By Anne Marie Amacher
BETTENDORF — A rosary and candlelight vigil drew a standing-room-only crowd Jan. 22 at the Women’s Choice Center to mark the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
Father Anthony Co, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Andalusia, Ill., and chaplain at Alleman High School and Augustana College, both in Rock Island, Ill., led the rosary.
He noted he was participating for the first time in this event at the Women’s Choice Center and he hoped it was not his last.
Fr. Co invited the crowd to pray the rosary, reciting the luminous mysteries in English or in Spanish as there were a number of Hispanics in the crowd. If anyone had forgotten to bring a rosary, the priest said not to worry. “Use your fingers. I do.”
The candlelight vigil followed.
Mary Jones, president of the Life and Family Education Trust that oversees the pro-life center, informed participants that the center has seen an increase in business. Because of that, some re-arranging had taken place to make more room for client services.
Fr. Co then said the opening prayer for the vigil, followed by David Ryckman, who performed music. Helena Hanson spoke on “The Abortion Issue” and Sara Mainey and Nikki Boland gave testimonies. Jeanne Wonio spoke on “Victory through Prayer.” The event closed with prayer by Rev. Dwight Ford Jr., director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Rock Island, Ill., and pastor of Grace City Church in Moline, Ill. Participants were encouraged to process across the street to Planned Parenthood to pray.
Vicki Tyler, executive director of the Women’s Choice Center, said she was encouraged by the large turnout — especially with the frigid temperatures and blowing snow.
She said that during recitation of the rosary she felt the Holy Spirit was ushered in; the Spirit was moving. “It was packed. There were people kneeling and sitting on the floor. And people flowing in the foyer. It was awesome.”
She noted that a group from Galesburg, Ill., which is about an hour’s drive away, arrived at 5:30 p.m. A contingent of Hispanic Catholics from St. Mary Parish in Moline, Ill., also participated.
Janessa Ormsby of Bettendorf said she attended the event because she believes Jesus came to save, and she couldn’t understand how other people could take a life. “Jesus gave his life for us. I will do whatever I can to support life. I know there is power in prayer.”
She appreciated the diversity of culture and ages at this year’s event. “With so many young people, it shows that the pro-life movement can continue to move forward.”
Eric Villagomez of Moline said he was encouraged by his religious education teacher to attend. “I came because of the fight against abortion. I believe every child should have the chance to come into life.”