Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


40 days of prayer dedicated to restoring ‘respect for all human life’

By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published October 2, 2014

ATLANTA—About 100 people walked with candles along Briarcliff Road on Tuesday night, Sept. 23, their dimly lit procession drawing attention from passing cars and joggers as they processed from Immaculate Heart of Mary Church to an office park a few blocks away.

There, in front of a nondescript building, they were led in ecumenical prayer by Deacon Bob Hauert, administrator of IHM Church, and Dr. Kevin Goins, pastor of neighboring First Alliance Church.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory speaks at the Sept. 23 beginning to 40 Days for Life at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Atlanta. The event continues until Nov. 2. Photo By Allen Kinzly

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory speaks at the Sept. 23 beginning to 40 Days for Life at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Atlanta. The event continues until Nov. 2. Photo By Allen Kinzly

It was the beginning of 40 days of prayer, fasting and silent public witness for a group of people who dedicate their efforts to changing hearts and minds about the practice of abortion.

In Atlanta, the 40 Days for Life presence will be seen from Sept. 24 until Nov. 2, in the public right-of-way outside the Feminist Women’s Health Clinic on Cliff Valley Way, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Since 2007, 40 Days for Life campaigns have taken place twice a year at abortion clinics, first around the United States and then in other countries as well. The last one, held in March, took place in 253 places in 10 countries.

The inspiration is from 40-day periods in Scripture where God’s acts changed people and transformed events, from the flood to the 40 days Jesus spent with his disciples after the Resurrection. Prayer is at the center of the campaign, and people are invited to commit to praying and fasting in whatever way they can, whether they do so at home, in their daily walk of life, or, if they want to, with others at the clinic site.

“Our main goal is to promote fasting and praying for the next 40 days and also the presence at the abortion clinic for 16 hours every day,” said Aileen Barreca, coordinator of the Atlanta 40 Days for Life.

“Our goal is to change hearts and save lives of the mothers and the unborn,” she said.

Organizers of the national campaign say that during the March prayer, 728 women decided not to have an abortion as a result of meeting them and receiving information about alternatives.

Barreca said in the last campaign here, a couple decided against abortion and gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. The Atlanta community held a baby shower for them and remains in touch with them, she said.

“I came from a very pro-life family,” she said. “My mother was very active. I was just raised to be pro-life in a Catholic family.”

Support comes from different places, including students at the Georgia Tech Catholic Center and campus minister Father Josh Allen, Barreca said.

A great commitment to the Atlanta effort has come from the local Knights of Columbus, with some councils committing to the four evening hours one night a week or more.

“It is faith-building,” said Jayme Caspall, pro-life director of the Knights of Columbus at St. Thomas More Church, Decatur, who challenged the local councils to join Council 4358 by signing up to pray one night a week for four evening hours.

Council 4358 is covering every Tuesday. Councils from Holy Cross Church and Holy Spirit Church, both in Atlanta, have signed up for Wednesday and Thursday evenings, respectively, Barreca said. The council from St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro, is taking a Monday evening.

“It is a powerful statement for a father to make to his children, that he is willing to stand up for innocent life,” said Caspall, as he walked in the candlelight procession toward the clinic Sept. 23.

It’s an effort that goes to the heart of the Knights’ principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism, he said. He has participated often. Once he was kneeling in the dark praying and a man pulled up in a car and asked him what he was doing. After Caspall explained, “He parked his car and joined me.”

He has also gotten hostility at times. But there is “a lot of camaraderie” among those who commit to this prayer effort, he said.

Speaking earlier that night from the pulpit at IHM Church, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said, “We who are dedicated to the restoration of respect for human life must begin in prayer. Not in protest, not in conflict, not in hostility, but in prayer.”

“We begin in prayer, in a humble, sincere act of prayer and dedication that we can discover and restore respect for all human life,” he said. “May 40 days of prayer, fasting, penance … usher in a new generation of hope, respect, love and dedication for human life.”

The number 40 in Scripture brings to mind the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years and Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days, Archbishop Gregory said. “Forty represents a time of trial and endurance—an entire generation is captured in the figure 40.”

“We acknowledge that we have endured an entire generation of the destruction of innocent lives within the womb—so 40 is an appropriate number for our sorrow and the shame of our nation,” the archbishop said.

Jesus showed the disciples that children were precious to God, something that societies have not always practiced, he said. Paradoxically, in the United States, “we have endured the destruction of human life within the womb—even moments before their birth—before their entry into a world where they would then be considered precious, valuable and important.”

Following the flood, “God fashioned a new world,” Archbishop Gregory said. “May he fashion a new world from us, from our dedication. Like Noah, we believe God can fashion something wonderful out of something that needed reform, refashioning and restoration.”



To join in 40 Days for Life contact or Aileen Barreca at 404-558-3276 or