Memorial for unborn in Toledo seen as answer to prayers to end abortion

IMAGE: CNS photo/Katie Breidenbach

By Katie Breidenbach

TOLEDO, Ohio (CNS) — The moment
Ann Barrick stepped from the sidewalk onto the crumbling parking lot, her eyes
filled with tears.

“You pray about these things,
and you never think you’re going to see it happen.”

For nine years, Barrick stood on
that very sidewalk, praying that Center for Choice of Toledo would cease to
exist. Every autumn, she led the “40 Days for Life” vigil outside the abortion

Her prayers were answered.
Shuttered in 2013, the Center for Choice was finally bulldozed at the beginning
of September. Today, the derelict parking lot leads only to a muddy plot
studded with fragments of the former foundation.

“It can’t be anything but
prayer. There’s no reason this place should have come down,” Barrick said.

Adding miracle to miracle,
representatives from multiple pro-life organizations met at the offices of the
Diocese of Toledo Sept. 26. The ecumenical group is executing a once
far-fetched vision: to convert the site of the abortion clinic into a memorial
for the unborn.

Denise Emerine purchased the
land two years ago with the aid of many sponsors. “We really felt that the Lord
was wanting this to be a place to engage people and not be a place of death,”
said Emerine, who also directs the Greater Toledo House of Prayer. “He is the
redeeming God. He’s bringing hope. Out of the ashes he’s bringing beauty.”

The group, which also includes
representatives from Catholic Charities, the Foundation for Life and local
crisis pregnancy centers, christened the site “Hope Park” and wants to complete
the memorial by October 2017. Artistic renderings show a grassy area adorned
with trees that has two paths leading to three free-standing walls. “Faith,”
“Hope” and “Love” are emblazoned on the walls, along with verses from Chapter 61
of the Book of Isaiah.

Plans also include a “Wall of
Remembrance” where mothers can add the names of unborn children. A single
dogwood tree that once marked the entrance of the clinic will remain on the
grounds as the “Tree of Hope,” symbolizing the triumph of life.

“There are some projects that
you can feel you’re part of something big. This is one of those projects,” Tim
Schlachter, chair of the Hope Park building committee, told Catholic News
Service. To him and the other members, even the estimated cost of the project
shows God’s hand: $610,000, a number that echoes the “61” of the chosen chapter
of Isaiah.

“When Jesus went into the
synagogue, they handed him the Torah to read Isaiah 61, ‘The spirit of the Lord
is upon me, he has anointed me to set the captives free,'” Emerine explained.
“So I believe he’s saying, ‘I want to restore life back to all the families
that have been affected by the death sentence that was here.'”

The conversion of the clinic has
redeeming significance to Mandy Sattler, one of the planning members. Nine
years ago, a student just beginning nursing school, she had her own abortion at
the Center for Choice. She described the shame that kept her silent for years,
and the hope that this new chapter brings.

“To know that the building had
been taken down, it was a sign for me: God’s taking care of this, he’s big
enough for this, you can let it go,” Sattler said.

When the Center for Choice
closed in June 2013, it had documented over 50,000 abortions in 30 years of
operation. Many of the organizations planning Hope Park had been praying and
working for years to see it shuttered.

The breakthrough came when the clinic
was unable to secure a “transfer agreement” with a local hospital. Such an
arrangement is required by Ohio law for all ambulatory surgical facilities,
giving a doctor admitting privileges should a patient be in a condition
requiring hospitalization.

Ed Sitter, executive director of
the Foundation for Life, has now focused his organization’s efforts on shutting
down the one remaining abortion clinic in Toledo: Capital Care Network. “If
women have more time to really contemplate their decision, they get more
informed, they get more aware, they’re empowered to make a life-affirming
decision,” he said.

From Sept. 28 until the
beginning of November, prayer vigils for the national 40 Days for Life campaign
will be held outside Capital Care Network. A thanksgiving service at Hope Park also
was planned for Oct. 6. Peter Range, director of the Office for Life and
Justice at Catholic Charities, is helping to organize those events.

“It’s amazing to see God’s hand
at work and a good reminder that God does have the ultimate victory. Life does
eventually triumph over death,” he told CNS.

“Prayer is really truly one of
our most powerful weapons,” Sitter explained. “I believe that Capital Care
Network will also close like the Center for Choice, and I believe that abortion
will become a thing of the past.”

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