Three thumbs up

As the van pulled out of the abortion clinic,
the workers gave us a thumbs up


We had been in front of the abortion clinic for about an hour praying the rosary. The candlelight vigil had begun at 6 p.m., and we were halfway through the fourth of the Glorious Mysteries. It was cold and windy so there was some noticeable trouble with the requisite balancing act — juggling plastic cups that sheltered candles with one hand while sliding rosary beads through the fingers of the other. We stood in a single line along the sidewalk that faced busy Laurens Road in Greenville. Cars honked as they whizzed by, sometimes perilously close. Some honked because they supported us; others because they abhorred us. We kept praying.

Around 7 p.m. the lights in the clinic finally dimmed. A few “workers” scurried out the back door and headed for their cars. It was dark so we couldn’t see their faces, although some of us strained our eyes to see what they looked like. Soon, a white, severely battered van pulled out of its parking place and moved slowly down the driveway toward us. The driver’s window was rolled down. When the van stopped to check traffic before turning, the driver glanced over. Suddenly, he gave us a thumbs up. The two people in the back seat did likewise. Then the van pulled out and was swallowed up in traffic.

There is a moment when, despite all of the insults, you think you might be on the right track. This was such a moment. It happened last Friday, Nov. 10, at the annual pro-life candlelight vigil and rosary in Greenville. The event typically draws a large crowd from parishes throughout the diocese. This year, 85 people had gathered in front of the Palmetto State Medical Center to pray for life. The clergy was out in force, among them Jesuit Father John O’Holohan and Our Lady of Mercy Sister Carmelita Boyd from St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville, Father Patrick Cooper from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Mauldin and Father Eugene Leonard from Jesus Our Risen Savior in Spartanburg.

Beth Hambleton, who launched the vigil five years ago, says it is one small way to publicly defend God’s interests. “He died for us in public, and we are to be witnesses in public,” she said. “His disciples ran off. They did not want to be seen with Jesus out of fear. Well, we are not filled with fear.”

Hambleton, a pro-life coordinator from St. Mary Magdalene, believes that if millions of Catholics and Christians were to voice their opinions in public, abortion would not be legal today. “If we are to be the salt of the earth or the yeast that makes the dough rise, then we had better get out of our houses. We cannot evangelize from home.”

Tracey Mershon, from St. Mary’s Church in Greenville, agrees. “By praying in public we make a statement. People who drive by see us and the children praying. Maybe some seeds are planted, and eventually they, too, will cherish life.”

Clearly, a large number of people holding candles on a dark street draws attention.

Valerie Baronkin, a parishoner at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, believes that prayer, public or otherwise, will end abortion “… because nothing else is working.”

Although the candlelight vigil is held but once a year, once a week a handful of people gather to pray the rosary in front of the clinic. Those who pray there every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. say this is when many show up to have abortions.

“Seeing people pray provides the women with a chance to reconsider,” Hambleton explains. “Sometimes they pull into the wrong driveway and we can talk to them. Now and then a baby gets saved.”