The Catholic Commentator  

The 2016 flood temporarily silenced 40 Days for Life Baton Rouge, but the annual campaign has regained its voice for the unborn as it resumed Sept. 27 and will go through Nov. 5, said Danielle Van Haute, Respect Life Coordinator for the Diocese of Baton Rouge. She is co-chair of the event along with Clelie and Charles Carpenter.   

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Among the participants in the 2015 40 Days for Life Campaign were, from left, Bernie and Mike Dellucci, Sheryl Womack, Carolyn and Ross McCalip, Sam Mistretta, Gordon Dwyer and Lee Miller.  Photo provided by Sam Mistretta. 


“People are definitely happy that the effort is going to continue,” said Van Haute. Many people have asked her, “When are we going to start again?”  

Local participants will join in a worldwide 40 Days for Life campaign of prayer and fasting to help save the lives of the unborn that are in danger of being aborted.  

Church groups, organizations, schools and individuals from around the area will hold a peaceful vigil daily from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. outside of Delta Women’s Clinic in Baton Rouge, where nearly 2,000 babies are aborted annually, according to Van Haute.  

She said the 2015 campaign was successful, with more than 1,400 individuals coming out to pray and 13 women confirming they were choosing to give life to their babies.  

There are three ways people can participate in 40 Days for Life, according to Van Haute. One way is to commit to fasting and prayer. Fasting includes abstaining from food or some activity they enjoy, such as time visiting social media sites or watching television.  

People can also sign up for the prayer vigil outside of Delta by visiting the 40 Days for Life website at or, thirdly, promote the event by referring people to the website or printing the information out from it and giving it to people.  

Van Haute acknowledged some people might be hesitant to pray outside an abortion clinic.  

“Before people come to Delta for the first time during 40 Days for Life, they imagine chaos and people yelling – a very somber environment. Once they see that it is very peaceful, it gives them a different perspective – it makes it real for them.  

“We can hear about the issue and read about it, but until we see it in a personal way it is only an abstract idea,” said Van Haute.  

She pointed out that through 40 Days for Life, participants have been able to direct women with crisis pregnancies to Woman’s New Life Center, which is next door to Delta, to receive important resources they need to help them as they give life to their babies.  

Women and men who have experienced abortion can also receive information about resources available to help them heal from its effects, such as Project Rachel.  

Participants also pray for the conversion of the abortion workers at the facility, said Van Haute.  

Sam Mistretta, a member of St. Aloysius Church in Baton Rouge and Knight of Columbus Culture of Life Chair for the State of Louisiana, and his wife, Arline, participated for the first time in 40 Days for Life Baton Rouge in 2011 through their involvement with the Knights of Columbus council at St. Aloysius.  

Like many, he and his wife were nervous before going to their first event, because they had seen news reports about angry confrontations at abortion facilities. They were relieved that is was a comfortable atmosphere and they prayed the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet with others.  

“It is simply good to spend time in prayer with so many of my fellow Catholics,” said Minstretta.  

And he had memorable experiences there.  

“One day, we were sitting and visiting before we started to pray the rosary when we heard raised voices coming from the parking lot,” he said. “We immediately went over to pray nearby. We saw what appeared to be a woman and her daughter arguing near a car. We could not tell exactly what was going on, but it seemed to us that the woman was trying to get the daughter to go into the clinic.  

“One of us called out to her and asked that she please not force her daughter to have an abortion. She responded to us that she wasn’t going to allow her daughter to abort the twins she was carrying. Apparently the father of the babies had brought the mother to the clinic to have the abortion, and she began to have second thoughts. He left her there, so she called her mother to pick her up … Once they left, the security guard came over to us. She said that after the women left she saw something on the ground near where the car had been. It was a St. Michael medal, which she immediately picked up and put it on her key chain.”  

Minstretta added, “On another day, a young woman was getting out of a car, and one of the sidewalk counselors called out to her and began to talk to her. She agreed to go over to Woman’s New Life Center. Once inside, an older man got out of the car, went over to the Woman’s New Life Center, physically pulled her out of the building and brought her over to the abortion facility. She had told the sidewalk counselor that she did not want the abortion, but she was being forced into it by this man believed to be her father. The counselor told the security guard about this, and she went inside to tell the abortion workers about the situation. He was insisting that she have the abortion, but they are not allowed by law to perform abortions on women who are being coerced.”  

Minstretta said he and his wife continue to come back because they see the impact the vigil is having on the community.  

“St. Mother Teresa said, ‘The greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.’ Once you understand the grave evil of abortion, there is a strong desire to pray,” said Mistretta. “After we experienced 40 Days for Life that first time, I knew that we would return the next year and we have ever since,” he said.  

Kyle Balkum, a member of St. Jude Church in Baton Rouge, has been involved with 40 Days for Life Baton Rouge since it began in 2011.  

“Although I was hesitant, maybe even a bit frightened, to pray outside of an abortion facility I felt a responsibility to do so,” said Balkum. “I wanted to bring a little peace and prayer to that sad place. I honestly believe the Holy Spirit was tugging at my heart.”     

Balkum said his most memorable experience is not one single defining moment, but of the overall prayerful nature of the vigil.  

“It’s arriving in the early morning hours before the facility opens. The fall mornings are quiet and the weather is cool. The sun is rising. It’s really beautiful,” said Balkum. “And even in this beautiful and peaceful setting, you’re just steps away from such a tragic and sad building. The contrast is so powerful. In this place I feel especially close to our Lord Jesus.”  

For more information about 40 Days for Life Baton Rouge, visit or call Van Haute at 225-242-0164.