This is the first time this particular campaign will be held in Springfield, says its main coordinator Mary Ellen Hollahan. She explains she is looking for groups to witness and pray peacefully to show their opposition to abortion.
The campaign in Springfield will be one of 243 international sites for what will be the largest ever 40 Days for Life. The Lenten campaign will be held in locations coast to coast in the United States as well as sites in Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, Spain, Georgia, Armenia and Belize, according to the www.40daysforlife.com website.
The see city 2011 40 Days campaign is a direct response to Springfield Planned Parenthood’s use of the abortion drug RU-486.
“Springfield Planned Parenthood has begun distributing the pills which cause abortion,” Hollahan says, explaining that everyone who participates in the campaign will be expected to abide by the guidelines for a peaceful presence.
“This is an ecumenical campaign so we will be in contact with other churches,” says Hollahan, who is a member of Blessed Sacrament Parish and the mother of four sons. She has also helped organize the 2010 and 2011 peaceful prayer vigils at Planned Parenthood on Jan. 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Hollahan says she knows some groups will be larger than others. The groups don’t have to be large gatherings, she says. “You know, Jesus said, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’(Matthew 18, 20) So I figure we’ll have (at least) one plus one plus Christ there.
“Our goal is to recruit 40 groups to volunteer to take a day to run the vigil,” she says. “We’ll give each organization that participates a lot of latitude in how they pray, but we’re hoping for a continued presence for at least 12 hours a day. We feel like any presence and any prayer is beneficial. I’m also hoping that with a later Lent, the weather will be better.”
Nationally, 40 Days for Life has been successful in moving the Right to Life cause forward. More than 13,000 church congregations have participated in the 40 Days for Life campaigns — that’s 400,000 people. Reports issued a few months back document that 3,599 lives have been spared from abortion and nine abortion facilities completely shut down following local 40 Days for Life campaigns.
Inspired by those statistics Hollahan is moving forward by working with Sister Jane Boos, SSND. director of the Office for Social Concerns in the Springfield diocese and Shirley Caldwell Smith, president of Springfield Right to Life. Both women have agreed to go ahead with Hollahan’s plan to form partnerships with local agencies that help pregnant or parenting women who may otherwise choose abortion.
“We’ll ask individual groups to collect items for women who need help,” Hollahan says. “For example, they could have a diaper drive or a baby shower and donate items to one of the local agencies. That way 40 Days for Life will have an immediate effect.”
As with tackling any faith-based project, Hollahan says she is praying for some divine assistance. “Of course, first and foremost, Jesus Christ and his mother are my helpers,” she says. “I’m relying heavily on their help.”
For more information or to sign up for the Springfield 40 Days for Life campaign go to www.40daysforlife.com/springfield-il. Hollahan or someone who works with her will be in contact with you to obtain or share more information.