Thousands rally for pro-life cause in Tempe, Phoenix
By Ambria Hammel and Joyce Coronel | Jan. 23, 2012 | The Catholic Sun
Whether at their parish, school or in plain public view at an area park, thousands of Phoenix-area residents showed their support for the pro-life cause this month.
It was all to draw attention to the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, and its ongoing affects on post-abortive parents and the unborn.
St. Joan of Arc Parish east of 32nd Street and Greenway, may have been among the earliest in the Phoenix Diocese to create a sight for the unseen. By Jan. 8, the parish erected a memorial of at least 200 white crosses in the courtyard.
Any tiny patch of land leading into it bore the crosses as well. The memorial served as a reminder of the roughly 4,000 abortions performed daily nationwide.
St. Gabriel’s youth group in Cave Creek managed to put up a similar memorial Jan. 21. A 24-hour prayer vigil followed.
Teenagers hammered 400 wooden crosses into the ground with a larger paper cross offering abortion statistics and a resource for post-abortive healing. Some said there were far more crosses than they anticipated and were confident that the dramatic visual would help with awareness — especially with the line for a farmer’s market snaking right by the memorial.
Nikea Lopez, 15, said it was sad, especially when faced with the overwhelming number of abortions she calculated after multiplying the crosses .
“It made me realize that teenagers our age and up have sex randomly and just have an abortion before [the baby] is even born. I hate that,” said 15-year-old Sophie Mar said.
Youth speak out
Students in the Right to Life Club at Xavier College Preparatory planted similar wooden crosses in the school’s courtyard Jan. 16, a day dedicated to upholding civil rights. They traditionally put up 1,800 crosses representing roughly the number of unborn killed by lunchtime each day.
College students took a stand against abortion too. Roughly 500 of them filled two rooms at Arizona State University Jan. 21 for the annual youth rally. At least 10 high school and young adult groups, including some from Flagstaff, were there.
Despite the impressive crowd, Trent Horn, coordinator of respect life parish leadership support for the diocese, opened quite frankly: “I’m not happy to be here tonight.” The rally featured its regular mix of music, testimony, prayer and teaching on how to effectively engage opponents in the life debate.
The crowd quickly learned of the “stones” that pro-lifers might throw, even if inadvertently, at those seeking an abortion These stones could hinder the movement. They later surrendered the cold, heavy stones they got at the door and exchanged them for a candle.
“That’s going to be your light to carry into the world. They will see your light that is Christ. That’s why it gives us so much joy,” Horn said. “We have to be good witnesses. We have to be a little bold.”
Freddie Bennett, a 24-year-old speaker with Not My Kid, an organization that inspires positive life choices by addressing destructive youth behaviors, bravely shared her abortion experience during the rally.
Early on, Bennett said she found herself running to men for answers instead of Jesus. She got pregnant at 18 and her support circle never discussed adoption or parenting — only an option she hadn’t thought of: abortion.
She had only been Christian a few months, but still knew it was wrong. Regardless, she walked into Planned Parenthood on Christmas Eve six years ago.
“What I experienced outside of Planned Parenthood was just as painful as what I experienced on the inside,” Bennett said. “What if I would’ve seen signs of love instead of ‘baby killer,’ ‘murderer’?”
For starters, the chip on her shoulder never would’ve been there and she’d be taking care of a 6-year-old.
“Psychologically and socially, it’s complicated,” Trent Horn said, “but morally, the issue of abortion is simple.”
He illustrated it with concrete examples of life and steps he learned from Justice for All, on how to engage the opposition. The rally ended with a solemn, candlelit procession to the All Saints Catholic Newman Center. Eucharistic adoration continued overnight.
Steven Wilson, a senior at Northern Arizona University, caravanned to the rally with young adults from the Holy Trinity Newman Center in Flagstaff. He said he left with a renewed conviction to continue being outspoken for the pro-life movement.
Wilson said it especially helped to hear from a post-abortive woman.
“I very rarely hear someone talk about that pain and grieving. They’re the ones we need to reach out to the most,” he said.
Roughly 45 percent of those seeking an abortion are college-aged.
Legislation, post-abortive healing
The need to embrace post-abortive parents came up during the Jan. 22 Arizona Right to Life Rally at Steele Indian School Park. Linda Diamond, who recently led the first non-denominational Rachel’s Vineyard retreat for post-abortive women, spoke about the devastating impact of abortion.
She said post-abortive men and women are frequently overlooked, judged or condemned, leading many to keep quiet about the experience out of fear. About one in three women over the age of 45 have had an abortion, she said.
“I lived much of my life in shame and grief, but I found hope through Jesus Christ,” Diamond told the crowd.
Many of the 500 gathered marched into the park from nearby St. Francis Xavier Parish, where Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted concelebrated a Mass with Msgr. Philip Reilly, founder of Helpers of God’s Precious Infants.
Leading the march to the park were representatives of Silent No More, an organization made up of women and men who say they’ve been hurt by abortion in the past.
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