National 40 Days for Life director visits Springfield Diocese
Story and photo by Carolee McGrath
LONGMEADOW – The director for North American Outreach for the national 40 Days for Life campaign met with pro-lifers at St. Mary School in Longmeadow last night, to encourage them to persevere.
The national pro-life prayer vigil began on Sept. 25 and runs through Nov. 3.
Steve Karlen (pictured at right), who helped launch 40 Days for Life campaigns in Wisconsin from 2008 to 2012, has been visiting campaign sites nationwide in the last year as outreach director. Yesterday he continued his tour of New England, stopping in Attelboro, Mass., Providence, R.I., Norwich, Conn., and Hartford, Conn., before arriving in Longmeadow to speak with campaign volunteers.
“I was in Connecticut at Norwich. They have a 24-hour, around-the-clock vigil, which is really a tremendous effort. It’s been a great trip through New England,” Karlen said.
The 40 Days for Life campaign focuses on prayer and fasting, and public witness outside abortion clinics. Several parishes in the Diocese of Springfield have signed up to cover a day at the vigil site, in front of the Planned Parenthood League of Springfield, at 3550 Main St.
So far during the national fall campaign, the lives of more than 250 unborn children have been spared from abortion, according to organizers. Since 2007, more than 7,500 lives have been saved, and 41 abortion clinics have shut down across the country.
“The rate at which abortion centers are closing in our country is unprecedented,” said Karlen, who is based in Madison, Wis. “Even though the Midwest might be a little bit more traditional, Madison is extremely hostile to the pro-life movement.
“But yet the Lord has done great things,” he said. “We were able to keep a late-term abortion center from opening in our public university system. We should have had no shot, but God had other plans and he’s doing that all over the country.”
Last summer, the Planned Parenthood in Bryan/College Station, Texas, where the 40 Days for Life campaign originated, closed its doors. It is the same center where former clinic director Abby Johnson had worked. Johnson made national headlines in 2009 after having a complete conversion on the issue of abortion.
“And that is not just happening in the Bible belt. It’s not just happening in Texas. It’s happening all over the place,” Karlen continued. “So I really think it’s a testament to the Lord. If we see victories where we expect to see victories, perhaps human beings could take the credit. But when we see victories in New England, the West Coast, we know that the Lord is behind these efforts.”
Tim Biggins is the chairman of the pro-life commission for the Springfield Diocese.
“We know it’s working from anecdotal stories from family members who have come by and said, ‘Thanks to you, we have a grandchild.’ We’ve had that happen on several occasions. We’ve had six saves that we know of in the Springfield campaign,” said Biggins.
Biggins, who has been running the 40 Days for Life campaign for the diocese since 2008, prays every morning at the vigil site before he goes to work. He said it’s a sacrifice he’s happy to make.
“I am where I am because of grace and we have to get that grace for other people. So our suffering, so to speak, our perseverance abides that grace for other people,” Biggins said. “They have to have a change of heart and God has to move in their hearts. So we have to merit that somehow or another by faithfulness and persistence. That’s all it takes.”
The 40 Days for Life campaign coincides with Respect Life Month in October and Lent each year. With less than three weeks to go, Biggins is hoping more people will take a little time to come and pray, not only for the unborn and their parents, but also for the doctors and medical professionals inside the clinic.
“Our Lord told us whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me and I consider the child in the womb the least of all his brothers. They are sinless except for original sin, innocent and potentially suffering capital punishment for no crime,” Biggins added. “Isn’t that what our Lord suffered, capital punishment for no crime? He was innocent. ‘You do this for the least of my brothers and you do this for me.’ That’s what motivates me to be there every day.”
Information on how to volunteer can be found at 40daysforlife/springfield.com.
For more on this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.