Vatican official blesses former abortion facility in Bryan

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, visited and blessed the facility for 40 Days for Life in Bryan on Feb. 5. (Photo courtesy Jill Copeland, 40 Days for Life)

By Mary P. Walker
Senior Correspondent

In 1999, who could have imagined that Planned Parenthood’s new building constructed to provide abortions in the Bryan/College Station area would one day house the headquarters of an international pro-life organization and be blessed by an archbishop from the Vatican?
“Seeing this building transformed into a house of life increases your belief in miracles,” said Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who visited and blessed the building on Feb. 5. The Academy is the Vatican’s primary agency for promoting the sanctity of human life around the world.
Those attending marveled at what seemed to be God’s sense of irony and justice. When the abortion clinic first opened, pro-life Christians united in protest. Across denominational boundaries, they mobilized a grassroots organization that over time discerned the model of fasting and continuous peaceful, prayerful protest for 40 days outside the clinic. 
The first 40 days campaign was in 2004, and it spread to other cities. Today the 40 Days for Life organization brings this grassroots movement to other parts of the nation and world. When Planned Parenthood closed the Bryan clinic in 2013 after years of prayerful protest outside, the Brazos Valley’s pioneering pro-life community rejoiced. Now, the same building, where an estimated 6,300 babies lost their lives to abortion, is the international headquarters for 40 Days for Life.  
This movement has not only served as a blueprint for other communities, but has also formed a new generation of prolife leaders. Worldwide, the results of the 40 Days vigils are impressive, with the lives of 12,688 babies saved, 143 abortion workers leaving their jobs and the closing of 83 abortion clinics. 
In addition to housing 40 Days for Life, the clinic space is now home to the medical practices of Drs. Noreen Johnson and Haywood Robinson, former abortion providers. They have publicly shared their own conversion experience, and encourage women with challenging pregnancies to choose life for their babies and for their own wellbeing. 
Shawn Carney, president of 40 Days for Life, said that he, the staff and volunteers were honored and humbled by Archbishop Paglia’s visit. The archbishop first heard about 40 Days’ success through friends in the U.S. Last September he endorsed the organization. 
When the 40 Days team learned that Archbishop Paglia would be addressing the American bishops in Dallas, they invited him to visit the headquarters in Bryan. To their delight, he accepted. 
With a personality that radiates warmth and joy, the archbishop offered words of welcome and encouragement, led prayers, and toured and blessed the building. Later, speaking through a translator, the archbishop indicated that he would share 40 Days’ message of hope with Pope Francis. 
The archbishop also said that this was the first time he had ever been in a building where abortions had been performed. 
“I was deeply touched because for years it was a house of pain and great trouble, especially great loneliness,” Archbishop Paglia said. While changing laws is important, he encouraged 40 Days to continue being a movement of hope, “It’s not just buildings that change, but hearts.” That is the greatest miracle, he said. 
For more information about 40 Days for Life, visit www.40daysforlife.com or call (888)-LIFE-3316.