Respect Life Month offers opportunities for prayerful witness, education

Johnny Berlinger holds a sign outside Peoria's abortion facility during a 40 Days for Life campaign in this Catholic Post file photo. The nationwide campaign of prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigils to end abortion will take place Sept. 28 to Nov. 6 in Champaign, Ottawa, Peoria, and the Quad Cities. (For The Catholic Post/Daryl Wilson)

EDITOR’S NOTE: October is Respect Life Month. Following is a round-up of several pro-life activities scheduled in the Diocese of Peoria in the coming days and weeks.


Volunteers are being sought to take part in local observances of 40 Days for Life — a nationwide campaign of prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigils to end abortion.

This fall’s campaign opens on Wednesday, Sept. 28, and runs through Sunday, Nov. 6, in communities including Champaign, Ottawa, Peoria, and Bettendorf, Iowa.

Participants are invited to sign up for a prayer hour on sidewalks outside abortion facilities and/or pledge to pray and fast for intentions including women who are at risk of having an abortion; the innocent children at risk of perishing; those who carry the pain of a past abortion experience; workers at Planned Parenthood and abortion centers; and repentance and healing throughout our nation.

More information on the campaign, along with sign-up forms, is available at

Following are details specific to each site, including vigil locations, planned kickoff rallies, and local contacts:

  • Champaign, outside Planned Parenthood, 302 E. Stoughton St.  Contact: Mary Schaal, (708) 601-0574,
  • Ottawa, outside Planned Parenthood, 612 Court St. Contact Bill Ecker, (630) 774-2348,
  • Peoria, outside of Whole Women’s Health of Peoria abortion center, 7405 N. University St. Kickoff rally is at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the vigil site and will feature talks by Father John Luke of the Community of St. John, based in rural Princeville, and Jason Season from Hilltop Campus Church, Peoria. Participants may park in the parking lot of the neighboring Women’s Care Center. Contact Karen Guth, (309) 453-7493,
  • Bettendorf, outside Planned Parenthood, 2751 Tech Drive. Kickoff rally is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27. Meet  in the front parking lot of the neighboring Women’s Choice Center to pray, hear campaign details, and sign up. Contact Katherine Sabin, (563) 370-3808,

Among those taking part in the Peoria vigil will be pro-lifers from Knox County. Galesburg churches have been assigned Monday, Oct. 3, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to stand in prayerful witness at the Peoria location. Car pools are being arranged by Knox County Right to Life. To take part, contact Dick Conklin at (309) 343-2852 or


Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, will be the celebrant and homilist for the annual Respect Life Mass, which is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 30, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. It will begin at 10:30 a.m.

Planned by the Respect Life Diocesan Executive Committee, the Mass is held just before Respect Life Sunday and is intended to honor the “dignity and sacredness of human life.” It is open to everyone and is expected to draw more than 200 students from Catholic schools around the Diocese of Peoria.

An open house will follow at the Family Resources Center, 415 N.E. Monroe St., which is directly across the street from the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria.


As Respect Life Month begins this Sunday, Oct. 2, people around the Diocese of Peoria will offer a prayerful and peaceful witness to the sanctity of human life by participating in Life Chain.

The “chains” are formed by women, children and men standing along major intersections in each community and holding signs that remind passersby that “Jesus Forgives and Heals,” “Lord, Forgive Us and Our Nation,” “Pray to End Abortion,” “Abortion Hurts Women” and “Abortion Kills Children.” Signs are provided in most locations.

In keeping with the prayerful intention of Life Chain, interaction with motorists is discouraged, as are graphic images and political activity.

In central Illinois, Life Chains are scheduled on Oct. 2, in the following locations. They will take place from 2 to 3 p.m., unless otherwise noted:

  • Champaign: Kirby Avenue at Hessel Park.
  • Galesburg: Signs may be picked up from your Life Chain coordinator at church or at 1:30 p.m. in the parking lot across the street from Northwoods Community Church. This year’s Life Chain will line Fremont and Henderson streets from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m. and end with a rally in the church parking lot at 3 p.m.
  • Macomb: At the intersection of Route 136 and Route 67, between Lafayette and Randolph at Chandler Park.
  • Mendota: Along Route 34 at Highway 251, from 1 to 2 p.m.
  • Normal: Both sides of East College Avenue, starting at the entrance to David Anderson Park and continuing east. This is the 24th year for the prayer vigil on behalf of “past and future unborn victims of abortion.”
  • Peoria: Central Illinois Right to Life is organizing the Life Chain that will take place on sidewalks along University Street, between Whole Women’s Health of Peoria, an abortion clinic at 7405 N. University, and the Metro Centre, 4700 N. University. Signs may be picked up at the corner of University and Northmoor at 2 p.m. Church groups that would like to sign up earlier may call Dan Smith at (309) 691-3611.
  • Quad Cities: Middle Road at Happy Joe Drive in Bettendorf, Iowa.

To find other communities near you, visit


Father Denis G. Wilde, OSA, associate director of Priests for Life and a professional pianist, will be the featured speaker at the 35th annual Respect Life Dinner in Peoria on Sunday, Oct. 2.

The dinner, which raises funds for area pro-life work, will be served at Barrack’s Cater Inn, 1224 W. Pioneer Parkway, beginning at 6 p.m.

Father Denis G. Wilde, OSA

Father Denis G. Wilde, OSA

Cost is $30 per person before Sept. 25 and $32 after that date. Tickets must be purchased in advance by sending checks made out to “Respect Life Dinner Committee” to Jan Smith, PO Box 368, Morton, IL 61550. Further information, including how to become a dinner sponsor or make other contributions, is available by calling (309) 266-9391 or sending an email to

Prior to joining Priests for Life, Father Wilde — a native of Long Island — was associate professor of music at Villanova University in Pennsylvania from 1977 to 1998. He has a doctoral degree in music from Catholic University and was choral director at Villanova.

A professional pianist who presents recitals in conjunction with pro-life ministry, Father Wilde has traveled to more than 750 venues in 47 states, Canada, Mexico, and Europe preaching the Gospel of Life and supporting the local pro-life efforts of clergy and laity.

It is important for priests to be at the front of the pro-life battle, said Father Wilde.

“Ours is not an option to wait for someone else to come along,” he said. Calling legalized abortion “camouflaged” as medicine a “lie of a colossal order,” Father Wilde finds joy in knowing “God is in charge and will not fail to lead us forward to end this unspeakable crime.”

The Respect Life Dinner is planned by a 22-member committee. Charles Owens of Henry, who has emceed the annual dinner’s program for decades, is committee chairman.

Father Wilde is also scheduled to offer Masses at St. Jude Parish in Peoria and Peoria Notre Dame High School during his visit.


GALESBURG — Born with shortened legs and no arms, Chet McDoniel was left in a corner and “given a chance to die.” Instead, he proved he had “the moxie to live.”

Now married and the father of two, McDoniel will share his story at the Pro-Life Pastors’ Dinner on Saturday, Oct. 22, and Festival of Life on Sunday, Oct. 23, in Galesburg. Both are sponsored by Knox County Right to Life.

Chet McDoniel

Chet McDoniel

The Pro-Life Pastors’ Dinner will be held at 7 p.m. in the McAteer Center of Corpus Christi Church, 273 S. Prairie St. Not only will it feature a brief presentation by McDoniel, but it also serves as an opportunity to thank area pastors for the way they promote life and assist Knox County Right to Life throughout the year.

There is no charge for the pastors and a guest, but a $10 donation is requested for all others and will help to cover expenses. Reservations are required and must be made by Oct. 10. Contact Pat at (309) 343-2852 or

The Festival of Life will be held at Bethel Baptist Church, 1196 N. Academy St. The annual gathering begins with a presentation by the Galesburg High School Students for Life at 6:30 p.m. McDoniel’s keynote, “Not Perfect . . . But Worth It,” follows at 7 p.m.

Refreshments will be served.

There is no charge to attend the Festival of Life. A free-will offering will be accepted.

Participants are invited to wear their red “Stand for Life” shirts.

Based in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, McDoniel owns Off to Neverland — Disney Vacations. In addition to his pro-life presentations, he offers motivational talks to businesses and corporations, churches and Christian youth groups, and schools.

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