Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted celebrated a bilingual 40 Days for Life Kick-off Mass Feb. 25 at St. Mary’s Basilica. Assisting him were Dcns. Andrew Gilliland from St. Anne Parish in Gilbert (left) and Doug Bogart from Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral (right). (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

An international prayer effort aimed at ending abortion has kicked off again in the Phoenix Diocese. The 40 Days for Life Lenten prayer campaign got underway Feb. 23 in Glendale, Phoenix Flagstaff and Tempe.

40 Days for Life

The annual pro-life prayer campaign will be held outside of abortion facilities throughout the diocese. Participants are asked to park on the streets and remain on public sidewalks. The prayer vigil runs through April 5.

  • Flagstaff: 2500 S. Woodlands Village Blvd.
  • Glendale: 5771 W. Eugie Ave.
  • Phoenix: 1331 N. Seventh St.
  • Tempe: 1837 E. Baseline Rd.


Mayra Rodriguez, the former manager of a Glendale Planned Parenthood where late-term abortions are performed, returned to the site to lead the opening of the campaign. A whistle-blower who was fired from her job and later won a $3 million wrongful termination suit, Rodriguez said that during her 17 years with the abortion giant she witnessed numerous health and safety violations including illegal conduct, unreported statutory rape and women severely injured by abortion.

“I am here today because of your prayers,” she told 40 Days for Life participants, noting that on the days people pray outside centers, “patient rates drop drastically, sometimes below 50 percent.”

At a Feb. 25 bilingual Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Phoenix, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted told 40 Days for Life prayer warriors he was grateful for their faith and desire to “bear witness to the dignity of every human person” by praying and keeping vigil outside abortion centers.

“We pray that we will be affected in our hearts and our witness will help others to feel in their own hearts the great dignity of every human being and the horrible evil of the killing the most innocent,” Bishop Olmsted said.

He pointed to the upcoming 25th anniversary of “Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life),” an encyclical penned by St. John Paul II that condemned the taking of human life through abortion and euthanasia. “Without a doubt, the 40 Days for Life campaign contributes in a vital way to the Church’s mission of bearing witness to Jesus and His gospel of life,” Bishop Olmsted said.

Following the Mass, Nancy Brady, one of the Phoenix campaign leaders, — told the campaign participants who ranged in age from the very young to the elderly — the 40 Days for Life movement is growing.

Tori Nunn, who is working on the 40 Days for Life Glendale campaign, speaks during the campaign’s kick-off Feb. 25 at St. Mary’s Basilica. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

“There are more and more people in this diocese who are joining millions of other people around the world,” Brady said. “They are speaking out to their families and their communities and they are not hiding God’s light.”

Tori Nunn, who is working on the Glendale campaign, told attendees she’d just come from an effort to gather toys, car seats, strollers and baby clothes for needy families she comes in contact with during the prayer effort.

“I’m going to put these to good use,” Nunn said. “I am going to give these things to those mothers.” The 40 Days for Life campaign is about stopping abortion she said, but it’s also about “those poor people, those desperate people that God brings to us to help — it’s about the people in the community.”

Ellen Sweeney, who leads the campaign at Family Planning Associates in Phoenix, has been involved in the pro-life movement since she was 14. She pointed to the humble beginnings of the 40 Days for Life movement in Texas in 2007.

Ellen Sweeney, who leads the 40 Days for Life Phoenix campaign, speaks during the campaign’s kick-off Feb. 25 at St. Mary’s Basilica. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

“This movement came about because one group sought the Lord’s guidance on what they should do in their location to bring a decrease in the number of abortions which had increased exponentially,” Sweeney said. “They trusted our Lord would help them in their spiritual battle if they honored what He laid on their hearts.” She encouraged campaign participants to keep their hopes up.

“I have been involved in this movement for a very long time,” Sweeney said. At times, she’s wondered how long the battle would persist.

“The father of lies would have us be discouraged, to feel fearful, to feel weak, to feel inadequate in the face of abortion, but our Lord will not give us such a calling without equipping us with His grace.

“There are a million reasons not to go, but one compelling reason to go. And that is that our Lord has asked us to be there.”

According to, since the movement’s founding in 2007, nearly 17,000 babies have been saved from abortion, 196 abortion workers have quit their jobs and 106 abortion centers have closed.