Shawn Carney has joined prayer warriors on the sidewalks in front of hundreds of abortion facilities throughout the United States.
Each of those facilities is “the epitome of the lack of joy,” the president and cofounder of the 40 Days for Life national campaign asserted during a “Cast the Vision” assembly at St. Andrew parish in Holts Summit.
“Your joy on the sidewalk and the joy of the volunteers in 40 Days for Life around the world — that joy is what we bring to the table at places that otherwise would have no joy, no love and no hope,” Mr. Carney told more than 100 active and potential prayer warriors at the event.
The audience included Bishop W. Shawn McKnight; Father Paul Clark, the diocese’s moderator for pro-life activities; and Father Joseph Corel, pastor of St. Andrew parish.
40 Days for Life is a national campaign of concentrated, praying, fasting, grassroots educational outreach and public witness to the sanctity of all human life.
This includes peaceful daily prayer vigils in the public right-of-ways outside abortion clinics throughout the country.
The prayers and public witness help God change the hearts of mothers who would otherwise enter those facilities to end the lives of their pre-born babies because they feel like they have no hope and no other choice.
“Saint Thomas Aquinas said the chief fruit of charity is joy,” Mr. Carney stated to the people who take part in the prayer vigils. “You bring the love, hope and mercy of Christ to these places where there is no joy, no hope.”
Mr. Carney led the first-ever 40 Days for Life campaign outside a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Bryan/College Station, Texas in 2004 and has helped coordinate 22 national 40 Days for Life campaigns that have engaged communities coast to coast — and internationally.
Since 40 Days for Life began, 14,643 mothers nationwide have chosen life for their children; 177 abortion workers have quit their jobs; and 96 abortion centers where 40 Days for Life vigils have been held have gone out of business.
Kathy and Mike Forck, members of St. Andrew parish in Holts Summit, and a committed core team are the backbone for the Columbia 40 Days for Life campaign in Central Missouri, having spearheaded 40-day vigils each spring and fall outside the Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Columbia since the fall of 2009.
Volunteers for the movement also maintain a steady, year-round prayer and sidewalk-counseling presence outside the facility on days when surgical abortions and abortion counseling take place.
“By your presence there, as those mothers walk in, you are the last hope for their babies,” said Mr. Carney. “And if they do go through with the abortion, you are also the first sign of mercy for those women when they leave. And your body language and what you say — and what you don’t say — is something they will remember for the rest of their life.”
A movement of converts
Mr. Carney talked about the amazing things God is accomplishing through the 40 Days movement and through the good work of pro-life advocates throughout the country.
“In the past five years, an average of 70 abortion facilities each year have closed,” he said. “Add to that all of the wonderful pregnancy-resource centers that now outnumber abortion providers 3 to 1 nationally and up to 5 to 1 in some parts of the country.”
He noted that this wave of momentum has brought an angry backlash, with 40 Days for Life prayer warriors and sidewalk counselors throughout the country being subjected to varying degrees of harassment and persecution.
Their consistent response has been a doubling-down of prayer and fasting and a more steadfast commitment to peaceful, joyful vigils in the public right-of-way.
Mr. Carney said the most powerful voices in the movement are women who regret having had abortions, along with their husbands or boyfriends.
“In many ways, we are a movement of converts,” said Mr. Carney. “And a movement of converts can only be a movement of hope.”
He said the end of abortion is inevitable.
“To justify abortion, you have to reject science and you have to reject God,” he said. “Those are two impossible, full-time jobs. So we should approach this campaign with great faith and hope and fortitude and great confidence that our Lord is with us.”
He said to be open to God’s amazing work.
“To live in this time and to be able to trust in God, to go to work and see something as massive as abortion end in our great country — you could only blame the Lord for that,” he said.
Having witnessed the closing of abortion clinic he helped establish 40 Days for Life in order to do battle with, he said “there’s nothing like seeing your abortion facility close.”
“When that happens here, and it will happen, Kathy will give a ‘Thank you, Jesus!’ and we’ll all have a party,” he said.
In the meantime, God calls His people not to be successful but to be faithful.
“That gives us peace of mind and heart,” he said. “We go and leave the results to God.”
Belief in action
In his remarks, Bishop McKnight emphasized the importance of consistent, intentional prayer and action for society’s most vulnerable people.
“My dear people, I am present here with you to support and to encourage you who are responding to the call and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to prayerfully witness to the beauty, the sacredness and the gift that every human life is,” he said.
“We Catholics are called to manifest the dignity of every human life, not only in our doctrines but perhaps most especially in prayer and in action,” he stated. “We are especially moved to give voice to those who are most vulnerable, who have no other voice but our own.”
The bishop said he is proud of the Catholics who are part of the larger pro-life movement that is providing a true service to the entire community.
“You represent our Catholic beliefs most especially in your actions,” he stated.
He noted that Church leaders have invited all people of faith and goodwill throughout the United States to take part in a Friday novena of prayer and fasting. The intention is for whomever is appointed in the U.S. Supreme Court to help bring about an end to abortion in this country.
“We must pray,” the bishop stated.
His closing prayer included: “May God touch the hearts and minds of all expecting mothers and fathers with His tender mercy. May He soften their hearts and counter the deceptions of the evil one with the clarity of mind to know what is good, and the strength to carry it out.”
Back to the sidewalk
Mr. Carney is about to release a revised edition of his book, 40 Days for Life: True Stories from the Movement that Has Been Saving Lives One Prayer at a Time, in which an entire chapter will be dedicated to the Columbia 40 Days for Life campaign.
That story has coincided with a precipitous drop in the number of abortions performed at the Columbia Planned Parenthood, along with a rapid turnover of abortionists there and several long periods during which no abortions were performed there.
Mrs. Forck noted that the number of abortions in Missouri’s two remaining abortion facilities had dropped from 4,562 in 2016 to 3,903 in 2017 — despite Planned Parenthood’s declaration that they would “expand abortion access in Missouri” in 2017 with the addition of four more clinics.
“Planned Parenthood was successful in opening two of the four abortion facilities and in the spring of 2018 shut down abortions services in Kansas City,” Mrs. Forck noted. “This leaves Columbia and St Louis as the two operating abortion facilities in the state of Missouri.”
Mrs. Forck gave God the glory, which she said was magnified by all Columbia 40 Days for Life participants.
“I know it was because of prayer, because of you and people like you praying at home and also going to the front lines and praying on the sidewalk,” she said.
She invited everyone to the Kickoff Rally and Jericho March for this year’s 40 Days for Life Fall Campaign.
It will take place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23, on the sidewalk outside Planned Parenthood, 711 N. Providence Road.
All are invited to take part in the celebration of the eventual end of abortion in this country and are encouraged to bring friends who have not been to the sidewalk.
The campaign will take place Sept. 26 through Nov. 4.
To learn more about 40 Days for Life, for information about the Columbia campaign or to sign up to pray on the sidewalk, visit www.40daysforlife.com, or contact Mrs. Forck at firstname.lastname@example.org or (573) 821-5130.