(Lander, WY) – On November 6th, about 50 participants gathered at the corner of 2nd and Main for the closing ceremony of the second annual 40 Days for Life in Lander. County 10 was not aware of the closing ceremony, so we were not in attendance. However, we received a press release sharing the details of the event.
40 Days for Life started in 2007, and is an international event held in about 1,000 cities across 63 countries with over 1 million volunteers. It is a vigil of prayer and fasting to stand witness to the community about the reality of abortion, according to the press release emailed to County 10.
Fr. Louis Shea of St. Margaret’s Catholic Church in Riverton opened Saturday’s ceremony with a prayer for the conversion in the hearts of those who wrongly believe they can choose life or death for the preborn.
He also prayed for all to learn to celebrate the dignity of life. He emphasized, that God loves us passionately even when we are at our worst because we are His creation. He prayed for mothers and fathers everywhere to realize the love of God for us and His desire for us to do good and seek His forgiveness when we err, the release stated.
Pastor Terry Banker of New Hope Christian Church in Lander recognized local 40 Days for Life organizer Karen Wetzel for her drive and commitment to initiate and sustain this event for 40 days, rain or shine, popular or unpopular. He then spoke on the need to celebrate the fact that we can change lives.
“We also need to recognize the victims,” he said, “first the babies, but also their mothers who are misled and coerced and the fathers who are denied their paternal rights.”
Pastor Banker then related the story of a woman who came to his ministry for counseling. Her in-laws had forced her to have three abortions, and she was distraught with grief and guilt, the release stated. Through pastoral counseling, she received inner healing that brought her peace and forgiveness knowing her mistakes were paid for by Christ and she was reconciled to God through repentance.
Co-organizer, Lisa Sheehan, who also organized last year’s event, cited the documented results 40 Days for Life has had since 2007: 19,500 lives saved, 222 abortion workers that have quit that practice, 114 abortion centers closed, 20,000 churches and their leadership engaged, 8,000 local campaigns, and 588 lives saved worldwide since September 22nd, 2021.
Jill Cook, a student at Wyoming Catholic College and president of Cowboys For Life Club (CBLC), also praised “Aunty Karen” for being there every day in the rain and cold.
“A central document of 40 Days for Life is our ‘Statement of Peace,’” she said. “This is essential because to do otherwise would undermine our effectiveness. We need to know our facts and principles; but also need to make our case in love – that’s the real argument. You can see in the eyes of the abortion clinic clients their distress. They are being lied to and coerced. We must counter this with truth and love.”
Kate Wagner, secretary for CFLC also spoke, thanking the participants. She explained how late in her childhood she learned from her parents that she was an unplanned pregnancy. This convinced her parents that, abortion being unthinkable, they needed to get married; so they did. After her brother was born and they were both school age, their parents, dissatisfied with public education, enrolled them in the local parish school and joined the Catholic Church.
“Some of my friends were raised without Christian principles and adopted the pro-abortion rhetoric,” she added. “Through the witness of Christians, they converted to the faith and are now passionate advocates for life. Personally, I will carry the banner of the pro-life movement until abortion is outlawed or I have finished my course on earth.”
She then thanked those present for taking a stand for life and reminded them they too can change someone’s life through their efforts.
Next, Wyoming House District 34 Representative, Pepper Ottman, opened with the story of Nance Legins-Costley who was freed from slavery in 1841 by then attorney Abraham Lincoln, the release continued.
Mr. Lincoln was so moved by the desperate condition of the young, abused girl that he paid the highest bid and set her free. Free, Nance, chose to stay in his employ and served the one that set her free. Rep. Ottman said this illustrates “how Christ freed her from slavery to sin 33 years ago when she gave her life to Christ. She now serves Him.” Pepper encouraged her listeners to pray for those entangled in the lies of abortion and to be set free through God’s grace.
“People need self-control and personal accountability,” she said. “Abortion doesn’t solve anything.”
On another subject, Pepper continued, “When we accept federal funding for education, we may find the D.C. mindset permeates the textbooks. So, what is prioritized in that mindset? Ask who is teaching and training that content. Our children are the future of our country and they and America will become what they are taught. To perpetuate the America we know and love, the U.S. Constitution must be taught as the law of the land. Respect for that law must be taught too with moral standards that include integrity and accountability.”
Pepper concluded by encouraging her listeners to run for local school and college boards, water boards, library boards, local government, the Wyoming Legislature and federal office.
“It is a necessary sacrifice of time and resources,” she added. “Make it a family affair. Get involved. Young people, your time is now to defend life and liberty.”
She was followed by Tim Salazar, State Senate District 26, “As a former infantry officer, I have seen two types of courage: physical and moral,” he said to the audience. “You have demonstrated moral courage by defending the unborn. With such courage, you can change the world.”
He cited Hebrews 12:1 where the Apostle Paul admonished Christians to remember that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, the release noted.
“President Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court may decide to review Roe vs. Wade. If that occurs, the issue may go to the states to be decided. As members of the pro-life movement, we must be committed to the sanctity of life in our generation. We must protect the unborn who have no voice.”
When her turn came, Karen Wetzel was greeted with applause and responded with the statement: “There’s a shameful mindset that is common in society and the church. It says, “I am against abortion, but it’s not my business to impose my beliefs on others.”
“This is the coward’s way that ignores the fact that abortion imposes another person’s will on the innocent child whose life is unjustly terminated. It’s not up to the mother to make such a decision because the child is not her body. It’s not her DNA. It’s a unique individual created in the image and likeness of God.”
People need to be engaged in choosing pro-life leadership when they vote, she admonished. They need to be educated on where candidates stand and vote responsibly for proven, pro-life candidates.
Lisa Sheehan interjected that Chip Woolwine, had also been scheduled to speak, but was unable to attend. She said he is working with the Lander leadership to make Lander a sanctuary city for the preborn.
The event closed with the unfurling of an “An Appeal to Heaven” flag.
Lisa Sheehan cited the historical precedent where then General George Washington explained the meaning behind the flag. During the American Revolution, in the face of seemingly overwhelming opposition from the British Army, the Continental Army leadership called on God to recognize the justice of their cause and grant them victory. In the same way, the pro-life movement trusts that they will prevail because of the rightness of our cause and the favor of God, the release stated.
Fr. Daniel Seiker, the chaplain for Wyoming Catholic College, closed in prayer declaring the “battle lines are drawn,” and calling on those listening to choose the side for life.
After the formalities, the crowd was treated to freshly baked cornbread, savory chili, and sweet, crisp cookies served by Bev Paddleford. Wyoming Catholic College loaned the sound system for the event.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of the press release said Chip Neiman had planned to speak, but the correct person was Chip Woolwine. It also stated that 588 babies had been saved in Wyoming, that number was worldwide. Those press release corrections have been updated above.