It was an overcast spring day when a group of nearly 20, including Bishop Ronald Gainer, stood in prayer outside the Planned Parenthood clinic on North Second Street in Harrisburg.
These Sidewalk Advocates for Life are part of Undefeated Courage, a 501(c)(3), which works peacefully to engage with women considering abortion outside of abortion facilities. Literally providing an immediate intervention on the front lines, the group also gathered for a blessing of their new chapel, located just across the street from the Planned Parenthood facility.
In his homily during the Mass, Bishop Gainer explained that the Gospel reading of the disciples gathered in the Upper Room can be applied to the purpose everyone was gathered together in the chapel. The disciples were called to be witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus, to witness to the truth.
“I think we can apply these to the purpose that we are gathered here today, to the purpose you are all so dedicated to in this upper room, this place of prayer,” said Bishop Gainer. “The work that has been entrusted to us is to witness to the reality, the truth of human life. People’s eyes need to be opened, people’s hearts need to be opened.”
The bishop added that like the disciples, we are called to share the truth and to persevere.
“Even when we gather here in this upper room, the important work spent here in Adoration and prayer will be a launching pad to the outward sign of witness,” he added.
“This new location is vital because the presence of the Blessed Sacrament is powerful!” said Becky Biter, who founded Undefeated Courage in 2014 with her husband, Shawn. “Our new chapel, which overlooks Planned Parenthood, will be used for Mass and Adoration every first Thursday of the month for people to come and pray for the closing of that facility and the ending of abortion.”
This is the second chapel location for Undefeated Courage. Their first location is across from the Planned Parenthood office on Beaver Street in York.
“They have a home Mass every first Friday of the month,” said Biter.
In addition to prayer, the chapels will also have all the organization’s resource materials quickly on hand for volunteers.
Undefeated Courage is a sidewalk counseling ministry, which the Biter’s established after attending a Rachel’s Vineyard healing retreat. Becky lost two children to abortion when she was a teenager and hopes this ministry will help other women not make the same decisions she did.
As a sidewalk ministry, volunteers stand outside the Planned Parenthood facilities in Harrisburg and York every day they are open. These volunteers offer prayers and hope to those who feel abortion is their only option.
According to their materials, Undefeated Courage has four pillars to their ministry:
- Prayer, as it can change the hearts and minds of women and men who feel abortion is their only option.
- Passion, to preserving and promoting life.
- People, to serve those and offer help, especially to those facing an unexpected pregnancy.
- Purpose, to offer those hurting a lifeline in a compassionate, caring, loving way.
In addition to the sidewalk ministry, the organization has been raising funds for three years to bring a mobile ultrasound unit to the central Pennsylvania area.
“In fact, Denise (Rentschler) and I leave on May 13 to travel to Colorado to pick up our vehicle and drive her home,” said Biter.
This unit will be parked outside the abortion facilities in Harrisburg and York. Women who enter the mobile unit will be met with prayerful support, counseling, abortion pill reversal information, free pregnancy testing and limited ultrasounds. These women will also leave with an action plan, connecting them to a pregnancy resource center or medical facility to continue their care.
It is anticipated the unit will also visit college campuses, houses of worship and community fairs to spread the pro-life message and offer hope.
How to Help
Biter explained there are many ways to help Undefeated Courage with their ministry, including coming to pray before the Blessed Sacrament at the new Harrisburg location. The ministry is also looking for more prayer partners, sidewalk counselors and financial support. This financial support could be through a monthly gift, asking friends and family to donate to the organization in lieu of birthday presents, and through sponsoring the Boundless Love Gala.
By Rachel Bryson, M.S., The Catholic Witness