Striking a unique balance between personal interaction and intercessory prayer, Abortion Clinic Outreach, headed by Students for Life, is in full swing for the new semester. Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Franciscan students can be found as peaceful witnesses to life outside the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The students come in shifts throughout the day after attending 6 a.m. Mass on campus. “Mass is essential … we need to spiritually prepare ourselves,” Students for Life President Maggie Giroux said.
This preparation is key, said Giroux, for once in front of the clinic, the atmosphere of desolation is immediately prominent. “The devil hates our ministry so much,” Giroux said. Club Vice President John Dyson agreed, “You can feel the weight of the evil here … but we know we’re doing the right thing.”
Once there, the students break off into small groups and pray for all those involved with the abortion industry. “Having a prayerful atmosphere is very effective,” Dyson said, noting that the women who come to the clinic are terrified, so the peaceful presence is essential to offer them hope and comfort in a gentle way. “It’s the Christ-like way to go about it,” Giroux said.
In addition to being a silent witness, some students act as sidewalk counselors to those entering the clinic. Sidewalk counselors approach the women entering and provide them with love and support.
Freshman Cassidy Roderick stated that this job is essential because “it’s the last chance these women are going to hear the voice of God and the voice of love before making this life changing decision … it’s the chance that we can’t pass up.”
Roderick encouraged her fellow students to not let fear keep them from coming to this outreach. “The grace that you receive when you come here is beyond anything that I’ve experienced … Christ will always provide strength for this,” Roderick said.
Giroux stated that pro-life ministry is one of the harder ministries because, in addition to the strong spiritual attack, it is rare to see the fruit of one’s work and prayers. Although the students do not often see women change their minds, statistics show that when there are witnesses in front of the clinic, up to 75% of women do not show up for their appointments.
“As important as it is to pray on campus, being here really does make a difference,” Junior Celine Santschi said. Santschi comes to Abortion Clinic Outreach once a month with her household, Madonna of the Streets.
“When you come with your household, it’s very supportive,” Giroux said. She and Dyson have been speaking to each household this semester to encourage them to help this ministry and grow together through it.
In the past, Abortion Clinic Outreach has had hundreds of people per shift, but in recent years the numbers have gone down immensely. A couple of years ago it was calculated that if every person on campus went to the outreach once, there would be forty people at every shift.
Giroux pointed out that since then, the student body has grown, so there should be even more people coming, yet Students for Life still struggles to fill the shifts. She encourages anyone who is interested to get involved.
In addition to Abortion Clinic Outreach every Saturday, Students for Life holds weekly meetings on Mondays at 11 a.m., and its members gather Wednesdays at 9 p.m. to pray the rosary for the unborn at the Tomb of the Unborn behind the Portiuncula.
Giroux recognized that many assume it is hard to find joy in this ministry, but as she’s gotten involved she said she has found the opposite.
“It brings so much joy to know how important of a ministry this is and how Christ is working through you,” Giroux said.