National 40 Days for Life leader helps local Catholics kick off annual event

Steve Karlen speaks to group following Sept. 25 Mass in Appleton

APPLETON — For those who want to take a stand for life, now is the time, according to a leader in the 40 Days for Life campaign. The annual event began Sept. 27 and continues through Nov. 5. Silent protests are being held around the clock and around the world in 375 cities in 25 different countries.

Steve Karlen, director of North American Campaigns for 40 Days for Life, spoke about the annual campaign following a Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Appleton Sept. 25. (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

This campaign, which began in 2004, is a coordinated international mobilization. Participants pray for an end to abortion. In the Fox Cities, people who want to take part in 40 Days for Life are encouraged to gather outside Planned Parenthood, 508 W. Wisconsin Ave., Appleton.

A kick-off Mass was held at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Appleton Sept. 25. Following Mass, Steve Karlen, director of North American Campaigns for 40 Days for Life, spoke about how today’s society has led to a culture of abortion. Karlen is a native of the Fox Valley and had been a member of St. Mary Parish in Greenville.

“The description of the ancient pagan world is a very fitting description of our modern pagan world. The brightest minds in science and business and industry and government and entertainment and culture, they’ve done everything they can to satisfy the human heart but it doesn’t bring Jesus so it’s not enough and it will never be enough,” said Karlen.

He said that instead of searching for truth and beauty and goodness, the world is content to settle for less. “Abortion, I’m convinced, is one of those things for which we settle,” he said. “When we as a society encounter a woman in crisis and we say, ‘I’m sorry, but the very best we can do for you is … take your money and take the life of your child,’ that’s not good enough. That sends a message not just to that woman but to the entire world that there is not enough love in the human heart to overcome a difficult situation and that there is no hope.”

Some people may not be able to take part in the prayer vigil at Planned Parenthood but they can still take part in the campaign on their own through prayer and fasting, said Karlen. For those who pray in front of the facility, he said, they will see clients facing all different types of circumstances.

“During the course of these 40 days you will encounter women facing very difficult situations — financial challenges, how to afford to welcome their baby into the world, difficult prenatal diagnoses, women who may have been victims of assault,” he said.

Karlen had words of encouragement for people who participate in 40 Days for Life.

“There’s days when we don’t want to be out there, sometimes we wonder if it makes a difference. But during the last decade of 40 Days for Life, 13,305 lives have been saved that we know of, 90 abortion centers have closed, and 154 abortion industry workers have experienced conversion, left their jobs and begun a walk with Christ,” he said. “That’s the most powerful statistic. When they experience conversion it goes to show us how truly powerful our prayers are and nobody’s beyond the reach of God’s grace.”

Karlen added that the prayerful campaign can sometimes be hard. “It will ask a lot of us, it will require our endurance, it might take some tears, it might cost us some sleep, but go out and fight the good fight, finish the race,” he told those gathered. “Keep the faith and bring the light of Christ to those in your community who so desperately need it.”

To learn more about local 40 Days for Life events, visit 40daysforlife.com and click on “find a campaign.”