said at these sites,” Sweeney said.

The 40 Days for Life campaign runs through Nov. 6. A statewide rally takes place Oct. 27 in Phoenix at Family Planning Associates, the facility that requested paramedics after a baby was born alive following an abortion last spring. National leaders from 40 Days for Life will be on hand to speak. A vigil stop in Flagstaff by the national team will be held
Oct. 28.