APPLETON/GRAND CHUTE — Bishop David Ricken joined more than 200 people outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute Aug. 22 to pray for an end to abortion. Prior to the prayerful protest, Bishop Ricken preached at the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Pius X Church, calling on Catholics to seek the spiritual intercession of the Holy Innocents to help close down the abortion clinic.
During his homily, Bishop Ricken noted that the day was designated as a national day of protest by a coalition of anti-abortion groups seeking to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. “They are calling (for protests) to be held in front of Planned Parenthood clinics, especially those that perform abortions,” he said.
Bishop Ricken said it is his desire to have all abortion facilities closed. “I don’t want any of these places in my jurisdiction and I know you don’t want one either,” he said. “So we are going to pray hard about the place closing.”
He explained that, after he arrived as bishop of Green Bay, he dreamed about seeing a “closed” sign on abortion clinics in the diocese. “There was no padlock on the doors. There was no police action. There was no legal action,” he said. “They simply closed because people didn’t come anymore.”
This continues to be his desire, he said, and he encourages praying a “Novena to the Holy Innocents” to help make it happen.
First, Bishop Ricken said he wanted to make it clear that the protest would be prayerful and peaceful.
“Ours is a symbolic, prayerful, spiritual action,” he said. “We are going to go there with a disposition not of anger, hostility, judgment; none of that. We are going there with the love of Jesus.”
He said signs had been prepared with the words “Jesus loves you, we love you and this place is not the answer.”
Although the clinic was closed, he said protestors should never get into shouting matches with others.
“They will yell all kinds of curses at you and you just say, ‘God love you. God bless you,’” said Bishop Ricken. “We simply turn return a curse with a blessing. … There are plenty of curses going around. So we approach in love and offer love to them, not judgment and condemnation.”
In announcing the Novena to the Holy Innocents, Bishop Ricken recalled the Gospel accounts of King Herod ordering the killing of all male children born in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. Today the church remembers them during the feast of the Holy Innocents around Dec. 28.
Like the Holy Innocents, Bishop Ricken said an estimated 57 million children have died by abortion since it was legalized in 1973. “Let’s focus on the holy innocents from our country who have been aborted and who now are in heaven,” said Bishop Ricken. “We know from our teaching that those children are in heaven with God. Let’s call upon them, those 57 million whose lives have been taken. I think that that is a powerhouse that we have not used enough.”
Prayer cards with the Novena to the Holy Innocents, written by Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif., were distributed to people after Mass.
Bishop Ricken ended his homily by stating that the protection of preborn babies “is the social justice issue of our time.”
“Preborn babies have human rights and they have civil rights and this country ought to protect them,” he said. “Because social justice work is focused on those who are helpless, those who are voiceless, how could the innocent life of a child (not be more) helpless, more voiceless? For sure, if you don’t have the gift of life, everything else pales in comparison.”
Joining Bishop Ricken at a driveway next to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute were Fr. Tom Farrell, pastor of St. Pius X, and Fr. Walter Stumpf, pastor of St. Nicholas Parish in Freedom and St. Edward Parish in Mackville. Many in attendance held signs calling for defunding Planned Parenthood. Bishop Ricken led the group in reciting the rosary and the Novena to the Holy Innocents. He thanked the large crowd, which included young families as well as the elderly, for attending the service and led them in a brief chant asking the holy innocents to “close this place down.”