40 Days for Life activists challenged to heal, rather than fight culture at national symposium

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Praying in front of an abortion center around the clock for 40 days straight might seem a daunting endeavor, but pro-life leaders from around the world organize the vigils twice each year.

Leaders of 40 Days for Life campaigns in states and countries worldwide gathered July 20 for the first-ever 40 Days for Life Summer Gala. The gathering reached capacity. (courtesy photo)

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During mid-July, 200 campaign leaders of the 40 Days for Life movement gathered in Phoenix for a dose of encouragement and inspiration. Traveling from around the U.S. and North America as well as far-flung countries like Nigeria, Croatia, Columbia and Zambia, the three-day symposium kicked off with a gala July 20 featuring a host of speakers, including Shawn Carney, president and CEO of the organization. Carney helped lead the first campaign ever in Bryan-College Station, Texas during 2007. That campaign, which led to the closure of a Planned Parenthood site where now pro-life activist Abby Johnson once worked, was the catalyst for a movement that has spread to 50 countries and amassed substantial results.

“Through the grace of God and your efforts, 96 abortion centers have closed permanently and 177 abortion workers have left their jobs,” Matt Briton, general counsel of 40 Days for Life, said at the gala.

“Every one of your pennies will be spent thinking of that unborn child. We will dedicate our lives to you,” Britton said. “That is what this symposium is all about.”

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix, who gave the keynote address, zeroed in on the importance of conversion and the magnitude of God’s love in transforming the culture.

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“Rather than fighting the culture, we need to heal the culture,” Bishop Olmsted said. “Only God can really heal us and heal the society around us. He does that by taking on the wounds of the world Himself.”

And though some see abortion, suicide or death as an answer, Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection are the means of our healing. “Jesus said, ‘I came so that they might have life,’” Bishop Olmsted said. “Thank God for 40 Days for Life.”

Judy Parcher of Santa Rosa, California, attended the gala and said the presence of someone praying outside an abortion center in her town during a campaign helped save the lives of two unborn babies. A woman entering the facility turned around and walked out saying, “I’m not going to do it.” Parcher said the woman told the 40 Days for Life representative, “The minute I saw the rosary beads hanging from your hand, I knew what I was doing was wrong.” The woman went on to deliver twins.

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“The dramatic turnarounds are a small percentage,” said Chuck Konzelman, one of the producers of the film “God’s Not Dead.” “Most women you save from abortion never turn into the parking lot. Shawn [Carney] said 15,000 babies have been saved. It’s 10 times that,” Konzelman said at the gala.

Honored at the event as the 2018 Leader of the Year was Lisa Blevins of Phoenix. The 40 Days for Life — Glendale leader was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis but has continued to serve the movement. Blevins was given a brick from the Planned Parenthood building that once stood in Bryan-College Station. Today, the site is headquarters for 40 Days for Life.

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