40 days of ‘saving babies’
By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald
MILWAUKEE – A baby was saved one morning at 1428 N. Farwell Avenue in Milwaukee. Patrick McGartland learned about it last Friday.
While McGartland and other pro-lifers were praying for the unborn in front of Affiliated Medical Services, a woman stopped her car and called out to those keeping vigil outside the abortion facility.
“She said, ‘Thanks for being here. Last year I was going to abort my baby, and you folks were here and gave me literature, spoke with me and I didn’t,'” McGartland explained. “Then she opened her cell phone and displayed a photo of the baby. It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?”
This is just one of many such stories from the annual spring 40 Days for Life. Across the globe, 40-day vigils were held at abortion clinics in 175 cities in the United States, Canada, Australia and Northern Ireland. In Milwaukee alone, more than 125 people prayed different hours of the day and night braving rain, wind, snow and cold temperatures. A core group of 50 supporters were present the entire 40 days, which began on Ash Wednesday and concluded following a prayer service at noon on Palm Sunday.
The Milwaukee efforts are supported by organizations such as Pro-Life Wisconsin, Men of Christ, and four councils of the Knights of Columbus, Women’s Support Centers of Milwaukee and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society.
This largest national and international pro-life effort began in College Station, Texas five years ago by several families as a way to support the unborn. According to McGartland, the 40 Days for Life-Milwaukee coordinator, Shawn Carney, and David Bereit are leaders of the grassroots organization.
“David worked at the American Life League and Shawn is a local lad from College Station,” he said. “He was the chairperson for this spring’s campaign.”
McGartland estimated that approximately 10 babies were saved in Milwaukee – babies whose mothers had been headed for abortions but decided to turn around, due to the message of onsite counselors offering alternatives to abortion.
“We have been blessed with women who are able to counsel the young women as they approach the mill,” said McGartland. “These women offer literature as well as comforting words suggesting that the girls don’t have to go through with taking the life of their baby. Praise be to God, some will stop and talk. And yes, some come out and report, ‘I can’t go through with this.'”
Overall, the international organization has sponsored four campaigns in the past 20 months. According to Carney, more than 200,000 people have participated, more than 4,000 churches have been involved and at least 1,517 babies were spared from abortion.
“At least 17 clinic employees quit their jobs,” said Carney, “And three abortion facilities closed their doors following 40 Days for Life.”
Although he doesn’t discount the success, McGartland will not rest until all babies are safe within their mothers’ wombs. He vows to continue speaking for those who cannot.
“Here in the central city of Milwaukee, only a few blocks from our cathedral, and within a two-mile radius of six other churches, there exists a killing center that is recognized as the single largest abortion center in the state of Wisconsin,” he said. “To think that this kind of place can do what it does and most Catholics don’t know or don’t realize what takes place is shameful.”
Involved in the effort since the fall 2007 40 Days for Life campaign, McGartland initially worked as a fill-in person since he lived nearby and was retired.
“Since then, I’ve taken on the role of coordinator, starting last fall, and continuing into this year,” he explained. “Why? I have a big mouth and a thick skin, and along with my wife, we have been directly involved in the pro-life movement since 1976. We have a passion to work for the day that the evil of abortion on demand is no longer an acceptable alternative in our culture.”
Politically involved since 1964, when he supported Barry Goldwater’s bid for the presidency, McGartland believes the only method to effect a change is to take away the reward for those who continue to vote for politicians who proclaim sympathy to the plight of the less fortunate.
“As this relates to our church, Catholic as well as non-Catholic, tell those in charge that they need to start speaking up about the evil of abortion as well as those other evil blights affecting our culture, embryonic stem-cell as an example,” he said. “And if they choose not to exercise their responsibility, well, we the ‘tax payers’ will begin to apply the needed leverage, withholding contributions, until such time as those who are called to be the teachers and leaders, act like leaders.”
The future is dismal unless changes occur on the political level within the next two years, said McGartland.
“This damage, erosion of faith, freedom, traditional values, will then manifest itself in civil unrest, as well as direct unrest against those who are true believers,” he said.