Prayer vigil, peaceful march kicks off 40 Days for Life fall campaign

By Megan Erbacher

The Message assistant editor

One of the greatest aids in ending abortion is prayer, according to Ellie Kiesel.

So, the University of Southern Indiana sophomore felt it was important to participate in a Sept. 22 prayer vigil at the front steps of Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville before peacefully marching to the Weinbach Avenue offices of Planned Parenthood to kick-off the fall campaign of 40 Days for Life, through Nov. 1.

“It is important to unite together for this common cause,” Kiesel said.

USI’s Students for Life group participate in the prayer vigil and peaceful march Sept. 22 to kick-off the 40 Days for Life fall campaign. Submitted photo

More than 130 people gathered, wearing masks and practicing social distancing, outside Reitz Memorial to pray with Bishop Joseph M. Siegel before they walked about one mile to Planned Parenthood. Many priests and deacons, Catholic Center staff, students of all ages and parents participated in the ecumenical event, which was coordinated by the Diocesan Office of Family and Life and Right to Life of Southwest Indiana.

As a University of Southern Indiana sophomore, Kiesel is part of the university’s Students for Life group. She said members of the group also walked in last year’s prayer march.

“I think it is important because so many lives can be saved throughout the 40 days,” Kiesel said. “When lives are on the line, there are not many things more important. I also think it is a great way to peacefully voice our opinion without even having to say a thing.”

Bishop Joseph M. Siegel offers the opening prayer at Reitz Memorial High School before a peaceful march to the Weinbach Avenue offices of Planned Parenthood. The Message photo by Megan Erbacher

Bishop Siegel offered the opening prayer, and he said it is through God’s grace that the 40 Days for Life effort has helped countless women choose life, and thus save thousands of unborn children from abortion.

Bishop Siegel asked God for guidance and for the courage and wisdom to work peacefully and to stand resolutely against forces that threaten life, and for the perseverance to work peacefully to change hearts, minds and laws to uphold the dignity of the most precious gift God has given us from the very moment of conception.

The bishop asked God to help us never forget the unborn children, their mothers and families, and all the victims of the culture of death.

As participants walked the roughly 1-mile route, many held signs that read “Pray to end abortion,” “Defund Planned Parenthood” and “Save the USA Vote Pro-Life!”

Rev. Dr. Larry Lewis, senior pastor of Vann Avenue Baptist Church in Evansville, concluded the vigil with a prayer in front of Planned Parenthood.

Participants pick-up signs to carry during the Sept. 22 peaceful march to Planned
Parenthood to pray to end abortion. The Message photo by Megan Erbacher

Diocesan Director of Family and Life Eric Girten said it’s “always important to keep the dignity of and respect for every person at the forefront of our vision.

“It is precisely from this foundation that everything else we do is built,” Girten said. “If we take a snapshot of today, we find our attention pulled in many directions.”

Participants stand on the sidewalks of Weinbach Avenue outside the offices of Planned Parenthood to pray to end abortion. The Message photo by Megan Erbacher

October is Respect Life Month, and Girten said it offers a chance to “step back, refocus our attention and renew our efforts to bring this fundamental reality back into the conversation and to determine our action moving forward."

Right to Life of Southwest Indiana Executive Director Mary Ellen Van Dyke explained the 40 Days for Life campaign is an international movement to peacefully end abortion through prayer and fasting, community outreach and an all-day vigil.

“Supporting life by participating in these peaceful prayer vigils give voice to those who are voiceless – the preborn,” Van Dyke said.

Kiesel thanked everyone who supports USI’s Students for Life through donations and words of encouragement.

“Our position on a college campus is not too liked by a lot of people, so the thoughts and prayers of others are much appreciated so we can continue our battle,” she said.

To sign up to be a prayer partner for 40 Days for Life, go to or call the Right to Life Office at 812-474-3195.