of the
Good Shepherd
40 Days For Life

Ash Wednesday marked not only the start of Lent but also the start of 40 Days for Life Prayer Vigils all around the world. The very first of these vigils was begun by two young couples, barely in their twenties, but with a heart to save unborn babies and their parents from the horrors of abortion. The idea was that people signed up for an hour or more, to pray outside a centre where abortions were being carried out for an end to abortion, for a period of 40 days, since this time frame appeared to hold biblical significance.

The idea took hold and prayer campaigns started in the UK including one in Nottingham which began in 2016 near to the Treatment Centre at the QMC.

I have been pro life for as long as I can remember but like most Catholics, didn't find the idea of praying in public whilst wearing a sign proclaiming "Pray to End Abortion" an easy thing to take on board. I did however feel drawn to give it a go and by the end of the 2018 campaign felt convinced that this was something God was calling me to do.

In 2019 I joined the small band of "Prayer warriors" who signed up to pray at the vigil site for an hour or occasionally two, most days. Sometimes I would be on my own but usually there would be two or three of us, wearing our placards and praying the rosary or Stations of the Cross or other prayers. We all had to sign a "Statement of Peace" and we agreed not to approach anyone or engage in conversation unless initiated by someone else.

The vigil site this last year or two was not on hospital property but at a busy interchange close to car parks and a path alongside the River Leen. There were often a large number of passers by. Most walked by without seeming to notice us but occasionally people would stop and ask us what we were doing or simply insult us. As time went on we found that far more people offered us words of support than words of opposition. A bus driver would regularly give a big thumbs up sign and an encouraging smile whenever he passed by. Three team members got Easter eggs from people, one with a card saying how they appreciated our presence. More importantly we started to get prayer requests from people asking us to pray for family members contemplating an abortion and for people with health issues at the hospital. Medical students also approached team members saying that they hadn't given the matter of abortion much thought and asking for our perspective on the matter. One student went away saying that the conversation had altered his views on abortion and promised to read some information he had been given.

One interaction that particularly stands out for me occurred on the final Saturday. A gentleman, possibly in his sixties, saw our signs and said "Yes, I support you 100%" He made as if to go on then came back and told us his story. He said that he and his wife had followed the advice of doctors some years ago and done something they had regretted ever since and he dreaded meeting his maker. We assured him that God is a loving and forgiving God. Other team members also reported some sad exchanges with men whose partners had had abortions in the past and they (the men) were still deeply affected by this.

The campaign began with some unpleasantness this year when three vigil participants were attacked by an angry young man who ran towards them swearing and threw a jug of lumpy yellow liquid over them. The police are treating the matter as an assault and a hate crime. Whilst shocked by the incident all three returned to pray and we were rewarded by the news that our prayers have been answered. The QMC and Treatment Centre no longer carry out abortions.

We learnt this wonderful news part way through this 40 days but decided to carry on and pray in thanksgiving and in solidarity with other campaigns elsewhere. At the start of the campaign 99 abortion centres had closed as a result of 40 Days for Life campaigns. We don't know why the hospital has stopped doing abortions but we thank God that he has made this number 100.

Submitted by Marie Langford, a personal reflection.
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