PPSFOn Sunday, March 2, San Francisco’s 40 Days for Life began their Lenten campaign with a Mass in front of the city’s Planned Parenthood abortion business. The Mass was celebrated by Father John Jimenez of St. Peter’s Church. About 40 people were in attendance

Mass began at 3:00 p.m. with an improvised altar set up on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate at 1650 Valencia Street in the heavily Hispanic Mission District. The first reading, Isaiah 49:14-15: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” and Psalm 62: “Rest in God alone, my soul” were recited by Sister Mary Ignatius, RSHM, a long-time pro-life activist. In his homily Father Jimenez reflected on the recently released movie Gimme Shelter which follows the journey of a young woman from a troubled background who finds herself pregnant, and her decision to choose life for her baby. He talked about the sexually exploitative environment that exists in our culture towards girls “boys too, but especially girls.” He said that in Gimme Shelter a character tells the young women Agnes that her “life will be ruined if you have this child” but that Agnes responds “I will not do to this child what has been done to me.” Father Jimenez said that in his ministry he himself had encountered many women who find themselves in just that state of desperation and said “We cannot see what a seed can be or will be. We are here as faithful disciples for those in desperation, for those who work here (at Planned Parenthood). May our faith witness be of help to those who need help because nothing is impossible to God!”

Following Mass three of the attendees gave short speeches. The first was from Ed Hopfner, director of the Marriage and Family Life office of the archdiocese of San Francisco. He echoed Father Jimenez’s observations. “We are here for the conversion of hearts and souls. We pray for the mothers who come here, we pray for the fathers who may have no say in the choice to have their child aborted. We are here for the conversion of those who work in the clinic and we are here for our own conversion.” He urged the congregation to remember that we are not fighting against clinic workers, not against Democrats, not against Republicans, but “as St. Paul said in the Letter to the Ephesians, against powers and principalities.”

Another long-time prolife activist, Nora Dougherty, followed Hopfner. She offered straightforward advice and information for those who will bear witness during the upcoming 40 Days for Life campaign. Topics covered included behavior protocols, simple safety precautions, and practical information like which 40 Days boxes have information for free pregnancy services and locations for various services and opportunities for financially needy mothers, etc.

The final speaker was Eva Muntean, co-chair of the Walk for Life West Coast. She reiterated the points that Father Jimenez and Hopfner had made—that just a prayerful, peaceful presence can offer a way out of the desperation that leads to abortion:  “As many of us have experienced, when we are in despair, we forget about God. In fact, that may be the definition of despair—forgetting that God is right next to us. Your prayerful presence, your visible act of asking God for help can be a visible reminder to women in despair that they too can ask God’s help. That’s the answer. It’s not us. We are just witnesses. Abortion is only considered when someone has lost hope. Your ministry gives hope. And hope for the mother equals birth for the baby!”

According to veterans of the pro-life cause, the March 2 Mass was the first sidewalk Mass in front of an abortion business ever celebrated in San Francisco. Especially heartening to organizers was the presence of members of Students for Life from the University of San Francisco, led by the group’s president, Patrice Robison.

40 Days for Life begins on Ash Wednesday. To learn more about the San Francisco campaign, or to sign up for a vigil time, click here.

To find a campaign in other areas, click the Locations tab.