BRISBANE priest Fr Michael Grace has spent much of Lent for several hours from around 2am deep in prayer outside a Bowen Hills abortion clinic.
The 32-year-old associate pastor at St Stephen’s Cathedral also recently joined two women – Peggy Caton and Colleen Murray – to pray at the clinic on a Friday afternoon.
“Praying here outside the abortion clinic is the front line of the war not just against abortion but against our whole culture of death,” Fr Grace said.
“This is not just a war with a single issue.
“There are other issues such as euthanasia, dissolution of marriage … questions of dignity in the way we treat our young, our disabled and so on and it’s all inter-related.”
The trio were fulfilling their roster commitment on the 40 Days for Life anti-abortion prayer campaign held throughout Lent.
They are among dozens in Brisbane archdiocese with a 24/7 commitment to the campaign either through prayer at home or their physical presence outside the abortion clinic.
They are linked with hundreds of thousands of others in a worldwide campaign started by a non-Catholic group in the United States in 2007 which now has a presence in many countries including Canada, Ireland, Argentina, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Spain and Uganda.
The women are most impressed by the young people who’ve joined in the prayer crusade.
“For me, it’s a humbling experience coming and seeing all the young people, mainly in their early 20s, who come to pray here,” Mrs Murray said.
“They come up to three at a time, from different faiths – Baptists, Evangelicals and others – all praying for the same thing – an end to abortion.
“Then they go back together to uni for lectures.”
For Mrs Caton and Mrs Murray it’s the first time they’ve prayed publicly to end abortion.
Both credit their presence to attending this year’s Rally for Life in Brisbane and being on the mailing list for the 40 Days for Life campaign.
“Finally, I thought: ‘This is something I’ve got to do this Lent’,” Mrs Caton said.
“It’s my first year praying outside the clinic, so I took a long time to get going, didn’t I?”
She travelled by bus from Caboolture, north of Brisbane, every Friday “to pray for the end of abortion so hopefully some babies are saved through all the wonderful people who are praying outside the clinic”.
Mrs Murray, from Everton Park, also visited on Fridays for about two hours from 10.30am.
“We can’t judge those women who use the clinic,” she said.
“We don’t know their situation.
“We just pray for them and the people who are working in there.
“Some people passing pip the horn and raise their thumbs and call out to say it’s a good thing we’re here.
“This morning some people wound down the car window and screamed something … I couldn’t hear what it was.
“They were very upset and very angry … I could only make out the word ‘shame’.
“I said a prayer for them that hopefully towards the end of the day they’ll think back on what we were doing and why.”
Mrs Caton had an even more confronting experience.
“One passerby stopped and abused us and said we had no right to be here or to tell women what they could or couldn’t do,” she said.
“He also wanted to talk on evolution and that there was no human being involved in an abortion.
“I was so blessed to have a gentleman with me, David, who was able to give the angry man all the right answers – I wouldn’t have been able to – so the Holy Spirit had made sure he was there.”
Such outbursts are familiar territory for Fr Grace. It’s the fifth 40 Days for Life campaign with which he has been involved.
He was also on the first ever Brisbane campaign in 2009.
He has noticed a steady improvement in numbers with the result more hours are being filled.
“The numbers are up about 25 per cent on last year,” he said.
“This is a very important witness.
“God’s love is a love which invades darkness and turns it into a place of light and sanctuary.”