Annual Rosary Vigil for Life draws 700

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

May 6, 2013

Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioner Jesse Fernandez prays with his family at the annual pro-life vigil. (Photo by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen)

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For 28 years, pro-life supporters have stood outside a local abortion facility on Good Friday to pray the Rosary for babies lost to abortion. But this year’s March 29 gathering felt the absence of a man who started the public vigil almost three decades ago.

Chuck Pelletier, an ardent advocate for the unborn and director of Catholics United for Life and Mother and Unborn Baby Care, became ill before the service and was unable to attend. It’s the first time the Vietnam War veteran whose serious health issues confine him to a wheelchair, was not there to lead the crowd in prayer.

“Chuck is the life force in this ministry,” said longtime participant Alicia Shepard. “His sacrifice and absolute dedication to the unborn and to the Church helped it flourish.”

Over the years, attendance at the Good Friday Rosary Vigil has steadily increased. Approximately 700 people — many of them senior citizens and families with young children — turned out for this year’s event.

“If it wasn’t for Chuck, I don’t think the expression you see here today would be here at all,” Shepard said, referring to the long stretch of humanity lining the sidewalks. “The fact that people come here every Good Friday has saved countless souls.”

Monsignor Stephen Berg, the diocesan administrator, along with Monsignor Michael Olson, Father David Bristow, Father Christopher Stainbrook and Father Michael Moloney took turns leading participants in reciting the Rosary. Shepherd and Christine Glennon served as cantors singing the “Stabat Mater” and “Were You There” between 20 decades of Hail Mary's.

Mandy and John Cox of Arlington have brought their five children to the vigil for the past seven years. It’s one of the few pro-life activities the family can do with five youngsters ranging in age from one to nine.

“It gives them the chance on Good Friday to pray for people who are suffering” because of abortion, explains Mandy, who says attending the vigil is now a Holy Week tradition. “Coming here helps us remember on Good Friday the gift Christ gave us.”

The annual Rosary Vigil draws a large crowd, but Pelletier, his wife, Pat, and a handful of other dedicated volunteers brave ice storms, heat waves, and pouring rain throughout the year to stand in front of the abortion facility. As pregnant clients arrive for their appointments, someone from Catholics United for Life is always present to pray and silently protest the killing. Sidewalk counselors offer a brochure and information about the nearby crisis pregnancy center to willing listeners. They’re an unborn child’s last line of defense.

“We do the grunt work. We’re the frontline soldiers,” Pelletier told the North Texas Catholic in a 2008 interview. “Sidewalk counseling is all about presence, perseverance, and prayer. The Holy Spirit can’t work through you if you’re sitting at home. You have to be at the clinics, stay in prayer and persist or it [saving babies] doesn't happen.”

Other generations of Chuck and Pat Pelletiers’ family were present this particular Good Friday, continuing the family’s pro-life heritage. Nine-year-old grandson, Theodore Irlbeck, stoically held the seven-foot crucifix throughout the 90-minute vigil. Jennifer Pelletier, one of the Pelletier’s five children, traveled from Bryan to attend the service. She’s never missed the Good Friday event.

Growing up, pro-life values in the Pelletier home were not only discussed but lived, explains Jennifer, now president of the K-12 St. Joseph Catholic School of Bryan and principal of its secondary school.

“Now my nieces and nephew are being raised to understand that pro-life is the number one issue to work on,” Jennifer adds. “It’s part of their lives. Because of that, they’re going to be the ones to continue the pro-life work my dad is doing — which is enormous.”

All of Chuck Pelletier’s children and grandchildren are his legacy, she says, adding, “and we’re all living it out in different ways. All of his beliefs and values permeate what we do day to day.”

For 28 years, pro-life supporters have stood outside a local abortion facility on Good Friday to pray the Rosary for babies lost to abortion. But this year’s March 29 gathering felt the absence of a man who started the public vigil almost three decades ago.

Published (until 5/6/2063)
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