Catholic Sentinel photo 
People gather for the opening of the 40 Days for Life campaign. 
Catholic Sentinel photo
People gather for the opening of the 40 Days for Life campaign. 

As Archbishop Alexander Sample gazed out among the prayerful faces outside Southeast Portland’s Planned Parenthood tonight, he told everyone how inspired he felt by their presence. 

After a showery day, the sky cleared into a dusky pink sunset, and Catholics gathered for the opening night of this year’s 40 Days for Life, a campaign and vigil to end abortion.

During his welcome, Archbishop Sample beseeched the crowd to radiate compassion, not only for women facing unplanned pregnancies as they make difficult choices, but also for the babies’ fathers. He asked that they pray, too, for those who work in the abortion industry to have a change of heart.

“This tragedy has to stop,” he said.

Nearly 200 people gathered outside of the Planned Parenthood site in Southeast Portland during the launch of this year’s campaign.

Among the speakers were Rebekah Barnes, Northwest regional coordinator of Students for Life; and Arthur Henry, a Catholic apologeticist with a master’s degree in theology from Mount Angel Seminary.

 “You’re going to get some insults,” Henry told the crowd, but he encouraged everyone not to be anxious. Work to change minds and hearts, and if you’re up against someone who won’t budge, he said, “remember about turning the other cheek. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of tremendous defiance.” 

Therese Ruesink, one of the leaders of the Portland vigil and member of Madeleine and St. Rose parishes in Northeast Portland, was in attendance. She will be at the Planned Parenthood site almost every day of the 40-day campaign.

Matt Cato, director of the Archdiocese of Portland’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, was among those who helped lead the rosary. He believes the tide is turning and this generation will be the one to abolish abortion.

Though many vigils go year-round, this autumn’s 40 Days for Life started Sept. 25 and continues through Nov. 3

The 40 Days for Life movement, which began in Bryan/College Station, Texas, uses the peaceful approaches of fasting and prayer, vigils and outreach to show communities the consequences of abortion.

In Portland, the group gathers 9 a.m.-6 p.m. each day at the Northeast Portland Planned Parenthood, 3231 SE 50th.

In Beaverton, the group gathers 7 a.m.-7 p.m. every Friday at Planned Parenthood, 12220 SW First St., three blocks from St. Cecilia Church.

In Salem, the vigil takes placed 8 a.m.-8 p.m. at Planned Parenthood, 3825 Wolverine St., near McKay High School and a shopping mall.

Rafela Offield, a member of New Harvest Church in Salem, is coordinating this year’s vigil in Salem. They are not only praying to end abortion in the world, she said, but also that the workers and doctors at Planned Parenthood will change their hearts and minds.

“The truth is that God created all lives — the life of that baby in the womb starts at conception,” she said. “No one has the right to take away life from that baby. Not even the mother.”

The Salem group has set up a Facebook page. Go to and search for Salem 40 Days for Life.

“We are the voice for the voiceless,” Offield said. “These babies need someone to speak up for them because they can’t speak up for themselves.”

A vigil will also be held at the Planned Parenthood in Vancouver, Wash., 11516 SE Mill Plain Blvd., from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.