Midpoint Rally held for 40 Days for Life

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

On the lakefront of Vineyards Community Park in Naples like-minded people gathered to celebrate the groundswell of support for the 40 Days for Life campaign which seeks to end abortion in the United States.

A rally was held Oct. 14 to bring together two groups working for the same cause. The first group is the pro-life prayer warriors who stand in front of abortion mills peacefully raising awareness regarding every life, which is precious from the moment of conception to natural death. Also stressed was how abortion can leave lasting scars for parents of aborted children that are not always visible. The other group represented the leaders of pregnancy clinics in the area which provide much needed resources for moms in crisis who are at risk of seeking an abortion.

Deacon Gary Ingold, CEO of Community Pregnancy Clinics Inc., which has facilities in Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota and Gainesville, as well as two mobile medical clinics which go out into the community, spoke about the mission of everyone present.

“Only the mother can nurture and protect her unborn child,” Ingold said. “It is our job to nurture and protect the mothers. We can only save the babies if we can save the moms. The only way this is possible is if we can develop a culture of life.”

Other speakers stressed the need for a modern approach to the issues by treating every mother – no matter what choice they make – with dignity, compassion, mercy and respect.

Hadley Thompson, a student at Ave Maria University, spoke about her effort to be supportive of new moms on campus through the development of a “Pregnant on Campus” outreach. The group of student volunteers serves in a supporting role for the moms who are working toward a degree by attending classes but need babysitting and other support to care for their child.

“This started out as a way to help a friend,” Thompson explained. “Now it has grown to include dozens of people who volunteer their time to create a positive environment for both mother and child.”

The rally was organized by 40 Days for Life Naples Coordinator Crystal Gabbard and moderated by Ryan Neuhaus, regional coordinator in Florida of Students for Life in America.

The 40 Days for Life Fall Campaign continues through Nov. 3 locally in Naples, Fort Myers and Sarasota. Please visit www.40daysforlife.com and search for the closest vigil site. Participants are encouraged to spend as much time as they can to be a witness for life.

Celebrate Respect Life Sunday & Month!

Jeanne Berdeaux, Diocese Respect Life Director

Venice – “Christ Our Hope in Every Season of Life” is the theme of the new Respect Life annual program from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. Each year American Catholics recognize the first Sunday in October as Respect Life Sunday and the entire month of October as Respect Life Month. A theme is chosen for reflection throughout the year until the next Respect Life Month. As the Respect Life Reflection for the year states, “While every season of life brings its own challenges and trials, each season also gives us new opportunities to grow in our relationship with God.”

This year the Diocese of Venice has its own special poster, beautifully depicting the “seasons” of life, from beginning to end. Go to https://dioceseofvenice.org/diocese-of-venice-respect-life-image-gallery/ to download a copy to post on your refrigerator or other convenient place to remind yourself to pray for a greater respect for all human life, from conception to natural death, regardless of age or condition.

Take some time to explore the resources which are available at www.respectlife.org. There you will find 10 articles on various topics and 5 Action Guides with activities that can be done in the parish, classroom or home, centered on dates with special significance throughout the year. For example, do you have an ultrasound of your child, grandchild or great-grandchild? Has that child ever seen it? Show your loved one that “It’s me” in the womb just as much as it’s “Still me!” after birth. Do you have a collection of prayer cards from funerals of family members or friends?  Why not put them together in a tribute to your loved ones?

Remember that our Diocese has a special collection on Respect Life Sunday to supplement the work that the Respect Life Office does and assist other pro-life organizations. These funds help to bring the respect life message to young people and adults through various learning opportunities such as Catholic Days at the Capitol, the annual statewide Respect Life Conference and chastity presentations in our Catholic schools. Please share your financial blessings to keep this message in front of our youth.

The international 40 Days for Life fall campaign runs throughout October (Sept. 25-Nov. 3). Join others from your church or bring a friend to pray and witness to life in front of Planned Parenthood in Sarasota, Fort Myers or Naples this fall. For details, go to www.40daysforlife.com and look for the location nearest you.

There are pregnancy help centers, maternity homes and after-birth homes throughout the Diocese offering hope and help to women and children in need. Go to www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife and click on the “Pregnancy Resources” box for an agency near you that could use a few hours of your time or whatever help you can provide.

On the same website, under the “Project Rachel” tab, you can learn more about how anyone touched by abortion in any way can seek help and healing, or call Sylvia at 941-412-5860 for confidential help, whether it is a retreat or just someone to listen to your story.

As the USCCB reflection for the year says, “May we hold fast to Christ our hope, from the beginning of life to its very end.”

If you have questions, comments or ideas, contact Jeanne Berdeaux at the Diocesan Respect Life Office, Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-441-1101.

Upcoming “UNPLANNED” Movie Showings

Thanks to the support of the Diocese Respect Life Office, many local parishes will be hosting screenings of the blockbuster movie “UNPLANNED” about an abortion industry worker who stepped away when she saw a live abortion. The film will be shown at the following parishes:

7 p.m., Oct. 8, St. Raphael Parish, 2514 Lee Blvd., Lehigh Acres, 239-369-1831;

9:30 a.m., Oct. 9, or 6:30 p.m., Oct. 16, St. William Parish, 750 Seagate Drive, Naples, 239-261-5831;

7 p.m., Oct. 9, St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, 239-592-1949;

6 p.m., Oct. 9, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish, 12175 Stringfellow Road, Bokeelia, 239-898-0687;

7 p.m., Oct. 11, St. Jude Parish, 3930 17th St., Sarasota, 941-955-3934;

6:30 p.m., Oct. 10 and 12:30 p.m., Oct. 13, Resurrection Parish, 8121 Cypress Lake Dr., Fort Myers, 239-481-7171;

10:00 a.m. Oct. 10  and 7 p.m., Oct. 29, Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Dr., Fort Myers, 239-267-7088;

7 p.m., Oct. 11, and Oct. 18, St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, 1441 Spear St., Port Charlotte, 941-284-2388;

3 p.m., Oct. 17, St. Therese Parish, 20115 N. Tamiami Trial, North Fort Myers, 239-567-2315;

6 p.m., Oct. 18, St. Charles Borromeo Parish, 21505 Augusta Ave., Port Charlotte, 941-585-0668;

1:30 p.m., Oct. 20, Ave Maria Parish, 5068 Annunciation Circle, Ave Maria, 918-355-2319;

6:30 p.m., Oct. 25, Epiphany Cathedral, 310 Sarasota St., Venice, 941-485-2325;

6 p.m., Oct. 3, San Marco Parish, 851 San Marco Road, Marco Island, 239-259-0936;

3 p.m., Nov. 3, St. Joseph Parish, 3100 26th St. W., Bradenton, 941-345-6833;

6 p.m., Nov. 5, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice,  941-408-6072;

7 p.m., Nov. 8, St. Isabel Parish, 3559 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel, 239-395-2975.


God and Pro-Life Prayer Warriors Help Convert Cape Coral Woman’s Heart

Susan Laielli – Special to the Florida Catholic

If you have ever prayed in front of an abortion clinic during 40 Days for Life – or on any day – and wondered if it has an impact, one need not look further than the transformation of a former Maryland Planned Parenthood employee who walked away from the industry, thanks to those prayers.

The story begins when Myra Neyer, 43, of Cape Coral, found herself looking for a job in Baltimore, Md. to support her seven children, after her husband was killed in a car accident. Following the death of her husband, a subsequent relationship ended at the hands of abuse, making the job search even more desperate to feed and clothe her children.

As her college graduation neared, the school sent Neyer’s resume to various organizations which were looking to fill positions. The work she found was at two northeast locations of Planned Parenthood, in Annapolis and Baltimore.

Over the next year Neyer would watch half-hearted counseling sessions of young pregnant women who were trying to decide how to handle their pregnancy. From day one she would observe actual abortions. Worst of all, as part of the job requirement, Neyer would be forced to piece babies back together following their killing, to be sure all of the aborted baby had been retrieved from its mother.

“I knew early on this was not the place for me but I had seven children to care for, so I kept going to work,” Neyer said, as she sat in a Cape Coral coffee shop recalling that long year of working for Planned Parenthood.

One day as she was walking back to work from lunch Neyer passed by two sets of protesters: the quiet Catholic prayer warriors who were joining together in praying the rosary; and the loud angry people who yelled awful things to the Planned Parenthood employees. Privately, Neyer says hearts are being affected.

“I started to think, what if God does hate what I am doing, and what am I doing to my soul?” Neyer recalls. It was then she remembers feelings of guilt started penetrating her mind. “The torment became so severe I would dream of being the one who was having the abortion – without anesthesia.”

Neyer recalled each time she looked at her youngest child, who was three at the time, she saw the skin of the aborted babies and soon became tormented for hours each day.

“One day I went outside to the 40 Days for Life prayer warriors, although I didn’t know any of them at the time, and I asked for a pair of the rosaries from one lady who was praying,” Neyer said, smiling. “She asked me if she could pray for me, and if I knew how to pray the rosary, to which I responded, yes. I also told her I grew up Catholic, and this is not how I ever saw my life going, but I have children to raise by myself.”

The woman continued to quietly pray over Neyer before she walked back into the Planned Parenthood clinic, knowing her co-workers were going to give her grief for talking to the people praying outside.

It wasn’t long before Neyer found herself searching for the woman who offered to pray for her, if only to share a smile, or a kind word. In some strange way, she says a sense of well-being was gained from those exchanges.

“This is when I remember starting to feel different. There was something about the prayer woman that provided comfort, and I felt drawn to her,” Neyer said, wiping away a tear. “I learned these ladies were with 40 Days for Life, which at the time, I knew nothing about.”

Attendees of 40 Days for Life commit themselves each Spring and Fall to 40 days of prayer in front of abortion clinics across the United States, including Sarasota, Port Charlotte, Fort Myers and Naples in the Diocese of Venice in Florida.

February 2014 is when Neyer definitively knew it was time to end her year working at Planned Parenthood. She says a young pregnant girl, estimated to be 20-years-old, came into the clinic feeling pressured to get an abortion by her boyfriend, an older man who did not want children.

Neyer says the ultrasound tech told the young mother she was 13-weeks pregnant with identical male quadruplets. The abortion could not be performed at that location because there was not sedation available there, so the procedure needed to be moved to another location in order to abort the four babies.

On the next scheduled visit, the day of the abortion, the young girl was too upset to go through with it. On the third visit her boyfriend came in with her and was visibly angry, claiming he did not want children and he argued with all involved, according to Neyer. The couple was moved to a private room to come to an agreement, but they eventually left without the abortion.

The next day before closing, Neyer said the young mother came back to the clinic in substantial pain, bleeding, with the babies literally falling out of her. The boyfriend had taken the young girl to an unknown location to have an abortion, which was going very wrong.

“The last baby needed to be suctioned out, and (afterwards) all of these little (parts) needed to be pieced back together, as my co-worker and I stood there hugging each other crying,” Neyer painfully recalls. “I knew I could not do this anymore.”

In hindsight, Neyer is now convinced more than ever that the woman who offered to pray for her was a gift from God and is ultimately what helped change her heart.

But for those who know and love God, there is an understanding that His work is never done. As Neyer quit her job the next day, she asked the woman outside to please continue praying for her because she would need a job and was unsure how to provide care for her children.

The praying woman gave Neyer a pamphlet titled, “And Then there Were None” (ATTWN), a non-profit organization founded by Abby Johnson, that exists to help abortion clinic workers leave the industry.

Johnson herself left the industry in 2009 after watching a 13-week old baby struggle in the womb during an ultrasound-guided abortion, and is the subject of the 2019 movie, “UNPLANNED.” That was the first time Abby saw an abortion done with an ultrasound, so it was also the first time she actually saw what was happening inside the womb.

Following Neyer’s conversion, ATTWN provided her with assistance, strength and counsel which led to a trip to Washington, D.C., for the pro-life March for Life. On the plane, Neyer found herself seated next to Renate Ferrante, Executive Director of Collier Community Abstinence Program, who knows Abby Johnson, and a meeting was set up.

Today, Neyer calls Johnson a sister and occasional mother figure, who has given her the strength to speak in public.  She will express to all who will listen that there is a better way for you – and our babies.

Jeanne Berdeaux, Diocese of Venice in Florida Respect Life Director is thrilled Neyer is now local.

“We are blessed that Myra Neyer chose to move to our Diocese after quitting Planned Parenthood in Baltimore.  She gives a powerful testimony to the truth of what happens inside an abortion facility,” Berdeaux said.

Neyer has spoken at several Luncheons 4 Life gatherings. This grassroots effort was started locally to bring like-minded and life-affirming people together and now takes place monthly in eight locations including Venice, Fort Myers and Naples and beyond.

Post-Abortion Help/Project Rachel

Are you suffering after abortion? There is hope and healing waiting for you. Many women and men experience deep pain and grief after an abortion and don’t know where to turn. They don’t know there is help available for them.  Project Rachel is the outreach of the Catholic Church to those who are suffering this loss. We offer help through the sacraments, retreats, and referrals for professional counseling. For confidential information, contact Sylvia Jimenez, Project Rachel Coordinator, at 941-412-5860 (English and en español), project.rachel@dioceseofvenice.org, or www.hopeafterabortion.com.

Praying for Life

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

All of us must realize that a central part of Catholic Social Teaching calls for a respect for human life and ultimately the support for all life.

This was the message of Bishop Frank J. Dewane as he encouraged the faithful and students from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School to respect life from conception to natural death prior to a Feb. 20 Prayer Walk for Life in Port Charlotte.

Bishop Dewane spoke during Mass noting the goal of the walk was to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to push aside the scourge of abortion in the world. “We have to continue to pray, be vigilant, and speak up for the value and right to life.”

Following the Mass, the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders led everyone to the Prayer Walk for Life, about a half-mile to a nearby site across from an abortion doctor’s office. There, the students led a praying of the rosary.

Meanwhile, during the Lenten Season, the Spring 40 Days for Life prayer campaign has been active in Fort Myers and Naples and will continue until March 25.

The Fort Myers location, at the intersection of College Parkway and Winkler Road, about 70 people marked the midpoint of the 40 Days with a procession and prayer service near a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. The service included special guest Shawn Carney, CEO and President of 40 Days for Life.

Carney offered words of encouragement noting they were part of a larger prayer movement which was taking place in 354 cities in 25 countries. Started in 2007 in Texas, more than 14,200 babies have been saved, including 215 in the first 20 days of the 2018 Spring campaign.

“You are making an impact by your presence,” he added. “No matter the rhetoric, there are great and terrible consequences when an abortion happens. A life is lost. A great injustice is done to the mother.”

It has been reported that there is up to a 75 percent cancellation rate at the facilities when people are out praying on days when abortions are scheduled. “We need to be here,” Carney said. “To stand for life, because we cannot detach ourselves from the fact that life begins in the womb.”

The closing prayer was from Father Dennis Cooney, Pastor of St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres and Diocese Respect Life Spiritual Advisor.

To learn more about Respect Life activities in the Diocese of Venice, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife.