LEO BRIAN SCHAFER
If you show up to 6:30 a.m. Mass on any given Saturday, you will see a group of about 15 to 20 young people enthusiastic to be there so early in the morning. These are the dedicated individuals of the Students for Life club, and recently they debuted a new ministry to add on to their long-established abortion clinic outreach.
Maria Therese Maggio, a junior double-major in theology and philosophy, is the lead coordinator for the sidewalk counseling ministry, a group of people who get up long before the rest of campus wakes on a Saturday to reach out to women in most need.
While Franciscan University of Steubenville’s normal clinic ministry serves to stand and pray outside Allegheny Reproductive Health Centers in Pittsburgh, sidewalk counseling takes the usually more passive ministry one step further. Counselors undergo a comprehensive six-hour training with Sidewalk Advocates for Life, a nationwide organization who is credited with saving nearly 8,000 lives.
Those who undergo this training will learn how to approach women in crisis pregnancies, what resources are available for any given situation and basic embryology in order to understand how big and how developed the child is at any given time.
Franciscan’s clinic outreach is well established, so many may question the need to add this new element to an already significant mission. Maggio says, “Our presence as (Franciscan students) is important because … there are a lot of people who are very forward and loud, rather obnoxious. It’s different for us (not only) to be there praying quietly, but also for us to be approaching them in a loving way.”
This relatively new ministry, which only started last semester, is already seeing some success stories. Maggio says that just a few weeks ago, one of the counselors on her team approached a woman near the clinic and convinced her to seek more information. The counselor called a mobile sonogram unit and the woman cancelled her appointment with the clinic.
The sidewalk counseling ministry works with a list of pro-life obstetrics and gynecology professionals who provide more information than what an abortion clinic usually provides. Maggio said that the main mission of this ministry is not only to reach the women in a charitable way but also to let them know that abortion is not their only option.
Maggio said that her ministry is to “be a loving presence and let (the women) know that they are loved, and that they are not alone.”
To convince people to get involved, Maggio said, “When you are on the sidewalk, you realize that there’s a real battle, and if we are not there fighting, who is fighting?
“If you were there (during the Holocaust), would you be protesting it every single day, or would you just let those people be burned to death? I’d like to believe that every person on this campus would protest in some way. There’s a lot of fear with it because the devil wants to keep us away, because women drive by and leave when they see people standing on the sidewalk. They need help, and if we are there to help them — women don’t want to kill their children, so if we help them, they’re going to walk away.”
Students for Life Abortion Clinic Ministry is held every Saturday, starting at 6:30 Mass in Christ the King Chapel and returning to campus from Pittsburgh at around noon. No training is required to show up and pray. To get involved, join the email list or simply join Students for Life at Saturday morning Mass.