GREEN BAY — When Green Bay hosted its first 40 Days for Life prayer vigil in front of the Medical Arts Building on May 9, 2006, none of the organizers or participants could have imagined that, 10 years later, the facility on Webster Avenue would no longer be performing abortions.
During a kickoff event Sept. 28 marking Green Bay’s 10th year of hosting 40 Days for Life prayer vigils, nearly 100 people celebrated the accomplishments made by pro-life supporters through peaceful and prayerful witness.
“We have seen amazing results from this ongoing campaign, including the closing of Green Bay’s only abortion clinic in the Medical Arts Building in 2013,” said Jim Ball, director of 40 Days for Life in Green Bay. He also mentioned the closing of Planned Parenthood’s abortion facility earlier this year in Appleton. “Praise God we have been allowed to see that in our lifetime,” he added.
During the 10th anniversary gathering, speakers read congratulatory letters from Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, formerly of Green Bay, who took part in the first prayer vigil, and Bishop David Ricken, who has participated in past vigils but was not able to attend the event.
The keynote speaker was Shawn Carney, 40 Days for Life national president, who attended the inaugural 40 Days for Life gathering in Green Bay. He credited Green Bay organizers with helping turn the Texas initiative into an international movement.
“Coming to Green Bay (in 2006) was completely foreign. That’s when it really hit me that God was using 40 Days for Life,” said the native Texan who helped launch 40 Days for Life in Bryan/College Station, Texas in 2004.
“We marched and it was pouring rain and it was freezing,” he recalled. “Afterward, Bishop Zubik pulled me aside and said, ‘God bless your apostolate. This is amazing and it’s really going to grow.’ I said, ‘Bishop, thank you, but I don’t have an apostolate,’ and he said, ‘You have one now.’
“Green Bay was the first campaign I ever visited outside of Texas,” Carney continued. “So a year later, in the fall of 2007, we decided to launch 40 Days for Life as a nationally coordinated effort, hoping and praying that there would be 20 or 25 cities, and that first fall there were 89 cities in 33 states. … Over the last 12 years, we have seen 40 Days for Life go from one city in Texas to another city in Wisconsin to now 636 cities in 36 different countries. It is a testament to what the Holy Spirit has done through faithful people doing the most basic thing that we can do in our culture, which is to defend the innocent, the beautiful and the most vulnerable among us.”
Carney said grassroots people of faith can make an impact without having to wait on lawmakers.
“The story here for Green Bay, as we celebrate the example that it sets for so many cities, is fortitude and persistence to go out, to show up when it’s cold,” said Carney. “Realizing that we live in a great country where we don’t have to wait on Washington, D.C., to correct a moral crisis that’s going on. We can do something about it.”
Pro-life people do not need to protest abortion through emotional outbursts, he said. “If we do that, we’re going to last about five or 10 minutes. Without prayer, this culture will eat us alive.
“But if we go out there and put our faith in God … our public, peaceful and prayerful witness to what everybody knows in their heart — that you can’t divorce the most beautiful bond of our humanity, the bond between a mother and a child and call it a choice — you can’t have legalized abortion for 45 years and be comfortable with it and think that it’s OK.”
Carney said the group’s message is to “remind the world that children are a gift and that the circumstances of your conception do not determine the value and the dignity that you have.”
Despite four decades of legalized abortion, Carney said movements like 40 Days for Life continue to grow. “We see pregnancy resource centers now outnumber abortion providers 5 to 1 in America,” he said. “There is so much to rejoice in and so many victories that we have seen at the local level. It is something that the abortion industry has taken note of.”
According to Carney, 40 Days for Life is responsible for saving 12,000 babies “that we know of” from abortion. In addition, 133 abortion facility workers “have had a change of heart and left their jobs.”
“When you see all of those victories, you see that (40 Days for Life) is growing,” he added. “Today we are kicking off the largest 40 Days for Life campaign ever in 367 cities. We have all 50 states participating in the campaign at the same time.”
Americans who oppose abortion do so for three reasons, he said: Love of God, love of neighbor and love of country.
“We love our country and America has the ability to end abortion and when it ends, the rest of the world will follow,” said Carney. “We believe it will end in the USA because we have overcome injustices before and we can overcome this one.”
Following Carney’s keynote address, the group participated in a candlelight vigil.
Green Bay’s 40 Days for Life prayer vigils will continue through Nov. 6 near the Planned Parenthood facility at 2605 South Oneida St. For more information, contact Jim Ball, (920) 436-9882; jim [email protected].
VIEW MORE PHOTOS: TO view more photos from the 40 Days for Life rally and vigil, visit our Flickr page.