||Coordinators discuss the “rules of the road” for the Madison 40 Days for Life vigil at the kick-off celebration in Pine Bluff on September 26. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)
PINE BLUFF -- On September 26 in cities across the globe, people began to pray earnestly for an end to abortion. This prayer, along with fasting and community outreach, will be constant for the next 40 days.
At 316 locations in 49 states and the District of Columbia, in seven Canadian provinces, and in four countries including Uganda, people will hold vigil for the 40 Days for Life through November 4. Forty-six of these campaigns are being held for the first time.
Here in the Diocese of Madison, a kickoff celebration was held at St. Mary Church in Pine Bluff, nine hours after the campaign officially began at the Planned Parenthood location on Madison’s east side.
The local campaign, organized by Madison Vigil for Life, has been ongoing since 2005. This year is the first in the leadership role for volunteer president Bette Weisshaar, but she said that though there have been worries and concerns, volunteers are coming forward, more parishes are getting involved, and hours are getting filled, even if they are filled sometimes last-minute.
The rising numbers of pro-life supporters should help the cause, Weisshaar said, and hopefully bring more people into the effort.
“If anything, it should spur them on,” she said. “They should see them and think, maybe this is something I should look at. Maybe this is something we should get involved with.”
Committing to bring all to life
Speakers at the potluck included Pine Bluff Pastor Fr. Rick Heilman and Steve Koob, the founder and director of the nonprofit One More Soul. Bishop Robert C. Morlino was expected to attend but was delayed at the Presbyteral Assembly in Wisconsin Dells.
Koob thanked everyone present for their work with 40 Days for Life, but also thanked them for everything they do for life — because 40 Days shouldn’t be the only area of respecting life we are active in. He spoke of his own work in the pro-life field with the Elizabeth Life Center and One More Soul, and also spoke briefly about the HHS mandate, emphasizing that we must encourage respect for all human life.
“If we were able to convince everyone that children are a supreme gift . . . we wouldn’t have abortion,” Koob said. “All children are a blessing — and we need to encourage that attitude and our job will not be so hard.”
Putting on armor of Christ
Father Heilman, whose book The Church Militant Field Manual focuses on forming the spiritual life using the analogy and method of special forces training, also cautioned that the fight was tough.
“We are called to be strong -- God-strong,” Father Heilman said. “When we fight against the devil, what we’re doing is pressing back those demonic forces with the grace of God.”
As “commissioned officers” -- all baptized -- we must be courageous enough to go out onto the battleground, he said. He urged volunteers to go to Confession and Mass and pray regularly.
“I believe [God] gives us the power and the weapons -- the mighty Rosary, the prayers of our Church, the grace of the sacraments,” he said. “I believe that the last bricks of this abortion movement will fall when we have prayer warriors like yourselves armed with the grace of God.”
More volunteers sought
More pro-life supporters able to pray for an hour during the vigil, which continues 24 hours daily between September 26 and November 4, are needed.
Information on how to sign up and volunteer is available on the Vigil for Life Web site, vigilforlife.org Those who are new to the Vigil and have questions can contact Bette Weisshaar at