Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sidewalk Counseling 101

I've always been pro-life, but not very active in the movement. Since my deeper pro-life conversion last Lent inspired by this story from Bishop-elect Hying God has brought me many opportunities to become more active in the pro-life cause. Most recently, my parish has started its first ever pro-life committee and I am proud to be a part of it. We are planning many wonderful activities for Respect Life Month this coming October including involving our parish in the Forty Days for Life Campaign and The Life Chain as well as hosting a Holy Hour for Life-which is in itself quite miraculous since my parish does not normally hold Eucharistic Adoration or Holy Hours.

This past week I was tremendously blessed to attend a pro-life "Sidewalk Counseling 101" session at Lumen Christi Parish in Mequon, WI. While I've only prayed outside of the abortion clinic three times in the past six months, I've prayed inside my WIC office daily because it is at my work place where I encounter far too many abortion issues and have more daily opportunities to help women in crisis pregnancies as well as those suffering the aftermath of abortion, so part of my purpose in attending the meeting was to help me be of better assistance to the women I encounter at the WIC Clinic.

The program presenters of "Sidewalk Counseling 101" were Dan Miller from 40 Days for Life, Lisa Sommers from Rachel's Vineyard and Kerry Lawlor from Catholics 4 Life. Lumen Christi was a lovely suburban church which looked almost brand new yet was not too modern. When I arrived I was thrilled to learn that the adoration chapel was still open so Kerry and I went to spend a few minutes with the Lord before the meeting began, and really, shouldn't all meetings begin that way?

Dan Miller began the program with a slideshow highlighting all of the good done by the 40 Days for Life Campaign at what he calls "Hell with Doors," the Affiliated Medical Services Abortuary on Farwell Ave. in Milwaukee. He shared his often spoken script that works to engage abortion minded women in conversation. While handing them a beautiful brochure about the growth of a baby in utero he says:

"Hi! My name is Dan. This is for you. (handing a brochure) Are you going to the clinic today? I just want you to know that there is all sorts of free help across the street. (Referring to the Women's Care Center directly across from the abortion mill.)They have free ultrasounds, free pregnancy tests and free well baby care. When your baby is born, they will help you with diapers, clothes, food - whatever it takes to help you say yes to the life of your child. God has a plan for your baby. We will be out here praying for you - if you need someone to talk to - we will be here for you. (As they walk through the door, I say, always adding one to the total) God bless the three of you!"

Dan's practical tips include:

~begin and end in prayer
~personal stories are powerful; if you have one, use it
~dress for the weather
~don't use gory signs
~study and know pro-life literature, have a variety on hand
~counselors should not wear signs
~don't interrupt a sidewalk counselor who is engaged in conversation with an abortion oriented woman
~save the mom and baby first, evangelize later
~don't deliver your message in a condemning tone
~don't yell and don't tell them that they are going to hell-you don't know that
~when engaged in a conversation, ignore the rest of the world
~offer your effort to God whether you see tangible results or not
~if an abortion oriented parent tells you to go away, respect that
~don't get arrested
~be spiritually prepared to be an effective witness; pray
~know where your nearest Crisis Pregnancy Center is located
~a smile goes a long way

Most striking to me of all the things he said was that he had only begun his involvement with 40 Days for Life a little over a year ago and when he was first invited by a friend to pray outside of the abortion mill his immediate answer was "I'd rather have all four wisdom teeth pulled than to pray outside of an abortuary!" Today, he is a giant in the pro-life movement spending days on end praying for an end to abortion and working to save the lives of innocent babies and improve the lives of women in crisis pregnancies as well as those who work in the abortion industry.

The words offered by Lisa Sommers were both practical and uplifting. She said, "The most important thing to remember about women who are coming to the clinic for an abortion and those who work in the abortion industry is that their soul could be in danger. We need to see them as our brothers and sisters. There is really only one enemy and that is the devil. Abortionists really believe that they are helping women, unfortunately, the way they go about it is wrong. The abortionists are not our enemy. We need to pray for them and care for them, too. It's really a spiritual battle and on the sidewalk, we are building bridges."

Lisa says that the most important thing to remember when speaking to a woman who is leaving the abortuary is that you should never touch her. She was just violated in the most horrendous and violent way and she does not want to be touched, even lovingly. Also, never say, "I know how you feel," because you can't possibly know how she feels, instead, be supportive of her feelings.

According to Lisa when we show up at the abortion mill, we should pray for the Holy Spirit to speak through us; to dance on our tongues. Ask the women, "What's happening? What's going on in your life? What's your plan for after this abortion? How are you going to deal with this afterward, who are you going to talk to? Will your problems go away or not? What are you going to do? Is there something I can help you with?" Asking open-ended questions and encouraging the women to speak with us is the most helpful and important thing we can do while witnessing at an abortion mill.

I am so grateful that I attended the Sidewalk Counseling session, it was definitely time well spent. If you happen to live in the Milwaukee area, the session will be offered three more times during the month of July. For more information, leave a comment or send me an email and I will be glad to give you the detailed information.


  1. Thanks for joining us, Anne! St. Josemaria Escriva should be smiling down upon you as you take your pro-life convictions into the secular world. Everything in the sidewalk counseling class can be put into action wherever you are. The most beautiful part about doing that is no one expects it or sees it coming. Lisa was totally right. We are fighting one thing and one thing only - satan.

    Keep up the good fight.

    Sin Cera,

    Dan Miller

  2. Anne,
    Excellent post! One of the most important questions you can ask a woman going into an abortion clinic or doctor's office(if the opportunity presents itself)is What can I do to help you? Sometimes women going for an abortion think that the only person the pro-life people care about is the baby. While the baby is important the mothers need to know that they are too. Most abortion minded women deep down do not want to do what they are about to do. I often wonder if someone asked me that question before my abortion how different things may have gone. But praise God for His mercy and healing.
    Thanks for all you do for the pro-life movement. God bless.

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