By ANNETTE ALLEVA
As if being a homeschooling mother of five kids under the age of eight isn’t enough, Megan Walsted has taken on the task of leading 40 Days for Life, the annual prayer vigil to end abortion which is taking place this year from Sept. 26 to Nov. 4. Walsted, who has been involved with several previous vigils, embraced the leadership role this year because, as she said, “It was time for a Catholic to step up. We are pro-life.”
Since its beginning in 2004 in Texas, when only a handful of cities and towns participated, this year’s ecumenical prayer vigil will be the largest ever, taking place in 314 locations throughout the United States, Canada and several other countries. Anchorage participants will gather at the offices of Planned Parenthood, 4001 Lake Otis Parkway. Across the nation, efforts by prayerful participants in the past have resulted in fewer abortions, the closing of several abortion clinics and healing for women who have undergone past abortions, according to the 40 Days for Life website.INSPIRED TO ACTION
Walsted, a parishioner of Anchorage’s Holy Family Cathedral, said her passion for 40 Days for Life grew out of her own experience of three miscarriages between the births of her fourth and fifth children. While she came to terms with the death of the first baby in her womb and contemplated undergoing a procedure to remove the body — known as dilation and curettage — she was struck by the irony of how that same procedure is often used for the abortion of a living unborn baby.
Walsted reflected on the personhood of the child she lost and of those elsewhere who would be aborted. After two subsequent miscarriages she realized that God used those losses to spiritually change her. She felt as if voting pro-life simply wasn’t enough, that she needed to literally get out on the sidewalk. It was a pivotal moment in her life, she said.
Content initially to pray and fast with others during previous vigils, she took on the leadership role this year when the former director moved to the Mat-Su Valley. Walsted hopes to bring a vibrant Catholic presence to the upcoming campaign, which began Sept. 26.
In keeping with its ecumenical roots, a rally with participating churches will be held midway through the campaign on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood, Walsted said.
The organizers have contacted 21 Catholic and Protestant churches throughout Anchorage, many of which are past supporters of the campaign. The ecumenical community has offered tremendous support to the vigil and is expected to do so again. Several Catholic churches have committed to the vigil with volunteers signing up to spend at least an hour in prayer at the site.
At Holy Family Cathedral, the Knights of Columbus have stepped up with material support as well with offers of water and refreshments for participants. Walsted is hoping for increased participation from Catholic churches in the Anchorage area. Her goal is to have every Catholic parish represented. She has contacted each of them, asking churches to adopt a specific day, citing the example of St. Patrick Church, which has chosen each of the Sundays during the campaign when volunteer parishioners will take their place on the sidewalk. A minimum of 24 people is needed for each day — at least two per hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the campaign’s duration.
While Walsted’s focus is on the involvement of the Catholic community, she is quick to emphasize that abortion “is a human issue, not a denominational issue.”
STEPPING OUTSIDE THE COMFORT ZONE
As a veteran of several campaigns, Walsted said, “Standing on the sidewalk is one of the hardest things I have done in my life. It is uncomfortable and cold.”
But she added, “I think we need to get scared, uncomfortable, imagine what it’s like for the baby. I’d rather be uncomfortable than have a baby killed.”
Many passing drivers give the “thumbs up,” Walsted said. A few choose to extend another digit and infrequently shout obscenities or confront participants. The majority of drivers, however, silently pass by and “pretend they don’t see you,” Walsted said.
While Walsted has never been approached, some others have, by women who have said, “I am keeping mine,” referring to their unborn child.
She clarified that the vigil is not a protest.
“What we are doing is praying to end abortion,” she said.
If she can get one person to reflect on their own life and that of an unborn child, she has her reward.
Walsted acknowledged that family life can be busy and unpredictable but that it is important to be open and generous regarding pro-life work.
In fact, it is her own children who inspire who to do pro-life advocacy — work for which she makes the time when others say they do not have any. She wants her kids to know how deeply she values them and all children.
40 Days for Life volunteer information
The 40 Days for Life pro-life vigil continues until Sunday, Nov. 4. All are invited to spend some time as a witness for life, praying for an end to abortion. Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz is encouraging archdiocesan Catholics to participate.
In Anchorage the vigil takes place outside Planned Parenthood – an affiliate of the nation’s largest abortion business – at 4001 Lake Otis Parkway (between Tudor and 36th Avenue, on the east or mountain side of Lake Otis).
For more information and to sign up for a time, visit 40daysforlife.com/anchorage/ or contact Megan Walsted at 907-770-3882 or 907-240-2775 or email@example.com.