Sunday, October 15, 2000

Archbishop leads quiet vigil at Planned Parenthood

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When the Mass had ended, the archbishop walked the two short blocks from Holy Name Church to Planned Parenthood. Just a handful preceded him and more than 200 followed, most all of them praying the rosary.

        They wore sweaters and coats against the early morning chill. They stopped at the clinic and stood at the black iron fencing, leaving a channel on the sidewalk for any pedestrians to pass. None walked by. They left the entrance to the driveway open. Almost to a person, they did not carry signs.

        It was the first time since 1996 that Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk had participated in the prayer vigil at the clinic on Auburn Avenue, which has been the scene of protests and vigils over the past several years, including ugly confrontations between abortion opponents and abortion-rights advocates in the early 1990s.

        But on Saturday morning, traffic along Auburn was light and the clinic's CEO, Susan Momeyer, watched from across the street. There was not even a police presence during the vigil, which lasted a half-hour.

        There were no incidents, no confrontations, no one was impeded, there were no speeches. No one said anything save quiet prayers.

        The archbishop downplayed his participation.

        “Last August I realized I hadn't been with you in a while,” Archbishop Pilarczyk said during his homily at the Mass. He had checked his calendar, he explained, and discovered he had a free Saturday morning in October.

        “So here I am,” he said.

        For the last four years, a group has met at the church once a month for prayer and then saying the rosary at

        Planned Parenthood.

        “I'm glad for the prayer and witnessing you give for the cause of life,” the archbishop told them.

        Ms. Momeyer said the clinic is concerned about the safety of patients and staff during any protests.

        “We have had some concerns about making sure the driveway and sidewalks remain open and clear and that no laws are broken,” she said. “But Planned Parenthood supports the right of demonstrators to speak. In the main they've been pretty controlled. In general, it's been peaceful. We want (patients and staff) to come here without intimidation.”

        Ms. Momeyer said that for every patient who arrives at the clinic for an abortion, 10 others come for family planning counseling and other medical procedures and screening.

        Heather Schulte drove down from Wilmington with two other families. The archbishop's presence was the draw.

        “If he's going to be here, we're going to be behind him,” she said.

        Deb Picard, also of Wilmington, believes in the power of prayer.

        “We can influence people,” said Ms. Picard. “I think it takes the hand of God through prayer to reach the hearts of people. People need to realize that today, that life is valuable, that children are his greatest gift.”

        Others said in the absence of political victories there are spiritual victories.

        “I do believe we make a difference,” Bobbie Rogers of Fairfield said. “It might not be this week or this month, but it's planting a seed. It might trigger an emotion. It helps when these are so prayerful. When people see you praying quietly, I would think they have more respect. You feel more comfortable bringing the kids. You're not out there with your armor on.”

        Tosha Young of Springboro said what they do may not affect someone immediately, but if it gives pause to think, it will be worthwhile.

        “Praying in front of the clinic is even more powerful than praying on our own,” she said.

        Archbishop Pilarczyk left the group quietly and alone about five minutes before the vigil ended. His head was bare and he wore a black topcoat.

        “It's nothing special,” the archbishop said of his presence. “Except it's always special when it's human life. I'm here to give witness to the sanctity of human life. If people don't stand up for what they believe in, then society is in deep trouble. Any society that kills its unborn children is in trouble.”


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