SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — “Because of your caroling, we decided to keep our baby.”
On a cold and crisp December morning, a young married couple spoke those words as their car pulled up next to Roseann Gracza and her Christmas carolers in front of the Family Planning Associates abortion center in San Bernardino, California. They had been looking for a sign not to go through with the abortion they had scheduled. Gracza recounted the story to the Register, saying they were “the nicest couple.” They already had a 4-month-old child and felt frightened about supporting another.
As they waited for their appointment inside, the couple could see and hear through the window Gracza’s 23 pro-life carolers singing Christmas songs, including Silent Night. They re-emerged from the building and told Gracza they had canceled their appointment.
“That was their sign,” Gracza said, recalling how the couple had joined hands, feeling confident about seeing the pregnancy through.
This is the first year that Gracza, the president of the pro-life ministry at St. Vincent Ferrer in Menifee, California, organized Christmas caroling in front of the San Bernardino abortion center. She recruited 23 carolers from six churches, who sang outside for 90 minutes. Even though they did not have perfect voices, “we sang from our hearts,” she recalled.
The Christmas caroling Gracza organized in San Bernardino was part of a wider movement of caroling in front of abortion businesses during this Advent season called “Peace in the Womb.”
The “Peace in the Womb” caroling takes place this year in approximately 60 locations in 29 states and the District of Columbia, with events taking place Dec. 9-28.
Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, which began the singing event in Chicago 14 years ago, told the Register that the inspiration for the caroling came from a friend who had studied St. John Paul II’s theology of the body catechesis. Scheidler said she had suggested this perspective: For women facing the trauma of aborting their children at the holidays, hearing Christmas carols might connect them “to God’s healing and mercy.”
“So there was a double purpose: to plant a seed for future healing, so that Christmas becomes a channel for them to overcome the abortions they’re having at Christmastime,” he said, “and on the other side of it, inspiring people with the Christmas story so they don’t go through with those abortions.”
Scheidler said that they have seen both of those things happen this year, as well as over the course of the event’s history. He said that Pro-Life Action League expanded the caroling through the Chicago area in 2007 and became more intentional about spreading it in 2012, after seeing the interest from other groups.
This year, the number of participating cities increased by more than 50% from 2015, when they just had 39. Part of that, Scheidler explained, is that many pro-life people felt disturbed by the undercover videos that were released showing Planned Parenthood’s involvement in procuring “baby body parts” for scientific research. So, this year’s caroling gave them a positive outlet to respond with goodness.
Hearts and Minds Changed
This is the fourth year that Pro-Life Action Ministries of Central Florida has participated in the caroling, according to Michele Herzog, spokeswoman for the group.
Herzog said the caroling took place at several abortion sites in the suburbs around Orlando on Dec. 17. While the carolers were outside, they also had their trained sidewalk counselors reaching out to women and family members going into the abortion centers.
“Six babies were saved that day,” Herzog said, including two sets of twins.
One Spanish-speaking couple they met said the carols had drawn them outside the abortion center. According to Herzog, they opted to go to the local pregnancy center.
Herzog said the songs resonate with many, helping them to change their minds about abortion. And the carols don’t just reach Christians. Two years ago, she said, another couple that opted not to have an abortion was Muslim, but had admired the Christmas singing, changed their minds — and ultimately left the abortion center’s waiting room.
Herzog said the singers want people to know that their unborn children are “Christmas babies” and that Jesus came into the world “to give life, that we may have it more abundantly.”
Songs Reach the Heart
Scheidler said such anecdotes pouring in from participating pro-life groups around the country have been heartening. The carolers have touched hearts beyond the women and their family members going into the abortion centers. In Sarasota, Florida, he said, one of the abortion escorts complimented the “Peace in the Womb” carolers on their singing.
Another group in Tempe, Arizona, he added, had 120 people turn out, including a group called “Dancers for Jesus” from nearby St. Margaret Catholic Church.
Overall, the response has been positive.
Scheidler said there was “not a whole lot” of difficulties this year from abortion advocates. The only stand-out counter-event at one of the caroling sites was in Columbia, Missouri, when a small group that called themselves the “Guild of Silly Feathers” tried to disrupt the caroling with kazoos.
“It didn’t quite work, because the carolers were a large group and quite loud,” Scheidler reported.
Back in San Bernardino, Gracza’s pro-life ministry saw a total of three women during their carols cancel their appointments and tell the carolers that they chose to keep their unborn children. Gracza said that in pro-life ministry “you struggle to have the right words to say” sometimes to women seeking abortions.
But at this time of the year, approaching the feast of Jesus’s birth, caroling made it “so simple.”
She said, “We didn’t really do anything, other than to sing and pray.”
And that has made a blessed difference for babies and parents alike.
Peter Jesserer Smith is a Register staff reporter.