Bible study group prays at 40 Days

By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator

As they pray for and encounter women in crisis pregnancy situations at 40 Days for Life in Baton Rouge, the women’s Scripture study group To Jesus Through Mary learn they are fulfilling their own divine missions as moms and disciples.

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From left, Tammie May, Jeanne Garcia and Sheryl Womack pray the rosary at 40 Days for Life in Baton Rouge. Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator


The annual 40 Days for Life campaign sets up outside of the Delta Women’s Clinic, where abortions are performed.

“To Jesus Through Mary group – we also refer to ourselves as ‘The Catholic Nuts’ ­– began very randomly. Yet, all of us who are still involved with the group today know that God’s divine hand is how we began and how we continue,” said Shelly Romero.

The group has its origins in women’s Scripture study groups at St. Thomas More Church in Baton Rouge, which in the course of two years studied St. John Paul II’s exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” and apostolic letter “Muleiris Dignitatem (Dignity and Vocation of Women),” said Romero, who led one of the groups.

After the second year the women of To Jesus Through Mary branched out on their own with the group comprised of women from the original study group and others. Women from several other church parishes in Baton Rouge, including Our Lady of Mercy, St. Jude  and St. Aloysius joined them.

“Our goal has always remained the same from day one and that is working toward having holy marriages and raising holy children who will grow to know, love and serve the Lord.  We are drawn together by our love for God and our Catholic faith, and we try to hold one another accountable at being as holy as we can be according to our state in life,” Romero said. “We have been together while raising our children, while educating our children through college, while marrying off some of our children, burying some of our parents, and now some are  enjoying grandchildren – so we have truly watched one another grow at every level.”   

Each year the group prays for God to guide them to a Scripture-based book that will help them grow in holiness and also seek the input of a priest.

The 12-14 members take turns meet ing at each other’s home. During the weekly, two-hour meeting the women discuss the book, pray the rosary, reflect on the Gospel of the day, discuss virtues and study the Catechism of The Catholic Church.  Sometimes they meet for Mass and at adoration chapels for silent, semi-guided prayer.

Romero said from the beginning of the group’s participation in 40 Days for Life their commitment has been “100%.”

She added, “Honestly, there are so many beautiful experiences we have had while sitting there praying over the years, that it is difficult to remember them all. We have had women come to the 40 Days for Life site tent and thank us as they tell us our witness of prayer prevented them from having their abortion.

“We have talked to dads in cars, and boyfriends while waiting in the parking lot, encouraging them to stop the abortion from taking place. We have sat and prayed with women under the tent and on the sidewalk who have shared their own abortion stories with us and we know we have been there for them as God’s mercy, because they had never told anyone their stories until that day. We have met mothers and their babies who were spared from abortion, and we celebrate with them their joy.” 

The group members come to 40 Days for Life weekly and draw from their experiences as mothers, pray the rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet, and read and reflect on the Gospel, said Jeanne Garcia and Tammie May.

“Because we have family we (felt called) to be here,” said Garcia, a member of STM, who prays that the women coming to the clinic for an abortion will understand they are carrying an unborn child.

She added, “I know how much joy my children bring me; it’s heartbreaking to think that these women would take their own children’s lives. They are throwing away God’s blessings.”

OLOM member Tammie May said the group is a presence of love, mercy, help and healing for women coming to the clinic for an abortion. They also pray for the conversion for those who work for the abortion industry.  

“He (Jesus) is love and we want to show (the women approaching the clinic) that love,” said May. 

“I pray that they somewhere down the road they will find healing and be brought back to God,” Garcia said.

In the midst of tragedy, however, the women believe through prayer that God plants the seeds that save babies and redeems souls.

“You see so many things, hear so many stories,” said May.

Sheryl Womack attends St. Aloysius Church and Our Lady of Mercy.

She said To Jesus Through Mary holds her accountable and accompanies her on her faith journey.

“We’re strong as individuals and strong as a group,” said Womack.

She was moved to join the prayer group at 40 Days for Life after reading the book “Unplanned” by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who left her job and became a pro-life advocate after witnessing an abortion procedure.

Womack said the people praying and sidewalk counselors form bonds as they support each other.

“The sidewalk counselors say when we pray they can feel it,” Womack said. “We hope (the women coming to the clinic for an abortion) can feel it too. It affects you deeply.”

She said many of the women in the prayer group have teenagers and they know that many of the young girls coming to the clinic are likely scared.

“These girls may feel like they have no place to turn. We want God to touch their hearts and let them know there are people here who love them and to help them in any capacity … all they need is love and kindness. There’s no judgment; they want them to know ‘God put you on Earth for a reason,’ ” Womack said.

May agreed, “It’s one person reaching out to another and that’s what Jesus does.”