Some of the 250 who attended the opening vigil in Aurora, September 24—Photo by Sam Scheidler
The pro-life mission is above all a spiritual battle, and our primary weapon is prayer. For that reason, the Pro-Life Action League participated in the national 40 Days for Life campaign by sponsoring two 40 Days vigils: one on Chicago’s Northwest Side, the other in the far western suburb of Aurora. Both of these 40 Days campaigns launched on the evening of Wednesday, September 24 with candlelight vigils.
Vigils Launch by Candelight
The League’s 40 Days for Life candlelight vigil in Aurora was a homecoming of sorts for 250 pro-lifers from the Fox Valley—a return to the sidewalk where a year earlier their epic battle had begun against Planned Parenthood of Aurora with another 40-day vigil. This year’s vigil began with the singing of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, followed by scriptural readings and prayers led by Pastor Randy Schoof of Warehouse Church and Fr. Fred Peterson of St. George Church. Then the group turned and faced the Planned Parenthood building and prayed in silence for all those involved with abortion in any way, and for a successful 40 Days. The vigil concluded with the singing of “Amazing Grace” accompanied by Eric Scheidler’s son Nate on the accordion.
The Chicago vigil opened with more than 150 people praying a rosary led by Bishop Francis Kane. They then surrounded the Family Planning Associates (FPA) clinic with candles and sang “Throughout These Forty Days” and “Amazing Grace”. Three cars in the parking lot, presumably security, were a reminder to pray for the conversion of all those who work in the abortion industry.
Candles line the sidewalk following the Chicago opening prayer service—Photo by Ann Scheidler
40 Blessed Days of Prayer
Churches in the surrounding areas of both 40 Days vigil sites answered the call to recruit the faithful, covering all 960 hours of prayer at the clinics. Neither the cold weather nor the rain kept them away. And their devotion bore great fruit.
League staffers Corrina Gura and Urszula Mihai passed out 1,000 door hangers telling the surrounding neighborhood about the lawsuits against their local abortion clinic. Several neighbors stopped to tell participants that they, too, were praying for FPA to close. One woman told us a sidewalk counselor had persuaded her to choose life ten years ago; another said she had cancelled her abortion appointment five years ago because of pro-lifers. The Women’s Center reported that at least twenty babies were saved as a direct result of the 40 Days vigil there.
The Chicago vigil concluded with a rosary led by several of the groups sponsoring the vigil: the League’s Joe and Ann Scheidler, Larry and Marge Theriault of the Illinois Knights of Columbus, and Margie Hermano of Couples for Christ FFL. It was a lovely opportunity for participants to share their experiences with one another. They finished right at 7 p.m. as the bells from the nearby Slovak Lutheran Church began to chime.
Aurora Closes with Two Big Events
Aurora ended the vigil in style, hosting two events, starting with the 2nd Annual “Jericho March” on the morning of Saturday, Novermber 1. Some 120 pro-life marchers circled Planned Parenthood’s block in seven “battalions”, echoing the seven circuits of Jericho by the armies of Joshua. Many of the marchers made the 1.25 mile trek two or three times—especially when word went out that sidewalk counselor Roger Earl was in the midst of counseling an abortion-bound mother and father.
A “Jericho March” circled the block during Aurora’s closing weekend—Photo by Sam Scheidler
As the marchers were gathering for a closing prayer, Roger came up and said that the couple had decided to keep their baby. His face was a portrait of joy as he thanked the marchers for their special prayers. The faithful sang “Amazing Grace” together—now the traditional final hymn for all Aurora vigils and protests—and then several dozen volunteers joined Eric and Matt in the seventh, final battalion.
The Aurora vigil concluded Sunday, November 2 with a “Do-It-Yourself Pro-Life Concert”. Pro-lifers gathered in the vacant lot across the street from Planned Parenthood to play musical instruments and sing favorite hymns from a variety of Christian musical traditions. The concert closed with the hymn that has become the theme song of the prayer and protest campaign in Aurora,”Amazing Grace.” Concert organizers Matt Yonke and Eric Scheidler were pleased with the event and plan to conduct another such concert in the spring.
The Awesome Power of Prayer
Though it was a tremendous challenge to coordinate two major prayer campaigns, the entire League staff was honored to be a part of the nationwide 40 Days for Life vigil that together saved more than 600 babies, encouraged 8 clinic staffers to quit their jobs and shut down one abortuary for good. National coordinator David Bereit can be proud of these accomplishments.