Joe Scheidler leads the caroling group at Albany abortion clinic, Dec. 17 [Photo by Dan Gura]
Over thirty carolers joined the Pro-Life Action League for the third annual “Empty Manger” Christmas Caroling Day Saturday, Dec. 17. The carolers hoped to reach abortion-bound women with a message of Christmas hope—and at least one couple who heard the carolers decided not to abort their baby.
At each of four abortion clinics in Chicago, the group gathered around a life-size empty manger to sing Christmas carols [PDF]] heralding the birth of the Christ Child. The empty manger is a symbol of the hope that a little baby can bring. But it is also a symbol of the empty space that is left when a baby is killed by abortion.
Planned Parenthood “Deathscorts” Hear Carols
Undeterred by bone-chilling temperatures, the pro-lifers began their caroling day at the Planned Parenthood abortion facility at LaSalle and Division Streets. A crew of “deathscorts” (volunteer clinic escorts) flanked the clinic entrance as we sang our program of eight carols, including “Silent Night” and “Away in a Manger.”
“Empty Manger” Caroling at Planned Parenthood [Photo by Ann Scheidler]
At one caroler’s suggestion, the group also sang “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” This Advent standard was added to the repertoire at the other three clinics as well. For the third straight year, activist Dan Gura and his daughter Corrina held a large banner at each caroling site that read, “All I want for Christmas . . . is an end to abortion.”
The prayer group at Family Planning Associates on Washington Street was already in the midst of prayers when we arrived for the second stop of the day. They joined in the caroling at the clinic, while sidewalk counselors continued to offer help to women going in—including seven very young mothers who were dropped off by a stretch limousine a block away from the clinic.
Fr. Steve: A Life Saver
Our third stop was American Women’s Medical Center on Western and Diversey Avenues. Fr. Steve Lesniewski told Ann Scheidler that less than an hour before we arrived, a couple drove up to the clinic, and the woman asked him if he remembered them. Father Steve admitted that they seemed familiar, but he couldn’t quite recall their names.
The couple told him that on December 12, 2004, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, they had gone to the same clinic with the intention of aborting their child—but Father Steve had persuaded them to choose life instead. They returned to the clinic on Saturday to ask him if he would baptize their baby boy whose life he saved. Fr. Steve readily agreed to baptize him—on Christmas Day.
Five minutes after we started singing outside of AWMC, another abortion-bound couple pulled up, but stopped their vehicle so they could receive the sidewalk counseling literature from Father Steve. He spoke with them for just a brief time, but long enough to convince them not to go through with the abortion. They backed their vehicle out of the clinic’s parking lot, and Father Steve jumped in his car to lead them to a nearby pregnancy resource center.
Another Save at Last Caroling Stop
Our final caroling stop was at Albany Surgical Medical Center on Elston Avenue. Shortly after we started singing, veteran counselor Kathy Mieding came up to the group and held up four fingers to indicate the number of saves at Albany that day—the last coming just minutes prior.
After caroling at Albany, the group warmed up with hot chocolate and cookies at the Scheidler home on Chicago’s northwest side. All agreed there could be no better way to prepare for the celebration of Christmas than by bringing the joyous news of Christ’s coming to places of despair and misery.