A morning Mass at St. Andrew Catholic Church today kicks off a local push organized in support of a worldwide campaign that aims to end abortion.
The campaign, 40 Days For Life, is a peaceful, prayerful, pro-life effort that started in 2007. Observed in hundreds of cities twice a year - the spring and fall - the goal is to raise awareness and call for an end to all abortions.
"It is an effort to bring awareness and attention to abortion in our communities," Cape Coral resident Paula Hellenbrand said. "The goal, of course, is to bring an end to abortion clinics in our neighborhoods."
"We're about finding life alternatives for mother and baby," she said.
Hellenbrand is co-coordinating the local push with her husband, Rick.
"We thought it was an excellent way to put our faith in action," she said.
This is the second year that the local campaign has been organized.
"We have not done a spring campaign locally," Hellenbrand said.
At 9 a.m., the Bishop Frank Dewane of the Diocese of Venice will officiate the Mass at St. Andrew to kick off the Fort Myers-Cape Coral effort. Dewane and participants will then proceed to the Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers.
At the site, located at Winkler Avenue and College Parkway, the bishop will lead participants in a prayerful procession and they will line the sidewalk.
"We will have a peaceful presence outside of Planned Parenthood over the next 40 days," Hellenbrand said. "It's prayer and fasting."
The worldwide campaign wraps up on Nov. 4.
Volunteers will be available to talk about the alternatives to abortion with anyone visiting the facility, and all have signed a "statement of peace."
"They will not be confrontational - they will not have graphic images," she said. "It's really more to get the attention of people going by."
Approximately 150 people had volunteered to take part as of Tuesday.
Cape resident Jane Longo is a local volunteer and a team member.
"I believe our most basic right is the right to life," she said.
According to Longo, she participated in the Fort Myers-Cape campaign last year, but she took part in the Sarasota effort in the years before that.
"It's just really people walking up and down, praying," she said.
Longo called it a silent prayerful vigil with no shouting.
"No aggressive moves, no exchange with people that might not agree," she said. "Just respect life signs - just trying to get the message across."
The campaign is non-denominational, Hellenbrand explained. The Cape's Vineyard Community Church and Assemblies of God in Fort Myers are taking part locally, along with St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in the Cape.
Members from local organizations, including the Knights of Columbus and Couples for Christ, have also volunteered for the campaign, she added.
"We still have plenty of spots for volunteers," Hellenbrand said.
St. Andrew Catholic Church is at 2628 Del Prado Blvd., S.
For more information or to volunteer to participate in the local campaign, contact (239) 810-3866 or online: www.40DaysForLife.com/FortMyers.