Annual 40 Days for Life campaign kicks off across from Planned Parenthood's new FW location

By Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

40 Days for Life rally and vigil begins in Fort Wo

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Participants listen to speakers during the kickoff rally across the street from Planned Parenthood. More than 300 participants of different faith backgrounds showed up to help kickoff the 2013 40 Days for Life prayer campaign Sept. 25. Crowds of participants peacefully lined the sidewalk across from the new Planned Parenthood building in southwest Fort Worth.

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Along a short bend of road on John Ryan Drive in Southwest Fort Worth exists a strange juxtaposition of services — one offering life for the unborn and the other death. The Edna Gladney Center for Adoption and Planned Parenthood may be next door neighbors, but they stand in stark contrast to one another. Planned Parenthood resembles a bastion set back behind a stone wall, with no hint of what goes on inside. Next door, at the Edna Gladney Center for Adoption, the frontage is designed with a life-size metal statue of a young boy running in the grass, trying to set his kite aloft. Behind him are the words: “A Future and a Hope.”

It was at here, with a clear view of Planned Parenthood as the backdrop, that organizers of 40 Days for Life kicked off their local pro-life rally Sept. 25. Fort Worth is one of 306 cities participating around the world. This includes 273 locations in the U.S. and 33 cities in nine other nations. Tens of thousands of volunteers have made commitments to the 40 Days for Life mission to end abortion through a 24 hour per day vigil of prayer, fasting, and peaceful activism. The lengthy campaign continues through Nov. 3.

Although she was not on the agenda to address the 300-plus people gathered for the 40 Days for Life kick-off, Janice Podell was welcomed to the microphone by organizers of the event. As community education coordinator with the Edna Gladney Center, Podell works right next door to the newly constructed 19,000-square-foot Planned Parenthood facility. Inside that building, Planned Parenthood makes available clinical abortions, abortion pills, and counseling — procedures and prescriptions for what Blessed Pope John Paul II termed, “the culture of death.”

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Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, a prominent Catholic commentator and author, talks to participants at the rally.

During her brief and compelling remarks, Podell looked out at the crowd of pro-life supporters and said, “I can’t tell you how grateful we are at Gladney that you guys are going to be here across the street for the next 40 days. I personally think that it is divine intervention that Planned Parenthood happened to go up next to an adoption agency.” Podell extended her arm in the direction of the Edna Gladney Center and continued, “We built this sidewalk and gate for women who are looking for another answer, so they can come through that gate and find the hope they are looking for.”

Podell invited pro-life volunteers to lead women to that adoption center entrance as they carry out their mission, adding, “We appreciate what you’re doing. God bless you.”

With the comfort of knowing there were friends in the neighborhood, 40 Days for Life organizers continued the rally with keynote speaker Marcellino D’Ambrosio, who holds a Ph.D. in theology and in biblical interpretation. He directs the Crossroads Initiative, an international apostolate of evangelization and renewal, is a New York Times best-selling author, and has appeared on national television news shows.

For the Fort Worth audience, D’Ambrosio quoted Saint Paul: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

“There is cause for rejoicing right here,” D’Ambrosio said, looking toward the new $6.5 million Planned Parenthood building. He explained that in 2004, 40 Days for Life started in front of a Planned Parenthood center in Bryan/College Station and continued there for three years before it expanded globally. Last month, he explained, the Planned Parenthood facility in Bryan/College Station closed. If it could happen there, it could happen here, he explained.

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Gustavo Rodriguez and his wife, Nancy, lead their children, Samantha (left), Sarah (center), and Susana (right) in praying the Rosary outside Planned Parenthoood after the kick off rally. The family is from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller.

D’Ambrosio also discussed new abortion restrictions in Texas that are helping to close abortion facilities and save unborn lives. As people at the rally cheered, D’Ambrosio cautioned, “It’s a tremendous victory, but the battle is still on.”

He implored volunteers not to cast judgment on the mothers or employees walking into Planned Parenthood. He said they were all “victims,” just as the unborn babies are victims of the abortion industry. D’Ambrosio asked the crowd to pray for families, employees, and babies “so we can say down the road, when this facility is closed, that we were part of this battle and the battle was won by love.”

Emcee Steve Karlen, who serves as the director of North American outreach for 40 Days for Life, echoed D’Ambrosio’s comments. He encouraged volunteers to remain strong and steadfast over the next 40 days.

“Don’t despair,” Karlen said. “We have our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who knows what it’s like to walk in our shoes. He ministered in a world similar to ours.

“The ancient pagan Roman Empire was no friend to human life. Abortion and infanticide ran rampant,” Karlen said. “Jesus Christ knew that Caesar didn’t have the last word. That’s why he didn’t send disciples out two by two to lobby the Roman senate to legally ban abortion. He sent his disciples out two by two to proclaim the Gospel, to give witness to the good news of the Lord’s plan for hope, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion, and to rescue lost men and women from the clutches of Satan.”

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Gabriella De La Torre, 11, prays with hundreds of other participants during the closing prayer of the kickoff rally.

Karlen concluded with a challenge for volunteers. Pointing to the Planned Parenthood building, he said, “They have built a fortress here. How else can I describe that, except as an abortion fortress? They are counting on us getting tired and going away,” he said.

“I know that you won’t let them outlast you, because you understand the stakes,” Karlen told the crowd. “You know this is a matter of life and death. I know that they won’t outlast you because you will fight the good fight. You will finish the race. You will keep the faith, because you — the body of Christ, his hands and his feet — will come here to bring the light of Christ to this place that is so desperately in need of it.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. Let us begin.”

The campaign is still needing individuals to sign up to pray during the overnight hours, and people are welcome to pray at any time, even if they are not signed up. For more information, or to sign up for a specific hour, visit http://www.40daysfortworth.com/.

40-Days-BUTTON.jpgAlong a short bend of road on John Ryan Drive in Southwest Fort Worth exists a strange juxtaposition of services — one offering life for the unborn and the other death. The Edna Gladney Center for Adoption and Planned Parenthood may be next door neighbors, but they stand in stark contrast to one another. Planned Parenthood resembles a bastion set back behind a stone wall, with no hint of what goes on inside. Next door, at the Edna Gladney Center for Adoption, the frontage is designed with a life-size metal statue of a young boy running in the grass, trying to set his kite aloft. Behind him are the words: “A Future and a Hope.”

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