Persevering Students Help
Close Abortion Clinic
(January 22, 2004)
|Students of Thomas Aquinas College pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in front of the Family Planning Associates abortion clinic in Ventura, CA.
On the left, from foreground back: Bridget McBryan, Matt Nelson, Marisa Bemis, Thomas von Clef
On the right, from foreground back: Patrick Seo, Maria Six, Maria Ford
SANTA PAULA, CAIt took them six years, but students at Thomas Aquinas College helped close a Family Planning Associates (FPA) abortion clinic in Ventura through their persistent weekly prayer and sidewalk counseling efforts in front of the clinic on days abortions were being performed.
In an interesting twist, the date of the clinic's closing also marked the sixth anniversary of the untimely death of another Thomas Aquinas College student, 19-year-old Angela Baird, who launched this pro-life prayer and sidewalk counseling ministry months before she died. After a freak hiking accident, Angela offered what sadly turned out to be her last sufferings for the victims of abortion. Student numbers in front of the clinic swelled to more than 100 the day after Angela's death, and eventually leveled off to 10 to 15 students, twice a week.
"I am very proud of our students," says Fr. Michael Perea, O.Praem., college chaplain. "They take a lot of initiative and they are a witness to the power of persistent, "knock on the door" prayer. They are true prayer warriors. Most of our campus ministriesand our pro-life group is no exceptionare spontaneous in character. Students faithfully passed down this ministry to the unbornand the story of the young woman who started itfrom year to year."
"I know the success we had at FPA was considerable," says freshman and sidewalk counselor Arianna Grumbine, 18, from Whittier, California. "Once, the clinic changed its schedule for abortions. In speaking with girls leaving the clinic and with boyfriends waiting, we learned that no one had been given another option either in the clinic or before we arrived. So I know it made a difference for us to be there."
With the FPA clinic closed, the students now focus their attention and prayers on a Planned Parenthood clinic also located in Ventura.
|Students pray in front of the Family Planning Associates abortion clinic in Ventura, CA.
On the left, from foreground back: Stephanie Erramouspe, Rebecca Chirdon, Bridget McBryan, Matt Nelson, Marisa Bemis, Thomas von Clef
On the right, from foreground back: Meghan Patterson, Anna Kummer, Patrick Seo, Maria Six, Maria Ford
As they did at FPA, students follow a two-page prayer sheet that includes the entire 20-Mystery Rosary, the Salve Regina, a Divine Mercy Chaplet and intercessory prayers to Blessed Gianna Molla and such deceased friends of the college as former chaplain Fr. Thomas McGovern, S.J., former graduate and tutor Norman DeSilva, and of course, Angela Baird.
Mike Martin, a 21-year-old junior from Seattle, has been involved with the college's pro-life prayer group since he first came to the college.
"I've always been pro-life; that's never been an issue," explains Martin, "but I think it's really good to perform some action, to put what you believe and have learned into action. I know it's good for my soul. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. I'm doing something with my education."
Meghan Patterson, a 19-year-old freshman from Temecula, California, agrees. "This is something concrete to do beyond prayer. It's something anyone can do. It's beautiful if you are able to see the fruits of your work, but even if you don't see the fruits, even if a baby isn't saved, you still know that you did all you possibly could to help save a life."
Patterson was the first to learn of the FPA clinic's closing. Students had noticed a decrease in clinic traffic and wondered if the schedule for abortions had changed again. Meghan, who was new to the prayer group that day, inquired inside. She learned that the clinic was closing and that this day was the last day for follow-up visits. "When I went outside to tell the others," explains Patterson, "someone remembered that it was the day Angela had died. When she said this, we all choked up and realized it was like a miracle."
"Sidewalk counseling and praying before an abortion clinic has definitely changed my life." says Grumbine. "It's a totally different thing to stand in front of a place where you know people are being killed, where you see woman after woman going in and then leaving, crying. It brings the reality of abortion home."
Grumbine and Bridget McBryan, a sophomore from Philadelphia, are the primary sidewalk counselors this year. They gently try to let the women know that they care about them and that there are other options. Their hand-out literature includes information on Project Rachel, which offers post-abortion counseling.
McBryan says, candidly, "It affects your life to be involved. I don't always feel like going. It's hard for me to do the sidewalk counseling, but there is such a need. Just knowing that I do this every week puts things in perspective for me. It keeps me aware that there is evil in this world, and I need to be doing my part to prevent its spread."
"It's typical of most of our students here," notes Fr. Michael. "They seek ways to put into action what they learn herein the community at large, in their families, and in all aspects of their lives. Their commitment to live their faith has manifested itself in different ways over the yearsin the institution of daily campus Adoration and Benediction, in a regular evening Rosary in the chapel, in community novenas, a Legion of Mary evangelization ministry, a prison ministry, pro-life prayer groups and more. The students start all of these things on their own and pass them down from one generation to the next. To see this kind of faith in our students is a real inspiration for all of us."