MADISON -- The third 40 Days for Life prayer vigil to be held in Madison at the east side Planned Parenthood clinic will begin Wednesday, Sept. 23, but the annual event kicked off September 12 with a luncheon gathering at nearby Reindahl Park.
The 40 Days for Life ecumenical effort, echoed in more than 200 cities in-ternationally, draws at least two people each hour for nearly 2,000 volunteer-hours of around-the-clock prayer from September 23 to November 1 outside the abortion clinic on Orin Rd. in Madison.
Volunteers, many of whom sign up for multiple hours but also some who come as groups or only for the hour they can spare, spend the time praying for whose lives will be lost to abortion and those whose lives will be affected by it.
Being there outside the clinic, in addition to the prayers offered by pro-lifers at home and at Mass, offers a twofold presence of hope, said Steve Karlen, co-director of Madison’s Vigil for Life, which sponsors the annual event.
“When you look at the ministry of Jesus, he went into a lot of dark places — he went to the margins of society. A lot of the women coming for abortions don’t want them, they feel marginalized, they don’t have people that are there and will give them the support they need,” Karlen said. “So while it’s important to pray anywhere, we think it’s really important for them to see that last smiling face before they go in to make that choice.”
As well, the volunteers’ presence is also an act of love for the babies lost by abortion, he said. “Some of these babies that are being aborted, the only act they might ever receive in their lives is that there’s someone there advocating for them on the sidewalk. So that’s something we see as very important.”
Karlen said that while hours are continuing to be filled, there are still many opportunities for people to get involved. The number-one reason people don’t is because no one asked them, he said.
“We — individually — can make a difference,” said Randy Mel-chert, who spoke at the vigil kick-off September 12. “This battle needs people, those of us who will stand and fight — we don’t need those who will only sit and watch.”
Vigil for Life prayer at Madison Surgery Center, 1 S. Park St., Madison:
• Tuesday, Sept. 22, 7 a.m.
40 Days for Life vigil at Planned Parenthood, 3706 Orin Rd., Madison:
• Begins Wednesday, Sept. 23, with a candlelit prayer service at 6 p.m.
• Ends Sunday, Nov. 1
• Sign up for hours or learn more at: www.vigilforlife.org
Melchert, a pro-life activist and political consultant who in 2008, at 22 years of age, ran for the Wisconsin State Assembly, fired up the volunteers to go out and pray and to ask others to pray with them.
“My generation wants to be involved. We want to make a difference, be involved in something bigger than ourselves,” he said.
Those who are older, especially, he urged to talk to people and to the younger generation about becoming involved. “Bring them with you to kneel and pray, not just to sit and watch,” he said. “They need to know this battle wasn’t just fought 20 years ago; let the next generation know this is their battle, too.”
Many of the volunteers who attend the pro-life vigil are coming for the second or even third year and sign up for multiple hours throughout the 40 days. Some, such as Germaine Turner of St. Peter Parish in Madison, come as part of a group.
Her weekly parish prayer group has signed up for an hour every Thursday at which a varying group of them — as many as can make it that week — will attend to pray. They decided to do this, she said, because they already meet to pray and because they’re all against abortion.
“I think it’s more of an impact on you, when you see them walking through that door,” she said.
“It’s like what Randy said — you’ve gotta ask somebody,” said Adam Morse, a parishioner at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison. This is his second year volunteering after Steve Karlen had personally invited him.
“If there are people standing out there, they’ll maybe say, “they’re willing to stand out here, maybe there’s something better, a better option.’”
Edited (1) time: Location of Planned Parenthood corrected in second paragraph.