It has long been acknowledged that the spiritual realm must play an important role in the effort to ultimately secure the right to life for all human beings, from conception to natural death. To that end, Catholics across Canada are participating in a concerted prayer effort to ensure that aspect of the pro-life struggle is not neglected.

The One Million Rosaries for Life Mission has already reached a remarkable number of 620,000 recitations in a little over two years. It uses the classic Catholic prayer of the Rosary, wherein individuals say 15 decades or 10s of the Hail Mary, with an Our Father between each 10, while at each of the 15 decades, those praying recall successively in pious meditation one of the mysteries of the Christian redemption.

While this particular spiritual campaign uses Catholic prayers, organizers are encouraging non-Catholic Christians to start their own spiritual campaigns for life, using prayers appropriate to their faith traditions.

“Everybody can pray in their own way,” says Donna O’Connor, founder of the Canadian version of the One Million Rosaries for Life Mission. “Even if people aren’t Catholic, they could start another prayer mission and choose their own prayers. This (Catholic prayers) is what we do, but we’re not saying it’s the only way.”

O’Connor launched the Rosaries for Life Mission in Canada after arriving in Ottawa from Ireland in July 2003. The inspiration for the campaign was provided by her previous experience in Ireland, where prayer efforts successfully turned back both the European Union’s attempts to foist abortion on Ireland and the menacing presence of the Dutch “abortion ship” near Irish waters.

“We were praying the abortion ship would sink,” she recalls. “But it turned out they didn’t have proper documentation and were ordered out of international waters. It went back to Holland and never sailed again. It was amazing how things worked out in Ireland and we were spared abortion.”

Arriving later in Canada, O’Connor says she was “really shocked” to find herself in a country “where children were being murdered in the womb and other (bad) things were going on.” She got in touch with noted nonagenarian pro-life priest Father Ted Colleton to broach the idea of a mission for one million Rosaries in support of life in Canada. Colleton responded enthusiastically and paid for the first lot of leaflets in support of the effort.

Some others, however, responded with skepticism to the news of a prayer campaign in support of life. “Canada won’t pray the Rosary. You won’t get half the (one million) number,” O’Connor was told. But, “People have picked it up across Canada,” she says. “Every week, we get stacks of envelopes full of leaflets that show people have said their Rosaries. There are 100 Rosaries in one leaflet.”

Even young children and schools have responded, including a group of Catholic high schoolers in Ottawa who, with a priest, say a Rosary in support of life every Friday on a street corner. O’Connor says the mission’s numeric target has made participants enthusiastic and given them a tangible goal to work toward.

In his inimitable fashion, Colleton has already asked why the effort has to stop at just one million. O’Connor replies that if the momentum is still there after the initial goal is reached, the campaign will be allowed to continue. “When we feel it’s run its course, we’ll have it made into a Rosary bouquet that will be delivered personally to (Pope Benedict XVI),” she says.

In the meantime, she is encouraging Catholics and other people of faith to join in the cross-Canada prayer effort in support of life. Those who want to participate or obtain more information can contact O’Connor by e-mail at or telephone (613) 829-5761. Again, she is urging non-Catholic Christians to get aboard.

“(The late Bishop) Fulton Sheen said we might not all meet in the same pulpit, but we’ll all meet on our knees in the shadow of the Cross,” she says.