LiFE Office Outlines Efforts For Prayer and Action
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
August 4, 2022
ROCKFORD—The first of two evening meetings was held July 28 at Holy Family Parish to update, encourage and provide direction to begin a diocesan-directed, focused effort of prayer and action in the wake of reports of two abortuaries being opened in Rockford.
Area Parish Respect Life Coordinators (PRLC’s), priests and parishioners from the area were invited, and just over two dozen people attended the July 28 meeting. A second meeting took place on Aug. 1 at the Cathedral of St. Peter.
Therese Stahl, director of the Life and Family Evangelization (LiFE) Office, shared the latest updates about the two sites, one on Auburn Street and one on Maray Drive. An organization begun in Wisconsin, the Rockford Family Planning Foundation, is renting the Maray Drive former animal clinic and anticipates its opening in November or December, she said. 
The building on Auburn Street appears to continue to be condemned and the former abortionist who said he plans to provide abortion services there, Dr. Dennis Christiansen, has retired and allowed his medical license to expire, Stahl said. She did not have more information about where his licensing stands but noted that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has stated he wants to make it possible for non-medical personnel to perform abortions in the state.
Action plans and challenges
Stahl said that both the diocese and business owners have met with Rockford 10th Ward Alderman Frank Beach and that businesses have expressed concerns with the facility and also with prolife vigils.
The complex issue of parking at both locations is being studied, and nearby space for cars after business hours has been offered to prolifers for the Maray Drive location. Stahl asked everyone to avoid using any of the few parking spaces available for area businesses there and said she will be in contact with the businesses to hear and address their concerns. Ideas to help the parking issue are welcome.
One happy note is the “hope around the corner.” The Pregnancy Care Center is located right around the corner from the future Maray Drive abortuary. The diocese, including Catholic Charities, has been and will continue to be in touch with the care center, sharing information on available resources, Stahl says. One attendee at the July 28 meeting suggested providing information about pregnancy care centers in Wisconsin in anticipation of women traveling into Illinois to connect them to supportive services closer to their homes.
Stahl also ran through many legalities and safety practices for the anticipated prayer vigils at both buildings. Those points and additional helpful information for participants is being compiled and will soon be provided to PRLC’s and others, she said. The LiFE Office is setting up training sessions for new and returning sidewalk counselors to help them urge abortion-minded women to first see what the Pregnancy Care Center offers.
Sample prints of the posters and yard signs being created for use at the vigils and for distribution at area parishes were provided at the meeting. A childcare center is located near the Maray Drive property, Stahl said, so signs are designed to help parents of children talk, without trauma, about what the vigil participants are doing and why. “This is partly about changing hearts of people who are seeing us,” she said. 
“… And the way to change hearts is love, and the way to love is to understand how some people might be uncomfortable with those (more graphic) images,” Stahl said. 
Prayer power
Important as all the action efforts are, prayer was presented at the meeting as ultimately what will change the abortion situation in Rockford, the State of Illinois and the world.
Not just prayer, but “deep, passionate, intentional prayer,” said Father Jeremy Trowbridge, spiritual director of the LiFE Office, in his presentation on prayer and fasting.
“Our depth of prayer is called upon to be deepened and refreshed,” he said. 
“We also know what it is to give lip-service in the life of prayer, to promise prayers and never sit down, or kneel or pause and actually carry them out,” he said, pointing to Jesus’ “beautiful example” in the Garden of Gethsemane where “He is poured out in such intentionally deep and profound prayer that His sweat becomes as Blood, His Precious Blood pouring upon the ground through His pores on account of His intensity of prayer. This is our model.”
Quoting Bishop of Rockford David Malloy’s statement issued when the abortuary information was first released, Father Trowbridge said the bishop “urges prayer and fasting for God’s guidance.” He pointed to how Jesus told his disciples in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 9, that certain cases of evil require prayer and fasting in order to be expelled.
“Fasting, we know, is that deepener, that accelerant, that intensification of prayer — to forego food, or comforts, or conveniences for the sake of a specific intention,” he said.
“We know the dedication, attention and sacrifice over the decades … has been resilient and consistent, but we’re human … So what is this renewal? … (It is) a reapplication of the Gospel to this immediate time, and this immediate moment, serving this immediate need. … 
“Prayer and fasting are all the more urgent for we who are seeking to penetrate the noise of the culture and to serve the good that is in front of us. … to help single mothers and the women and children who are in need.”
The call, he said, is for “all us Catholics of good will … to keep our vision crisp and clear, to keep our actions most precise, and to follow this particular urging that the bishop sets forth for us. … to be focused … so that we are pointing the power and strength of our faith directly at this target.”
Father Trowbridge pointed to the success of “the dedication of prayer of priests and laity, and medical malpractice, so as to close down the clinic which was running for so long downtown.
“We want to leverage this strength again. We want to return to the Lord … who has already shown that we, the David, are slaying Goliath once more, and we need to be committed to that in unity and charity.”
Each Rockford Deanery parish is being asked to commit to pray outside one of the facilities for two days each month anytime from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. In addition to the vigils, the LiFE Office is asking parishes to sign up for a prolife Holy Hour, one parish each month beginning Oct. 1. Parishes, groups and individuals are encouraged to pray at additional times, and fast in penitential ways appropriate to their circumstances.
Parishes outside the Rockford Deanery are also encouraged to pray. The LiFE Office plans to host more far-flung meetings similar to these first two in response to requests from parishes east and west of Rockford.


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