40 Days for Life:
Fighting for life on the front lines

Bishop Barry C. Knestout leads recitation of the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary outside Planned Parenthood Feb. 22, 2024. (Photo/D. Hunter Reardon)

On Feb. 22, Bishop Barry C. Knestout joined 22 of the faithful on a brisk and sunny morning outside Planned Parenthood in Richmond, leading them in the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary.

Participants included parishioners of St. Benedict, Richmond; Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond; Our Lady of Lourdes, Richmond; St. Bridget, Richmond; St. Peter, Richmond; and St. Joseph, Richmond. Father Tony Marques, rector of the cathedral, was also present.

40 Days for Life is a twice-annual national campaign in which volunteers gather outside of abortion clinics to pray that mothers choose life. The spring campaign runs from Feb. 14 (Ash Wednesday) to March 24 (Palm Sunday). In Richmond, it takes place each day outside Planned Parenthood at 201 N. Hamilton Street.

Nina Newton, parishioner at St. Bridget, Richmond, and a “day captain” for Thursdays during the 2024 Lenten campaign, said 40 Days for Life “is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”

Newton works with others in the program to make sure that someone is praying at the abortion clinic every day during the planned 40 days. She says she was inspired to join the group after then-Gov. Ralph Northam made comments in 2019 endorsing a bill that allowed for abortions to occur up to the moment of birth for any reason.

“I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I had to do something,” said Newton. “We’re God’s creations, and God is in every person.”

During the Feb. 22 prayer, several passing cars honked their horns in support. Newton said that the interactions she has at Planned Parenthood are almost always positive, including when she stops women who are entering the clinic to give them brochures about other resources.

“Every car that comes into the Planned Parenthood parking lot, I’ll ask, ‘Can I give you some help?’” said Newton. “If they stop and roll down their window, it’s always such a sweet conversation. They’re always grateful.”

“There was one time a few weeks ago when a baby was definitely saved,” Newton added. “A woman came in, came out a short time later, and said, ‘I’m keeping my baby.’”

Sometimes, the group does receive pushback. “There’s an occasional car that goes by, and the driver yells, ‘Get a life,’ or gives us the middle finger,” said Newton. “It doesn’t bother us. We just pray that God will open their heart. Having great support from most of the cars that go by is very encouraging.”

Some of the participants said they read about the program in their church bulletin; others have been encouraged by friends to join. Holly Wilson, parishioner of St. Benedict, was one of several people who also attended Virginia Pro-life Day the previous day, Feb. 21.

“It’s good that the bishop is here with us,” said Wilson. “We need leadership, and we need unity.”

Bishop Knestout said that his choice to recite the Joyful Mysteries was intentional.

“There’s a sadness of death here, but there’s always a joy of grace that can give us hope,” said the bishop. “The Joyful Mysteries of the rosary are associated with the pregnancy of Our Lady, the conception and birth of Our Lord, and his infancy. They are really about the joy of life that we should always uphold.”


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