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Planned Parenthood surrounded in prayer for over an hour

More than 1,800 faithful participate in March 5 procession

Aaron Lambert

It was a powerful, solemn scene at Planned Parenthood in Stapleton on Saturday morning as Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila led some 1,800 Catholics in a Eucharistic procession seven times around the abortion clinic, essentially surrounding the facility with silent prayer for over an hour.

“It was truly a moment of grace, a moment of blessing, a moment of praying to our Lord that hearts may be changed,” Archbishop Aquila said. “It was wonderful to see how many turned out today.”

The archbishop announced his intention to lead the procession in mid-February, and the response to the event was overwhelmingly positive, said Karna Swanson, the communications director for the archdiocese.

 

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Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila led a Eucharistic Procession around the Planned Parenthood in Stapleton on March 5. It was a solemn moment of silent prayer that drew 1,800 faithful. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic)

“We set up a simple website with a no-nonsense invitation for people to come and pray with the archbishop, and immediately we were hearing from people just thanking the archbishop for doing this,” Swanson said.

“No shouting or arguing,” the Archdiocese of Denver website stated in describing the event. “Only prayerful witness to the love and mercy of God.”

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Fitting 1,800 people onto the sidewalk of a city block was a logistical challenge for the organizers of the March 5 Eucharistic procession around the Planned Parenthood in Stapleton. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic).

To ensure the sacred nature of the Eucharistic procession, the archdiocesan liturgy office set the tone for the event and organized the logistics of the transferring the Eucharist to the site, in addition to providing prayer books for those in attendance.

Before the procession began, Father Scott Bailey addressed the crowd and emphasized the importance of silence. “Silence is an essential part of the procession as we unite our voices with those who have been silenced by abortion,” he said.

 

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A police officer watches over 1,800 faithful participate in the March 5 Eucharistic procession around the Planned Parenthood in Stapleton. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic).

Seminarians from St. John Vianney Theological Seminary led the people in the hymns and prayers each time the procession passed around the building. They also assisted with crowd management.

“We were honestly expecting 500-800 people,” Swanson noted. “Three times that number showed up. This provided a bit of a challenge for us logistically, as 1,800 people don’t exactly fit on the sidewalk of a city block.

“We wanted to make sure everyone who wanted to participate could, but we also didn’t want to give any reason for the police department to shut the event down.”

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Many of the 1,800 faithful at the March 5 Eucharistic procession around the Planned Parenthood in Stapleton were seen praying the rosary as they walked. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic)

Though the procession spilled out into the street, local off-duty police officers were on-hand to ensure that it didn’t impede traffic or cause an inability for cars to enter or leave the facility.

“There was wonderful teamwork on the ground, between the seminarians, the AMDG Cycling group, the police officers, and the participants,” said Swanson. “It was obvious to all that we were just there to pray. And pray we did, nearly everyone in the crowd was holding a rosary in their hands, and small groups throughout the crowd were praying the rosary together. We definitely stormed heaven with our prayers.”

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The AMDG Cycling club volunteered at the March 5 Eucharistic procession to help keep the overflowing crowds from impeding traffic. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic)

Families with young children were well-represented in the crowd, as well as religious sisters. The Nashville Dominicans, the Sisters of Life and the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo were all present. Dozens of seminarians were on hand from both of the seminaries of Denver, as well as many members of the clergy.

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The Nashville Dominicans were one of several orders of religious orders that attended the March 5 Eucharistic procession. Others included the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, the Sisters of Life and the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic)

The Martinez family from St. Augustine Parish in Brighton was one of many families in attendance. Jaime Martinez, along with his wife, children and parents-in-law, came to the procession to pray as a family for the end of abortion.

“We came here to speak for the unborn children who are getting aborted every single day here, and to pray for those mothers who are thinking about aborting their children so they can think about walking a different path and choosing a different option,” Martinez said.

He added, “It was very touching to see a lot of people join forces to promote the pro-life movement. Hopefully we can see more of this in future.”

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The Martinez family from St. Augustine Parish in Brighton was one of many families in attendance. Jaime Martinez, along with his wife, children and parents-in-law, came to the procession to pray as a family for the end of abortion. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic)

Sam and Amber Bittner came with their two children, Matthew and Evelyn, as well as coordinating “Respect” and “Life” shirts. For the growing family—Amber is expecting their third child—they were there to “bring some joy.”

“We need to bring some joy into the situation, and show that we care, and that we love,” Sam told the Denver Catholic. “And it’s not just ‘you’re wrong.’”

“We came as a witness to our kids,” added Amber. “We wanted to show them that it’s really important to be involved to pray for those who are making the decisions, and also for the babies.”

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Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic

COMING UP: Archbishop Aquila, World Youth Day vet

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DENVER, CO - AUGUST 15: People gather to mark the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's visit to Denver, Colorado, for World Youth Day 1993, celebrating Mass at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization on August 15, 2013, in Denver, Colorado. The event coincided with the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the pope's final Mass at Cherry Creek State Park 20 years earlier. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic Register)

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila speaks during the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Denver, Colorado, for World Youth Day 1993, celebrating Mass at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization on August 15, 2013, in Denver, Colorado. The event coincided with the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the pope’s final Mass at Cherry Creek State Park 20 years earlier. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila is what one might call a bit of a World Youth Day veteran.

Archbishop Aquila has not missed a single World Youth Day since he became a bishop in 2001. He was also a priest in Denver during Saint John Paul II’s iconic visit to the city for World Youth Day in 1993, and played an integral role in organizing the Holy Father’s visit. He welcomed Pope John Paul II upon his arrival to Denver and introduced him to some of the laypeople and clergy who were there to greet him. He was also responsible for the coordination of the liturgies and Masses.

So, for those keeping track, this year’s World Youth Day in Krakow will mark (at least) the seventh one Archbishop Aquila has attended.

That this year’s World Youth Day is taking place in Saint John Paul II’s homeland of Poland marks a special occasion, especially for Denver Catholics, not only because of the immeasurable impact he had on the Archdiocese of Denver, but also because it is the first World Youth Day to take place in Poland since John Paul II was canonized a saint.

At each World Youth Day, Archbishop Aquila has been invited to be a catechist bishop for the English speakers, which he called “a real privilege.” He said it’s fascinating to see the dialogue that takes place among the young people, and also the influence of the values of each culture present. It really speaks to the universality of the Church, which Archbishop Aquila said is his favorite aspect of World Youth Day.

“For myself, what I find really valuable is the gathering of young people from throughout the world, for them to visually see and encounter the universality of the Church, and for them to be able to meet other young Catholics who are all committed to the faith,” Archbishop Aquila said. “When one sees that kind of witness, it goes so against the culture of the world. The only thing that draws us together is Christ, and nothing else.”