Message at Peoria pro-life rally: ‘Be whole life’

Pro-life proponents must embrace “whole life,” a series of speakers told nearly 200 people Tuesday night at a Sanctity of Human Life Rally at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria.

Gathering just days before the 37th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion, the rally participants were challenged to continue efforts to protect the unborn but also to “take the love of Jesus to the poor (of all ages) with our feet and hands.”

“That means more volunteers, more funds, more time, more love,” said keynote speaker James Lansberry, vice president of Samaritan Ministries International. “It means the Gospel. What are you willing to sacrifice?”

The rally followed a Walk for Life through downtown Peoria. Participants assembled prior to the walk at the Family Resources Center, a pro-life outreach of the Diocese of Peoria’s Respect Life Board located across Main Street from the Peoria County Courthouse.

TWO SPEAKERS preceding Lansberry have long track records of serving mothers as well as their children, unborn and born.

Myfanwy Saunders received a standing ovation for her service after announcing that “within this year I will be saying goodbye” as director of the Women’s Pregnancy Center, which she has guided for 23 years.

She urged the crowd to be “whole life,” whether in their response to the earthquake victims in Haiti or those in their own community “in desperate situations.”

“We have a job to do,” she said. “We must reach out to show everyone they are people that God values. We can do more.”

In urging the pro-life community not to “lose heart,” Saunders repeatedly reminded them that “life wins.”

SONDRA McENROE, a board member of Central Illinois Right to Life, said showing Christ’s love to a pregnant woman or new mother can be as simple as the gift of a bus pass or gas card. “Just taking someone to the grocery store may be what says to her people do care,” said McEnroe.

She added that “Pregnant? Need Help?” advertisements on buses and in the telephone book have kept the phone at the organization’s 24-hour help line — (309) 645-8000 — ringing.

But the organization is also continuing its pushes to overturn the court decisions legalizing abortion, including Roe vs. Wade. A bus chartered by Central Illinois Right to Life will take several dozen from the area to the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

Meanwhile, Lansberry warned that “barring an act of God,” legalized abortion will likely be the law of the land for another 20 years. President Barack Obama, he said, is poised to appoint “young, healthy” Supreme Court justices who support Roe vs. Wade as older justices retire.

“We can no longer afford to sit back and wait for one more pro-life justice,” he told the crowd. “We need to think about what pro-life ministry needs to look like for the next two decades.”

LANSBERRY’S dream is to have “beautiful birthing centers” established next to every abortion clinic in the U.S. “Not a poor-class birthing center, but an extravagant and over the top one” that offers its services free of charge and reflects that “every child is created in the image of God.”

He estimated there are about 1,600 legal abortions at the clinic in northern Peoria every year — “four children a day.” To be effective, the pro-life community must “take away every excuse” for abortion and replace it with love.

Msgr. Don Fitzpatrick, a senior priest of the Diocese of Peoria in residence at St. Augustine Manor, spoke of God’s “immense” love in his opening prayer at the rally. “Even though you allow us to deny your love, it is still there,” he prayed. “Help us to keep our eyes on your plan, to stand for life — your gift and your glory,” he said.

Also leading prayers at the walk and rally was the Rev. James McDonald, pastor of Providence Church in Morton, which also supplied a music ensemble for the evening.

Serving as master of ceremonies was Mike Miller, a member of the Central Illinois Right to Life board, who noted that at the rally a year ago there was great worry about the agenda of newly elected President Obama.

“To an extent, we were right,” he said, noting new efforts on stem-cell research on human embryos and restrictions of conscience regulations. Praying that “God’s will be done,” he also noted Tuesday’s senatorial election in Massachusetts could have an effect on health care reform legislation and possible abortion funding.

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