Local priests and the Knights of Columbus joined Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in praying for the unborn outside a Planned Parenthood on Good Friday.
Local priests and the Knights of Columbus joined Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in praying for the unborn outside a Planned Parenthood on Good Friday.

GLENDALE — The 40 Days for Life’s spring campaign, which formally drew to a close on Good Friday, brought news of hope for the pro-life movement in Arizona.

Pro-life leaders shared news of 19 known turnarounds at the Planned Parenthood in Glendale where a March 29 rosary vigil with Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and closing 40 Days for Life program took place. Those unborn lives were among 659 saved from abortion during the international spring pro-life campaign, which encourages people of all faiths to pray, fast, and witness through a peaceful vigil to end abortion.

“This is Calvary in 2013. This is where we are especially one in the mystery of Jesus on the cross,” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted told the crowd following recitation of every mystery of the rosary.

Priests and deacons took turns leading the rosary. Men, women, children, priests, deacons and women religious packed into a closed-off street on the west side of the abortion clinic. Most stood in the sun while others rested under one of at least 17 personal umbrellas or five shade tents. Others set up camping chairs or blankets to pray.

A Catholic mom with children of various ages knelt and sat facing the entrance of Planned Parenthood praying for the souls inside the building. A handful of other pro-lifers faced the entrance on the building’s other side praying and ready to offer resources for pregnancy support. At one point, four women went inside and three came back out.

“It is obvious that when we gather as the physical body of Christ, we shake heaven and earth,” Fr. John Lankeit, rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral told the crowd.

He noted the police presence and helicopter that hovered overhead toward the end of the rosary. He also challenged those gathered, presumably largely what some might call “pro-life Catholics” to not be afraid to also be “social justice Catholics.” There are many ways in which Jesus opens the heart and mind to the “distressing disguise” of others, he said.

Pro-life leaders brought news of expanded outreach to post-abortive women and men through interdenominational retreats at the vigil’s closing. Another highlighted a united effort among student pro-life groups through Voices for the Voiceless. Sheila Riley, executive director of Life Choices Women’s Clinic shared her vision to open a third location near the very abortion facility where she stood.

Riley recounted the effectiveness of opening pregnancy resource centers near abortion clinics. The pro-life clinic’s original Sunnyslope location opened near an abortion clinic that is no longer there.

One recent couple who turned away from an appointment at the Planned Parenthood in Glendale ended up at Life Choices. That’s where the dad-to-be saw the first true ultrasound of his unborn child.

Josiah Friedman, executive director of Voices for the Voiceless, said the last 40 years since abortion was legalized have been a time of incredible injustice.

“Today, evil is the strongest in the abortion industry and our generation stands fundamentally opposed to that,” Friedman said, challenging those of faith to translate that to action. “The cross of Christ speaks clearly: grace is not cheap. We have no right to claim to represent our God if we don’t do anything to stop the injustice in our backyard.”

Catholics from local parishes gathered formally as a community or on their own time to pray in front of abortion clinics throughout the 40 Days for Life vigil. There was a two-hour “Carry the Cross of Abortion” vigil at the Planned Parenthood in Tempe on Good Friday and a closing Celebration of Unity April 7 at Lakeview Community Church in Lake Havasu City, the area’s official vigil site.