“The power of presence”: Manchester launches 40DFL, Spring ’22

A few notes on the kickoff rally for Manchester, NH’s latest 40 Days for Life campaign:

How many times did I take these launch rallies for granted, pre-Covid? Pandemic precautions kept indoor meetings to a minimum over the past couple of years. State and municipal restrictions and recommendations are easing. Gathering at St. Thomas parish hall in Derry with other 40 Days for Life supporters last weekend felt like an exceptional celebration. It was good to greet neighbors old and new.

Althea Ansah speaking at Manchester (NH) 40 Days for Life rally, Spring 2022. Ellen Kolb photo.

Althea Ansah could have spent twice as much time at the microphone, and I still would have wanted to hear more from her. She’s a former Student for Life leader at UNH, and now she’s a WIC nutritionist and a volunteer with New Hampshire Right to Life.

She said that as a high school student, she had been supportive of abortion, seeing it as an aspect of women’s rights. As she learned more about fetal development, abortion took on another meaning. “It was like a light bulb went off.” Once at UNH, “my walls broke down.” She described going to the national March for Life in 2020 and feeling overwhelmed at seeing so many people coming together to support families.

Now, she values the many roles people have in pro-life work: legislation, prayer, apologetics, reducing the demand for abortions, and – “my favorite” – providing supportive services for people in need. There’s work for everyone. “We all have a personal stake in abortion.”

Mariah McCarron, Students for Life New England Regional Coordinator, speaking at 40 Days for Life rally in Derry NH. Ellen Kolb photo.

Did you know there are nine Students for Life chapters in New Hampshire? I didn’t, until SFL’s Mariah McCarron told me so. This includes high schools and colleges. It also includes places one wouldn’t necessarily expect, like UNH and Dartmouth. More power to them.

Mariah is SFL’s New England Regional Coordinator. She’s a veteran of sidewalk prayer outside abortion facilities, going back to her days as a college student in upstate New York. She urged her listeners in Derry to keep in mind “the power of presence. Your presence means more on the sidewalk than you will ever know.” It affects all those entering and leaving and passing by the facility, some of whom won’t respond right away but will be moved to seek conversation later. Even one’s Uber driver can notice and ask about the sidewalk witnessing, as Mariah once learned to her surprise.

man at podium wearing "40 Days for Life" shirt
Norm Thibault, campaign coordinator, Manchester 40 Days for Life Spring 2022. Ellen Kolb photo.

Norm Thibault, coordinator for the Manchester 40DFL campaign, went through all the necessary admin announcements – the campaign website, how to sign up for vigil hours, and so on – and wrapped it up with a brisk reminder. “You are pro-life supporters. Don’t let anyone call you anti-anything.”

At one of the information tables in the room, it was good to see someone representing St. Gianna’s Place, which provides shelter and support to pregnant women who would otherwise be unhoused.

Volunteers from Pennacook Pregnancy Center were there as well with literature and business cards to share. They’ll no doubt be happy to provide more to anyone who can use them. Located around the corner from the abortion facility on which 40DFL’s efforts are focused, the Center is a place for information, referral to services, and practical support for pregnant and parenting women and their partners.

Read more about New Hampshire’s three campaigns and about 40 Days for Life worldwide.

40 Days for Life begins today

Four New Hampshire locations are sites for 40 Days for Life campaigns beginning Ash Wednesday, February 17, lasting until Sunday, March 28. Each campaign features peaceful pro-life witness outside abortion facilities, along with prayer, fasting, and community outreach.

For more information about each campaign and about the global 40 Days for Life project, go to these links. Note that each campaign has its own vigil calendar, where volunteers can sign up. Each campaign also has its own special events schedule.

Statement of Peace

The 40DFL Statement of Peace, signed by all participants, is an integral part of the campaign. Among the commitments: I will only pursue peaceful, law-abiding solutions to the violence of abortion when volunteering with the 40 Days for Life campaign…I understand that breaking the law or acting in a violent or harmful manner immediately and completely disassociates me from the 40 Days for Life campaign.

What 40DFL is and isn’t

40 Days for Life aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and – in its most visible work – peaceful vigil outside abortion facilities.

Civil disobedience is not part of 40 Days for Life. It’s about witness, not protest.

Also, it’s not about ignoring COVID. Volunteers are directed to observe appropriate protocols including social distancing. A volunteer who becomes ill or is exposed to COVID is expected to stay home rather than attend the vigil.

Anyone whose health concerns make participation in group events inadvisable can pray and fast from home, joining in spirit those who are keeping vigil on the sidewalks. Remote witness sounds like a contradiction in terms to anyone unfamiliar with the contemplative tradition, but that’s what some of us have done in COVID time. Has this weakened 40DFL? Hardly. This campaign is taking place in 567 locations around the world, making it the largest spring campaign since 40DFL began in 2007.

Fall 2020 40 Days for Life begins September 23

The next 40 Days for Life campaign will begin on Wednesday, September 23, in 588 cities around the world. New Hampshire campaigns are in Manchester outside Planned Parenthood’s Pennacook Street office, and in Greenland outside the Lovering Health Center.

40DFL is a twice-a-year coordinated campaign to end abortion through three actions: prayer and fasting; community outreach; and peaceful public witness (prayer vigil) outside abortion facilities.

Signups for vigil hours are available online. All volunteers must agree to 40DFL’s Statement of Peace. Each campaign has its own newsletter for updating participants. The campaigns’ websites outline COVID-prevention measures for participants, including social distancing during vigils.

Abortions go on during the pandemic, so 40DFL keeps going, too.

For the Manchester campaign: 40daysforlife.com/manchester

For the Greenland campaign: 40daysforlife.com/greenland

Notes For Your 2020 Calendar

This is a short list of a few pro-life-related events coming up in New Hampshire (plus one down in DC). I hope this inspires you to pencil in a few things on your calendar. The list is incomplete, but I hope you’ll find something useful. (One frequently-updated source of information is the @nhprolifevents page on Facebook.) I close out this final post of 2019 with a few words about the 2020 elections in New Hampshire.

January 4, Saturday: Epiphany vigil outside Planned Parenthood at 24 Pennacook Street in Manchester, 2:00-3:30 p.m., organized by the Manchester 40 Days for Life team. Bring gifts of diapers, wipes, and baby items for the Pennacook Pregnancy Center. A gathering at the pregnancy center will follow a vigil of prayer and hymns.

January 11, Saturday: New Hampshire March for Life, Concord. The march itself begins at the State House at 11:45 a.m., but that’s only one part of the event. Check out New Hampshire Right to Life’s web page with all the details.

January 18, Saturday: If the abortion advocacy of the New Hampshire Women’s March makes no sense to you, you’re not alone. Pro-lifers had a presence at last year’s march, and a similar gathering is planned for 1/18/20 in Concord.

January 24, Friday: National March for Life in Washington, DC. If you’re going, I hope I’ll see you there. If you’re not, I hope you’ll watch for my report from the march, probably including a brief Facebook Live update.

February 26 (Ash Wednesday) to April 5 (Palm Sunday): the next 40 Days for Life campaign, in three New Hampshire locations: Manchester, Concord, Greenland. Watch this blog’s Facebook page for shared updates from the campaign teams.

Elections: They’re Everywhere

Do you live in Hooksett? Do you know that there’s a special election being held to fill a state rep seat from your town? Well, there is. A three way Republican primary will be held on January 21 (Democrats fielded only one candidate), and the general election will be on March 10. You could ask the candidates something simple like “will you vote for a bill to protect children who survive attempted abortion?”

The New Hampshire First-in-the-Nation presidential primary is coming up on February 11, 2020. It’s no secret that there are lots of Democrats running. You might be surprised to know that a slew of Republicans are running as well. Check with your town clerk for information on sample ballots, absentee voting, and your eligibility to vote.

Your town and school district elections will be in the spring, with dates varying among towns. Don’t neglect these races. Among other things, the people who win in town elections often decide to run for higher office later. They show their form first at the local level. Pay attention.

Every state elective office, from state rep to state senator to Governor and Executive Councilor, PLUS a U.S. Senate seat, will be up for grabs in November, with the primaries for those races to be held in September. Have you ever wished that the New Hampshire House had more pro-life members? Well then, have you considered running? It’s a big decision and not one to take lightly. Don’t let that scare you. The filing period for candidates is in June.

With that thought, I’ll see you in the new year. Make it a good one.

40 Days for Life, Fall 2019

The next 40 Days for Life campaign begins on Wednesday, September 25. In New Hampshire, kickoff events will be on Sunday, September 22 in Greenland and Manchester.

Greenland’s event on the 22nd will begin at 2 p.m. with speakers Maria of Rachel’s Vineyard post abortive healing, Susan RN of Abortion Pill Reversal Rescue Hotline, and Jackie McCoy, Campaign Coordinator.  Expect light refreshments and fellowship. Location is outside Joan G. Lovering Center, 559 Portsmouth Avenue in Greenland. Please park only in the unpaved parking lot adjacent to the Greenland Town Offices. Meet on the grassy area in front of Greenland Town Offices. Rain or shine event! Dress accordingly. 

At 3 p.m. on the 22nd, Manchester’s campaign will kick off in Montminy Hall at Ste. Marie Church in Manchester with a screening of the film “Unplanned.”

40 Days for Life is “an internationally coordinated 40-day campaign that aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a peaceful all-day vigil in front of abortion businesses.” In New Hampshire, a typical prayer vigil runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Anyone committed to the 40 Days for Life Statement of Peace can sign up for a vigil hour, either one-time or recurring, at a campaign’s web site. For Manchester, go to https://www.40daysforlife.com/manchester. For Greenland, go to https://www.40daysforlife.com/greenland. Each of those sites contains a vigil calendar, event calendar, and local contact information.

(Featured image in post by Don Mudge.)