MORRISTOWN As Lent begins, Catholics around the world will make Lenten promises, often fasting and making sacrifices to help the poor for the next 40 days to grow closer to Christ.
Lent is also an important time for the Morris County Right to Life organization. For Lent, the group is inviting the faithful to join its Lenten cause, “40 Days for Life,” an international campaign of prayer and fasting, peaceful vigils and community outreach.
Beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Palm Sunday, March 29, pro life advocates will keep vigil outside Planned Parenthood, 196 Speedwell Ave. here during the clinic’s 40 hours of operation each week. Times begin as early as 9 a.m. with its latest closing at 8 p.m. Each day has a different schedule. Time slots are available during different hours of the day for anyone who would like to take part. It is suggested volunteers keep vigil for an hour or two per week. There will be daily updates for anyone who signs up for the organization’s newsletter.
Stephen Perkowski, president of Morris County Right to Life, said, “It’s important that people come simply because it’s about saving babies and saving the mothers, who can experience a lot of emotional pain. This is about saving lives and standing up for life”
During the time outside on the sidewalk in front of the clinic, advocates will pray the rosary, hand out literature about alternatives to abortion and counsel women. Participants are invited to bring signs or a sign will be provided for them.
The Morristown clinic is located three blocks from St. Margaret of Scotland Parish here, where Father Hernan Arias serves as pastor. “Being a part of these vigils is for not only those who consider themselves pro-life but for every Christian or Catholic who believes in the sanity of life,” said Father Arias. “We are not only praying for life but also we giving a great witness of our faith and taking that faith to the streets.”
For several years, the Morris County Right to Life has been participating in these vigils, which often include high school students from Morris Catholic in Denville and Villa Walsh Academy here. Many senior citizens also spend time outside the clinics. Parents often come with their children, which Perkowski encourages families to do.
“When children participate, it has a great impact on the women who think about abortion,” he said. “They see the children and realize the potential of life.”
While the vigils are peaceful, Father Arias and Perkowski said it is common for the pro-life advocates to be criticized for their efforts by others.
Father Arias said, “It’s even more so a reason to be there. There can be a sense of persecution but it is overcome with a sense of joy. It is always a great experience.”
With Lent starting earlier this year in mid-winter, Perkowski understands the commitment and sacrifice many people will be making. “No matter what the weather brings, we need people out there,” he said.
There have been instances where babies in the womb have been saved. Father Arias recalls counseling one of those women, who then turned away from having an abortion. “Never give up on this crusade,” said Father Arias. “Given these sacred days of Lent, our presence (at these vigils) allows us to examine our lives and follow our call to holiness. Protecting the sanctity of life is a part of that call.”