Under police permit conditions, a vigil is permitted on the first Saturday of each month at the Nanyara Abortion clinic in Rivervale, but only ten people may attend at any given time and everyone must be gone by 10.30AM.

The first Saturday in November 2020 saw about eighteen people attend the 8.30AM Mass at St Augustines, and then make the procession to Nanyara. This was a problem but fortunately one of our number knew the owner of the home across the road from the clinic – and he permitted the eight ‘excess’ people to pray in his front yard and not be part of the vigil itself. Fortunate indeed.

I am not sure why I went to Nanyara on that day. I had been at the Teeball club all morning, coaching and helping, setting up and putting away, and by the time I got to the vigil it was already at least 9.45AM. I was tired. Perhaps it was the opportunity to talk to Chris, a Seminarian at St Charles who was attending for the first time along with a few of his friends. Whatever the reason, I arrived and took my place, even leading the prayer at one stage. It felt good to be there.

After a few minutes a lady drove up and parked in the driveway of a house nearby. She got out of the car and immediately started taking photos of our people from a distance. They all had their backs to her, they were all on the street verge and all were obeying social distancing rules. She had not noticed the extra people in the front yard of the house across the road, but we noticed her.

I left the group and went over to her to say hello. Normally we are not allowed to talk to anyone unless they approach us first, but on this day I was not part of the official vigil and she was not a clinic attendee. Anyway, I asked her why she was taking photos and she said she was just making sure that we were behaving properly. I was surprised, and she didn’t elaborate on what ‘behaving properly’ meant anyway, but I asked her if she would like to take my photo as well. It was her turn to be surprised. She said that she had undergone an abortion twenty years previously and it had been a very difficult time for her. She told me she had to have the abortion as part of escaping a very violent domestic situation.

I immediately felt great sympathy for this poor lady and what she had gone through, and it was obvious to me that she was still suffering because of her decision. It was also obvious she had not forgiven herself, nor sought forgiveness from the Lord, but instead was directing her anger and suffering at our people.

I also felt immediate grief for the child who died. This little one was not responsible for the sins of her father, but lost her life anyway.

What do you say to someone you meet who is still suffering twenty years after an abortion?

You can’t tell her it is OK because of course it is not. But you can help her to confess and seek forgiveness. You can try to start the healing process. You can try to help lead her to the Lord. But, softly, softly…

As she was stashing her camera and getting back into her car I told her I would pray for her. And I asked her to name the little one she had lost.

She didn’t answer me, but instead drove away very slowly. I know now that she is the reason I went to the prayer vigil that day. I know now that she has started on the road back.