40 Days for Life fall prayer vigil kicks off

The Mercy of God can provide healing for many, and by acting as His messenger, through participation in one of three active 40 Days for Life prayer campaigns within the Diocese of Venice, one can reflect that mercy onto the world.

The 40 Days for Life campaign runs from Sept. 27 to Nov. 5, 2023, and seeks a peaceful end to abortion in the U.S. and around the world through the power of prayer. It is the presence of more than one million prayer warriors in 681 cities worldwide – including Fort Myers, Naples, and Sarasota within the Diocese of Venice – that will make a difference in this important battle to save the unborn.

To help jumpstart the fall campaign in Fort Myers, a traditional opening vigil took place Sept. 26 in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion center at 6418 Commerce Park Drive. Led by coordinators Rick and Paula Hellenbrand of St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral, the vigil included speakers who covered the whole spectrum of the pro-life movement, including a doctor, a representative of a pregnancy resource center and a mom who once had an abortion.

Dr. James Breen, Member Catholic Medical Association and local general practioner, shared how the medical community has changed it view on pregnancy and abortion during the past few decades. First, medical professionals regarded a pregnant mother and her unborn child as two separate patients, to be cared for and nurtured for the survival of both. Breen explained how that has changed, as now a pregnancy is viewed as one patient focused on the heath of the mother only, thus making the unborn child viewed as easily disposable.

The result has created great conflict within the medical community today, as many Catholic physicians and medical professionals face persecution for not going along with the culture of death. Breen noting that it was therefore fitting that the Fort Myers opening vigil took place on Sept. 26, the Feast Day of Sts. Cosmas and Damian. These 3rd century martyrs were renowned physicians who were tortured and then killed for their devotion, both to the practice of healing but especially for their religious beliefs.

Kathryn Marriott, Outreach Coordinator of Community Pregnancy Clinics Inc., which has offices in Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, and Gainesville, shared how the focus of the clinics is directly reaching out to young ladies to make them aware that there are pro-life alternatives when an unexpected pregnancy occurs.  and offering the support they need from the first signs of pregnancy (an ultrasound and medical support) through the first years of the child’s growth (baby supplies and counseling).

Lastly, Christna, a woman who is active in her faith (married for 45 years and with four children), shared how when she first arrived in the U.S. from Chile and got married, she found herself pregnant. The young couple had no money at the time and a doctor’s visit resulted in an abortion that left the young woman distraught and grieving for years.

It was not until many years later that she could share her experience with others before finally confessing to a priest. This is when she found God’s all powerful mercy wash over her as the burden and guilt she had being carrying was wiped away.

“I wish I had had people like you standing outside that doctor’s office praying, then maybe I would have not had that guilt for so many years,” she said. “We are not here to judge young women who have the abortion, because we do not know what they are going through, we are here to be God’s witness of mercy, showing that there is a different path for them and their unborn child.”

All are encouraged to participate in the 40 Days for Life pray vigil. Many area Parishes have signed up for specific day and hours, but all are free to join at any time. The peaceful vigil takes place in the public right of way and appropriate signs are provided.

The prayer vigil in Fort Myers is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 6418 Commerce Park Drive. In Sarasota, the vigil is daily, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 736 Central Ave. The Naples prayer vigil is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 1425 Creech Road.

For more information, please visit https://www.40daysforlife.com/en/.


Lastly, anyone who has prayed outside an abortion center or just has a heart to help women and babies is encouraged to attend a special training program from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 28, at St. John XXIII Parish Center, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers.


During this program, Lauren Muzyka, Founder, President and CEO of the national organization, Sidewalk Advocates for Life, will train individuals interested in helping women choose life for their preborn babies. The peaceful, prayerful, law-abiding method of compassionate outreach has already saved more than 20,000 babies from abortion. Training material and lunch will be provided.


For details and to reserve your spot, contact Cyrille at 917-991-6147, cyrillevelasco@gmail.com or Jeanne Berdeaux, Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.