Pro-life vigil ‘40 Days for Life’ begins in Madison Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kat Wagner, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Sep. 30, 2010 -- 12:00 AM
40 Days for Life campaign director Shawn Carney speaks at the local vigil kick-off at the Our Lady of Victory building in Madison September 22. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)

MADISON -- The 40 Days for Life campaign got off to a great start with its well-attended kick-off event September 22.

The energy in the packed room of the new Our Lady of Victory building across from the Planned Parenthood Clinic was palpable as they shared a potluck dinner, listened to a talk by Shawn Carney, 40 Days for Life campaign director, and stood for prayer, led by Fr. Brian Dulli, parochial vicar of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish in Sun Prairie, outside the Planned Parenthood Clinic.

But during his talk Carney reminded everyone present to keep that energy throughout the vigil: the kickoff is just the start to 40 continuous days of prayer and fasting by volunteer pro-lifers from around the diocese and the state.

“It can be at times depressing,” Carney said. “It’s a place built on hopelessness. But we show them that the most sacred bond in our humanity is not a choice. We go and we witness to that.

“It’s so important we know that we should go out there — but it’s more important to actually do it,” he said. “Our biggest sacrifice is time — which is why the timeframe of 40 days helps keep us focused.”

Five 40 Days for Life vigils have taken place so far in Madison. The Planned Parenthood Clinic on the east side of Madison has been the target of these peaceful, silent but visible prayerful protests since 2007. Earlier this year, as well, a 40 Days vigil took place outside the Madison Surgery Center, where plans had been to begin performing late-term abortions there.

Fresh from the success of watching those plans be defeated, this 40 Days vigil will once again take place outside the Planned Parenthood — one of four sites in the state where abortions are performed.

“We have to go to this place of hopelessness,” Steve Karlen, co-director of Madison Vigil for Life, said to those present for the kick-off September 22.

“I’ve thought of ourselves as missionaries,” he said. “We don’t need to go to exotic places to bring the light of Christ — we can do it right here.”

The prayers here in Madison are united with prayers from a record 238 locations across the United States and at locations in five other countries participating in campaigns through October 31. Many of these vigils are already on a second year or more and have shown success is possible.

The 40 Days for Life Web site boasts 2,811 documented reports of lives spared from abortion; 35 abortion workers have quit their jobs and walked away from the abortion industry; six abortion facilities completely shut down following local 40 Days for Life campaigns; more than 350,000 people have participated in prayer and fasting for an end to abortion.

Carney was here in Madison — the sixth of his 38 stops during this fall’s campaign — to highlight the success of the local campaign.

“I’m here in Madison because of all the momentum in the pro-life movement here,” Carney said. “Anytime we have a success, we want to recognize that — it builds upon itself. We want to revisit this campaign and keep motivating. We’re showing to the rest of the country that it isn’t what you think — Madison is a hostile environment, and yet 40 Days is thriving here.”

There’s a sense of hope in this new campaign.

“The pro-life movement at large can sometimes be a tired movement — run-down, weary,” said Carney. “40 Days breathes new life — it’s reaching people.”

The local 40 Days for Life vigil at the Planned Parenthood on Orin Rd. on Madison’s east side is still seeking people to get involved. Learn more about volunteering and sign up for an hour or more of prayer at

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