‘Peaceful prayer gives people the courage to stand up’

Contributing writer

“Standing in front of a clinic in a prayerful, peaceful way,” Mary Fleming says, “sends a message for women coming to the clinic and to those who work there.”

Fleming recently shared her perspective about praying at abortion clinics as Respect Life Month begins in October.

Fleming is the coordinator of Respect Life Ministry for the Diocese of Belleville and the leader of the Respect Life Committee at St. Clare Church in O’Fallon.

In her role with the diocese and her parish, Fleming hopes by participating in peaceful prayer at these clinics that people understand they are there to help.

“This is our way of reaching out to the community to let them know there is another side to this, and we care about your unborn child,” she says.

Fleming shared an experience she had while praying at a clinic.

“I was outside Planned Parenthood in Fairview Heights peacefully praying. A young woman with a little 1-year-old son came to me and said, ‘Thank you.’ She told me when she found out she was pregnant, her boyfriend brought her to clinic to get an abortion and her family told her to have an abortion.”

She adds, “This woman told me she felt alone, but when she saw people standing at the fence praying, she realized she wasn’t alone. It gave her the courage to stand up to everyone else and say, ‘No,’ to say that she was going to raise this child.”

Fleming explains that you never know what your presence is going to do.

“It might not feel like much, but you are touching the hearts of people and sending them a message,” Fleming adds. “Meeting this woman brought tears to my eyes. It does make a difference to be seen.”

Respect Life Month
Every October during Respect Life Month, Catholics consider more deeply why every human life is valuable and reflect on how to build a culture that protects life from conception to natural death.

To kick-off Respect Life Month, Michael McGovern, Bishop of the Belleville Diocese, will preside at a Pro-Life Mass at St. Francis Xavier Church in Carbondale at 9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, and bless expectant mothers.

Parishes will include Respect Life messaging during Masses that weekend.

Life Chain and 40 Days for Life events are also planned throughout the diocese.

Life Chain Events
National Life Chain events, which has been held in Fairview Heights for at least 15 years, offer peaceful and prayerful witness for the unborn. This year, events will be held in Fairview Heights, Millstadt and Carbondale.

Locations and times are:

Fairview Heights: 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, along Highway 159 between the St. Clair Square Mall and Fazoli’s. Signs will be available in the Hobby Lobby parking lot at 1:30 p.m.

Millstadt: 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, at the four-way in Millstadt.

Carbondale: 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, along Walnut Street. Gather at St. Francis Xavier, 303 S. Poplar St.

For more information about the national Life Chain organization, visit www.lifechain.org.

40 Days for Life
In 2019, Planned Parenthood opened a large, regional abortion facility on Salem Place in Fairview Heights. Coalition Life began operations on the sidewalk from day one, and in 2020, Coalition Life’s Pro-Life Community Center opened just across the parking lot.

In 2022, two abortion facilities, Choices and Alamo Women’s Clinic, announced plans to open clinics in Carbondale.

The 40 Days for Life Adopt-A-Day programs, organized by Coalition Life, are being held this year in Fairview Heights and Carbondale.

These prayer vigils are for individuals, families, churches and organizations that want to answer God’s call to stand up for life and provide prayer volunteers for one or more days of this pro-life campaign. Adopt-A-Day participants can be from bible study groups, women’s groups, youth groups, schools, families, churches and pro-life committees from any religious denomination.

The prayer vigil will last for 40 continuous days, Sept. 28 – Nov. 6.

In Fairview Heights, participants will meet in front of the Fairview Heights Planned Parenthood location from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In Carbondale, the prayer vigil happens in front of the future site of an abortion facility at 600 N. Giant City Road from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Two prayer volunteers are required to cover each hour. These hours can be covered by as few as two people but more people may attend.

“The more people that come out to be a witness of God’s goodness and love, the more powerful our statement to the community will be,” says Brian Westbrook, executive director and founder of Coalition Life.

“When we go to the sidewalks where abortions happen, we bring God and we bring prayer,” Westbrook says. “We know lives can be saved.”

Westbrook adds, “If you are pro-life and have a desire to do something at this critical time to show the community that Fairview Heights and Carbondale stand for life, please consider joining us.”

To schedule a prayer day, visit coalitionlife.com and click on the locations tab for Fairview Heights or Carbondale.

Respect Life Ministry
The Office of Respect Life Ministry for the Diocese of Belleville is a resource for finding the latest updates on upcoming events, facts and statistics on life issues.

“We need to be aware of what is going on in Illinois, what the laws mean for us as residents of Illinois and to be aware of how aggressive the Illinois laws are,” Fleming says.

“We can try to change those laws and make them more loving and more pro-life,” she says.

This diocesan office assists churches that have Respect Life coordinators, gives guidance on how to make their parishioners more aware of pregnancy resource centers and helps pregnant women in need.

“At my parish or throughout the diocese, our goals are to make parishes aware of what’s going on in Illinois,” she says.

She also connects with the Students for Life groups at Althoff, Gibault and Mater Dei Catholic high schools in the diocese.

Find out more at www.diobelle.org/respectlife.