“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.