Schenectady County

Schenectady group to launch 40 days of vigils to end abortion

A group of dedicated volunteers will pray and hold vigils for 40 days beginning Wednesday in the hop

A group of dedicated volunteers will pray and hold vigils for 40 days beginning Wednesday in the hope of one day ending abortion.

Participants will take one-hour shifts outside the offices of Planned Parenthood at 1040 State St. from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Nov. 6 as part of “Schenectady 40 Days for Life Campaign.”

The 40 days is based on the Biblical account of Jesus fasting and praying in the desert as he was being tempted to sin by the devil.

Advocates hope that a positive message will bring about change, although it will be a slow process. The Rev. Brian List of St. Mary’s in Amsterdam said they are “planting seeds for conversion.”

“It doesn’t matter at what time you have that conversion of heart. We want people to change their minds,” he said Sunday at a kickoff event held outside St. Luke’s Church.

List cited high-profile incidences of women who have changed their view on the issue including Jane Roe, the plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade that legalized abortion in the United States. Everyone is called to maintain the dignity of human life, according to List.

“The only way you can change people is through love,” Gutch said.

Deacon Thomas Gutch of St. Nicholas Church in Watervliet said the issue of abortion has kind of been on the back burner.

“We must speak out for those who cannot speak out for themselves — the unborn, the most vulnerable,” he said.

Organizers mounted a similar campaign this past March. It is part of a national effort that began in Texas in 2004, according to Gregg Wilbur, coordinator for the local effort. This fall, more than 300 cities in the United States will launch fall campaigns. More than 400,000 people and 13,000 churches have participated in the campaign.

“It’s a positive campaign that seeks to affirm the value of life,” he said.

He attributed the closure of 14 abortion facilities to the direct result of this campaign.

Organizers stressed that they only wanted uplifting messages during the vigil, no signs with graphic images and no yelling at or arguing with people entering the building.

“We are here to help. We are not here to judge,” said Sarah Stodolka, vigil coordinator.

Although not a requirement, Diane Bigos, prayer coordinator, encouraged people to fast as part of the campaign, whether it be to cut down the number of meals they eat or giving up something else like watching television or writing text messages.

“It can be anything that distracts you from focusing on the Lord,” she said.

At least two people will cover each shift. Viviane Strain, director of the local 40 Days for Life campaign, said nearly 1,000 people are needed. She got involved in the effort because she believes that pro-life efforts need to be centered around a peaceful message.

“It’s very hard to do that when it’s not organized,” she said.

Pam Milillo of Schenectady said she and several of her parishioners from St. Anthony’s plan to participate as they did last year.

“It brings people from all walks of life, all religions,” she said. “You will see it continue to grow.”

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No one from Planned Parenthood’s Schenectady facility could be reached for comment as it is closed on Sundays.

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