Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted greets fellow pro-lifers outside of the Glendale Planned Parenthood location prior to the annual Christmas Eve Rosary for Life. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)

GLENDALE — On one of the busiest shopping days of the year, when most people bustle about with last-minute Christmas preparations, about 250 Catholics gathered at a Glendale Planned Parenthood facility that performs abortions through 17 weeks and six days’ gestation.

Planned Parenthood, with more than 800 locations across the nation, became the focus of controversy last year over the sale of fetal body parts. The Glendale facility, which performs both chemical and surgical abortions, was closed during the prayer service. The Christmas Eve Rosary event has been taking place for more than a decade with the last several years at the Glendale location. Attendance was down from previous years due to a weather forecast that predicted a 100 percent chance of rain.

Blanca Rodriguez, a Most Holy Trinity parishioner, knelt for all 15 mysteries of the Rosary for Life on Christmas Eve. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)

And rain it did, though not in earnest until the onset of the third set of Mysteries. That didn’t stop Blanca Rodriguez, a Most Holy Trinity parishioner who knelt on the rock-hard asphalt for all 15 decades, even as she became drenched.

The Life Rosary features special prayers before each of the 15 decades that address the suffering and needs of pregnant women and unborn children. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, assisted by priests, seminarians and deacons, led the bilingual service. He stood with a megaphone on the steps of the Hope Mobile, a pro-life ultrasound and resource clinic on wheels that is often parked near the Glendale Planned Parenthood in a bid to help women choose life.

In his opening remarks, Bishop Olmsted thanked those who took the time to pray in solidarity with the unborn.

“We’re here today because we firmly believe that the world totally changed because God came into our world first by becoming a little child in His mother’s womb,” the bishop said. “His mother gave her full consent and then accepted all the responsibilities and the sacrifices that were needed for Him to be received and for Him to be protected, taken as a refugee to another country.”

Mike Phelan, director of the Office of Marriage and Respect Life, told the crowd, “We’ve been coming here for too long but we’ll keep coming as long as we have to.” He also thanked them for participating in the Rosary on the eve “of the celebration where our Lord and Savior became one of us, went through the embryonic stage, the fetal stage and went through birth and everything that we do as humans. It’s very appropriate that we’re here in solidarity with our youngest brothers and sisters.”

Bishop Olmsted leads the Christmas Eve Rosary for Life outside the Glendale Parenthood. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Louisa Lukaszewski, who attends the Christmas Eve Rosary every year with her seven children, said it was the family’s tradition to do so. “We come become because we believe it’s important to stand for life,” Lukaszewski said.

Rodriguez, a domestic violence survivor who said she may have been complicit in an abortion earlier in life, was passionate about her desire to protect life and set a good example for her daughter.

“I am here to honor life, to respect life and to fight for life,” Rodriguez told The Catholic Sun at the end of the service.

Fr. Mike Straley, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale, said members of his parish pray outside the location regularly.