Eric Scheidler with parish pro-life liaison Linda Wish and Fr. Cesar Pajarillo at St. Rita Church in Aurora, June 26
I am often asked, “What’s the best way to get people at my church involved in the fight against abortion?” My answer: “Invite them.” I go on to explain that a personal, face-to-face invitation is key. Putting an announcement in the bulletin is good. Setting up a booth at the back of church is better. But a personal invitation is best.
In recent months, I have had the opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach with a series of talks at local Catholic churches, in my capacity as the leader of Fox Valley Families Against Planned Parenthood (FVFAPP), which seeks to maintain a pro-life presence at the massive abortion center in Aurora, Illinois.
New Parish Joins the Effort
On April 9 and 10, I spoke after Communion at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Sugar Grove, a new congregation which holds Mass in a public school gymnasium as they work towards building a new church. I was invited by Jeanne Hesseling, who has been involved in pro-life activism for years. She set up a meeting between the pastor, Fr. Bob Jones, and me, at which we discussed the possibility of St. Katharine adopting a day each month to provide prayer warriors at Planned Parenthood.
My brief talks at each Mass were very well received. Between Masses on Sunday morning, I got a voicemail from Mary Vilim, the Catholic church liaison for FVFAPP, about a baby who was saved from abortion when its mother saw people praying out at Planned Parenthood. I was able to share this story at the remaining Masses, demonstrating the value of a prayerful pro-life witness outside abortion facilities.
Scores of people signed up to join St. Katharine’s prayer team, and Fr. Jones decided to commit to providing prayer coverage on the fifth Thursday of every month. Mission accomplished!
St. Rita’s Mission Revived
As word of my successful talks at St. Katharine got out among the pro-life community in the Fox Valley, I began to receive more invitations to speak at parishes in the area eager to bolster their involvement in the pro-life ministry at Planned Parenthood.
On June 11 and 12, I spoke after Communion during Mass at St. Rita of Cascia Parish in Aurora at the invitation of pro-life stalwart Linda Wish, with strong support from her pastor, Fr. Cesar Pajarillo, who leads the Good Friday Stations of the Cross service out at Planned Parenthood every year. My assistant Matt Yonke took part as well, handling the Sunday evening Mass in Spanish because of a conflict in my schedule.
Just as at St. Katharine, the call to join the prayer effort was well received, especially at the Spanish Masses. St. Rita’s fourth Tuesdays have been rock solid ever since. Aiding in this success was a crisp new sign-up sheet that Matt and I designed for St. Rita, plus our provision of red Choose Life caps to help make all the sign-up volunteers more visible.
Parish Mission Spreads
On June 25 and 26 I invited the congregations at St. Peter Church in Geneva to take part in the prayer effort every third Wednesday, at the invitation of FVFAPP church prayer captain Maureen Pott and the pastor, Rev. Martins C. Emeh. Maureen and her crew adopted the new sign-up sheet and wore the highly visible Choose Life caps, too. Just as at St. Katharine and St. Rita, scores of volunteers signed up, including many who would like to pray on other days of the month.
I’m gratified that my message has been so well received at these parishes, and that the effectiveness of this invitational approach has been so well demonstrated. I have talks lined up this fall at Holy Angels and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Aurora, and several other parishes are interested in having me speak soon. I expect these weekend talks to be a regular part of my pro-life ministry for the foreseeable future.