Those participating in the 40 Days for Life vigil stand outside the Planned Parenthood clinic on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston Oct. 28. Pilot photo/Christine M. Williams
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BOSTON -- Several dozen people huddled under umbrellas outside the Planned Parenthood on Commonwealth Avenue for a special candlelight vigil led by Bishop John Dooher on Oct. 28.
The auxiliary bishop of the South Region led the rosary dedicated to the unborn. He asked God to "be with us as we work together to protect all life and the weakest among us."
In an interview after the event, Bishop Dooher commended those gathered for their "courageous" witness to the value of all human life even through inclement weather. On this particular evening, raindrops fell fast and hard; by the time the hour-long prayer service had ended, people were soaked to the skin.
"They're standing in the rain for the babies," he said. "I am here to pray with the people of God who are standing for life."
Candlelight vigils are held every Friday during the 40 Days for Life Boston campaign; this one took place on Wednesday in order to accommodate Bishop Dooher's schedule. The peaceful, prayerful 40-day vigil is held twice a year in hundreds of cities all over the world, including six in Massachusetts -- Attleboro, Boston, Haverhill, Lynn, Springfield and Worcester.
Participants stand outside abortion clinics in all types of weather. "We never cancel," said Rita Russo, director of 40 Days for Life Boston, adding that she was very pleased that so many people came out despite the rain. The crowd was significantly larger than usual vigil crowds, with many new faces, which Russo attributed to the presence of Bishop Dooher.
"As Catholics, it means so much to have our clergy with us. It lifts us up. I feel lifted up," she told The Pilot. At the end of the event, Russo told the bishop they were "thrilled" to have him there, and the crowd gave him a round of applause.
Sheila Flanagan, from St. Bartholomew Parish in Needham, said she came to pray with the bishop and to encourage him.
She said of clergy members, "Their prayers are worth their weight in gold."
On Oct. 28, the crowd prayed the rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. They sang hymns, including "Immaculate Mary" and "Ave Maria." They stood under umbrellas, holding rosaries, battery-operated candles or signs that read "Planned Parenthood Lies to You" or "Pray to End Abortion."
They lined either side of the sidewalk in front of the abortion clinic, which stands next to a grocery store and the west campus of Boston University. Pedestrians walked down the middle of the sidewalk; most continued on their way, but one man threw a 12 oz. can of beer at the ground near the speaker and gave the crowd both middle fingers as he walked away.
Robert Troiano from Our Lady the Assumption Parish in Marshfield said that this was his third protest outside Planned Parenthood. He began coming to pray outside the clinic after the Center for Medical Progress released a series of undercover videos that show high level PP employees pricing fetal organs. The selling of human body parts is a federal crime. PP officials at the national level have denied illegal activity, saying that the employees were merely discussing the "reasonable payments" for the "transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of human fetal tissue" allowed by federal law.
Troiano said he saw the video footage of the aborted babies' arms and legs and knew he needed to do something.
"This is slaughter, and it's murder at our back door -- at our front door," he said.
Jim Drummey, who with his wife has co-chaired the Norwood pro-life group for 41 years, said the videos have brought to light gruesome details about abortion clinics. "It's so barbaric, you can't believe people aren't upset by it."