Prayer vigil returning to diocese after two-year hiatus; volunteer groups and individuals asked to take part
By Bill Brewer
The announcement was made by Paul Simoneau and Lisa Morris, who coordinate pro-life activities for the diocese.
According to the national organization, 40 Days for Life is a community-based campaign that takes a determined, peaceful approach to showing local communities the consequences of abortion.
“It puts into action a desire to cooperate with God in the carrying out of His plan for the end of abortion. It draws attention to the evil of abortion through the use of a three-point program: prayer and fasting, constant vigil, and community outreach,” the organization states.
Mr. Simoneau, who is the diocesan vice chancellor and director of the Office of Justice and Peace, said a decision was made to return the East Tennessee 40 Days for Life to a fall campaign after it had served as a Lenten ministry for several years.
“Everybody has been reinvigorated by Abby Johnson’s story in the movie Unplanned,” Mr. Simoneau said.
Unplanned, based on the book Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line by Ms. Johnson, was a detailed look inside Planned Parenthood by a former insider.
In April, Ms. Johnson brought her dramatic story to St. Mary Church in Athens, where she was greeted by a sold-out crowd of supporters from many faiths.
Mr. Simoneau explained that the local 40 Days outreach took a hiatus following the 2017 Lenten campaign when diocesan efforts shifted to the dedication of the new Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in March 2018.
He noted that inclement winter weather in the Lenten campaign that affected scheduling of individuals and groups to stand in prayerful vigil also was a factor in changing to a fall campaign.
“Lisa and I also decided to scale back the logistics of set-up and teardown of the large signs we have used in the past and instead emphasize a more prayerful approach,” he said.
“Our emphasis is on prayerful gathering, praying for women who are in crisis pregnancies to have a change of heart and for clinic workers, also,” Mr. Simoneau said.
Even though 40 Days for Life was on hiatus, men and women from all faiths continued to make prayerful vigils on the sidewalks in front of the Planned Parenthood facility at the corner of Cherry Street and Washington Avenue in East Knoxville.
Mr. Simoneau and Mrs. Morris said that is where the 40 Days for Life campaign will take place Wednesday, Sept. 25, through Sunday, Nov. 3.
An organizational and sign-up meeting will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 7, at the Chancery.
Mr. Simoneau said one of the unexpected fruits of the Unplanned book and film is the growing number of Protestant churches that have expressed interest in taking part in 40 Days for Life after seeing the movie.
He and Mrs. Morris are again seeking parishes, groups, and individuals to sponsor a day for a prayerful vigil in front of Planned Parenthood.
“This is our eighth vigil since 2007, when the first national 40 Days campaign was held and we participated in it,” Mr. Simoneau said.
“We certainly hope that our prayerful, peaceful, law-abiding presence will encourage women in crisis pregnancies to consider life-affirming options,” he added.
Mrs. Morris, president of the Sacred Heart Apostolate, is ready for the return of 40 Days for Life and said others are, too.
“I am thrilled we are starting back up. It is a blessing in so many ways and it couldn’t be at a better time. I have had countless people approach me over the last two years about why we aren’t doing the 40 days and I think the time away has really made people aware of the power of the 40 days and what prayer can do,” she said.
She agrees with Mr. Simoneau on the influence of prayer on the 40 Days vigil.
“Prayer is action and it changes hearts and circumstances, and that is why the focus is prayer. With God all things are possible and He can make all things new. The heartache of abortion touches everyone, and it is important for us to be there in prayer for those going into the clinic, for those coming out, for the workers in the clinic, and the people passing by,” Mrs. Morris said. “To be a witness to the truth in a peaceful, prayerful way, to show God’s love and compassion to help save one life at a time.”