DENVER — A powerful, solemn scene unfolded at Planned Parenthood in Stapleton, Colo., on Saturday morning, as Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila led some 1,800 Catholics in a Eucharistic procession seven times around the abortion center.
“It was truly a moment of grace, a moment of blessing, a moment of praying to Our Lord that hearts may be changed,” Archbishop Aquila said. “It was wonderful to see how many turned out today.”
The archbishop announced his intention to lead the procession in mid-February, and the response to the event was overwhelmingly positive, said Karna Swanson, the communications director for the archdiocese.
“We set up a simple website with a no-nonsense invitation for people to come and pray with the archbishop, and, immediately, we were hearing from people just thanking the archbishop for doing this,” Swanson said.
“No shouting or arguing,” the Archdiocese of Denver website stated in describing the event. “Only prayerful witness to the love and mercy of God.”
To ensure the sacred nature of the Eucharistic procession, the archdiocesan liturgy office set the tone for the event and organized the logistics of transferring the Eucharist to the site, in addition to providing prayer books for those in attendance.
Before the procession began, Father Scott Bailey addressed the crowd and emphasized the importance of silence. “Silence is an essential part of the procession, as we unite our voices with those who have been silenced by abortion,” he said.
Seminarians from St. John Vianney Theological Seminary led the people in the hymns and prayers each time the procession passed around the building. They also assisted with crowd management.
“We were honestly expecting 500-800 people,” Swanson noted. “Three times that number showed up. This provided a bit of a challenge for us logistically, as 1,800 people don’t exactly fit on the sidewalk of a city block.
“We wanted to make sure everyone who wanted to participate could, but we also didn’t want to give any reason for the police department to shut the event down.”
Though the procession spilled out into the street, local off-duty police officers were on hand to ensure that it didn’t impede traffic or cause an inability for cars to enter or leave the facility.
“There was wonderful teamwork on the ground, between the seminarians, the AMDG Cycling group, the police officers and the participants,” said Swanson. “It was obvious to all that we were just there to pray. And pray we did; nearly everyone in the crowd was holding a rosary in their hands, and small groups throughout the crowd were praying the Rosary together. We definitely stormed heaven with our prayers.”
Families with young children were well-represented in the crowd, as well as religious sisters. The Nashville Dominicans, the Sisters of Life and the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo were all present. Dozens of seminarians were on hand from both of the seminaries of Denver, as well as many members of the clergy.
The Martinez family from St. Augustine Parish in Brighton, Colo., was one of many families in attendance. Jaime Martinez, along with his wife, children and parents-in-law, came to the procession to pray as a family for the end of abortion.
“We came here to speak for the unborn children who are getting aborted every single day here and to pray for those mothers who are thinking about aborting their children so they can think about walking a different path and choosing a different option,” Martinez said.
He added, “It was very touching to see a lot of people join forces to promote the pro-life movement. Hopefully we can see more of this in future.”
Sam and Amber Bittner came with their two children, Matthew and Evelyn, as well as in coordinating “Respect” and “Life” shirts. For the growing family — Amber is expecting their third child — they were there to “bring some joy.”
“We need to bring some joy into the situation and show that we care and that we love,” Sam told the Denver Catholic. “And it’s not just ‘You’re wrong.’”
“We came as a witness to our kids,” added Amber. “We wanted to show them that it’s really important to be involved to pray for those who are making the decisions and also for the babies.”
This article originally appeared in the Denver Catholic.