Back in 1973, after the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion, Archbishop Fulton Sheen urged persons of faith wishing to save the lives of babies to pray for them. The archbishop understood that “prayer is the best weapon to help them — the most effective.” He introduced a program called Spiritual Adoption, asking people to pray every day for nine months to protect the life of a baby threatened by abortion. The simple prayer he gave us is this: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you very much. I beg you to spare the life of the unborn baby that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion.”
Our Respect Life Committee at St. Benedict parish was seeking a way to engage more parishioners to support the campaign to end abortion. Archbishop Fulton’s approach was a simple yet meaningful way to engage families and individuals in the effort to protect life. We purchased tiny rubber fetal models that show a child at 12 weeks’ gestation in the womb. They allowed people to see that the unborn baby is a real person with all the “parts” of a newborn baby already developed. We wrapped half of them in pink blankets and half in blue. Our pastor permitted us to speak of the program from the pulpit. We hoped that 100 babies would be spiritually adopted, but the response was overwhelming and more than 200 babies were taken home. Each adoptive parent was given a prayer card and encouraged to name their baby to personalize their prayer.
In addition to the baby and prayer card, we provided monthly updates in our church bulletin telling the adoptive parents of the ongoing development of their babies. We included a drawing as well as a description of all the changes taking place as the babies grew. Now to celebrate the lives of these babies, we are having a baby shower on May 22 hosted by our parish Women’s Club. Adoptive parents will bring gifts needed by local pregnancy centers and celebrate those babies they have prayed to life.
And it would be a holy and life-giving experience if the story ended here.
But our director of religious education took the program a step further to engage young children. She had each class adopt and pray for an unborn baby. For the sake of the very young children, she modified the last line of the prayer to ask for “the birth of a healthy baby” rather than specifically mentioning the word “abortion.” The children took turns taking the baby home and praying with their families. The children accepted this as a serious responsibility, never forgetting to take the baby home or return the baby on time for the next child.
In April, the religious education director and the parents hosted baby showers in the classrooms. Each class was given a theme for their gifts … feed the baby, diaper the baby, clothe the baby, clean the baby, etc. Most of the children helped shop for the gifts and, with their parents, delivered more gifts than could have ever been expected. What a wonderful way to teach young children the value of life and the importance of prayer.
We on the Respect Life Committee were overwhelmed by the response of the spiritually adoptive parents. This program truly brings these unborn babies to life. Only God knows how many babies our prayers saved. But I am certain that saying this prayer every day greatly touched the hearts of those who prayed it. If you would like to introduce this program at your church, go to spiritualadoption.org for information and materials.
Susan Zeleniak and her husband retired to Mt. Pleasant from the Washington, D.C. area in 2013 to be close to their children and grandchildren. Susan attends St. Benedict Parish where she is on the Parish Council, secretary of the Woman’s Club, a lector and active with St. Vincent de Paul Society. Susan is on the Board of Charleston 40 Days for Life and serves as a guardian ad litem for children in protective custody.