From Sept. 24 to Nov. 2, 2014, Canadians in 15 different cities across the country participated in 40 Days for Life, an international pro-life campaign that challenges participants to engage in 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion, peaceful vigil outside a local abortion facility, and community outreach. The campaign is in its eighth year, and the number of participants continues to grow.

“I’m always so inspired by the level of dedication some of our prayer volunteers have,” Christina Alaimo, campaign coordinator for 40 Days for Life Toronto, told The Interim. “They could be doing so many other things, but instead they choose to stand up for life in prayer and public witness day in and day out.”

“We often hear about the youthfulness of the pro-life movement, and although this is true,” Alaimo said, “I’m constantly in awe of how dedicated our elderly are, sometimes driving or commuting for more than an hour just to get to the vigil.” She added, “despite age and health problems, our ‘grandparents’ continue to lead by their example and are unshakable for the cause of life.”

Alaimo shared the story of Irena Marcinkowska who at 77 years old, has supported the prayer vigil for several years. This past campaign, Marcinkowska, who is an active volunteer in the Polish community around the Greater Toronto Area, successfully spear-headed the task of coordinating with several Polish-speaking church communities to “adopt-a-day” at the vigil site across the Women’s Care Center near the intersection of Lawrence and Dufferin.

When asked by The Interim what motivated her to take on this task, she gave the credit to Fr. Paul Ratajczak, a priest in the Archdiocese of Toronto who is currently studying in Rome, who used to organize parish trips to the vigil site. He would sometimes drive parishioners in his own car. “If Fr. Paul could do it, so can I,” said Marcinkowska.

The commitment of these prayer volunteers paid off.

Alaimo told The Interim of an encounter she had with a young woman who approached her asking about the pamphlets she was handing out. Alaimo explained them and why the volunteers were there. “She then told me that she had been in the clinic already and didn’t want to go through with her abortion.” Within a few days, the young woman was provided with the support needed to keep her baby. “I continue to keep in touch with her and she is expecting her baby very soon,” said Alaimo.

In Montreal, Quebec, campaign coordinator, Brian Jenkins also reported a confirmed saved baby this fall.

“It was a late afternoon when two of our prayer volunteers arrived to replace me at the vigil location, outside the Morgentaler mill in Montreal,” recalled Jenkins of the day he learned about the saved child. “As we chatted, they sprang the wonderful news on me. We had a save.”

According to Jenkins, a young woman called the campaign’s help phone line after seeing it on a sign at the vigil site. During the phone conversation with the volunteer, the issue of adoption came up.

“The idea (of adoption) felt right for her,” Jenkins told The Interim. “Praise God that this young woman had the maturity to recognize the life budding inside of her and to do the selfless act of caring for it and then conferring it to others for care and love.”

Organizers have since followed-up with her and have offered assistance during the adoption process.

In Ottawa, volunteers can attest to at least two turn-arounds. Similar stories are heard from volunteers across the country.

Although reports of ‘turn-arounds’ continue to come in, the official 40 Days for Life website states that so far, this campaign has saved 726 lives, which brings the campaign total of lives saved to more than 9,500 since the campaign began in 2007.

This campaign also marked the first time that a representative from 40 Days for Life HQ visited Canadian campaigns, attending opening, mid-point and closing rallies, and joining prayer volunteers at vigil sites. In a video produced by 40 Days for Life, Steven Karlen, director of North American outreach expressed his gratitude to campaigns in Canada. “Thank you to the great Canadian pro-lifers for hosting me. It was a blessing to pray with you and keep up the great work.”

After witnessing the success of 40 Days for Life in the United States, Campaign Life Coalition brought it into Canada for the first time in 2007, holding the first 40 Day vigils in Ottawa and Halifax. Since then, this campaign has expanded across North America, Africa, Europe and parts of South America.

The next campaign is scheduled for February of 2015.