Their mission: To tear down — figuratively — the “walls of Jericho.”
Members of the Pro-Life Committee of the Parish of St. Ann in Bethany Beach call their 7-week effort a “Jericho March,” alluding to the battle strategy employed by the Israelites in Joshua chapter 6.
Like the ancient Israelites, the Catholic witnesses hope their efforts will begin a process of dismantling the ability of Planned Parenthood to provide abortions to women in Delaware.
“We’re gonna do everything in our power,” Gloria Huber said. She is the co-chairman, along with Hilda Mary Graham, of the pro-life committee.
“There’s no respect for the woman (there). We need to open up the eyes and say, ‘Close it down and let’s build anew.’ We want to shut down Planned Parenthood, and we want to build God’s house for these women.”
“It’s a big order, but you have to start somewhere.” Huber calls that start a “crack in the wall” of a larger and ambitious vision that includes legislative action and funding and building a comprehensive “sanctuary for women and children” in Delaware.
The Friday marches, which have drawn about 15 people, ranging in age from 30- to 88-years-old, have been endorsed by the parish’s priests, Father John Klevence and associate pastor Father Lance Martin, who oversees the Pro-Life Committee’s work.
“We have a large retirement community, and also those who aren’t retired, who are very involved here at St. Ann’s,” Father Martin said. “We’re just very blessed to have so many people who’ve dedicated their time and are very proactive.”
Several members of the parish also participate in a recurring life chain along Coastal Highway in Bethany Beach. Their witness is particularly meaningful given the increasingly “very vulgar” and even hostile reactions of passers-by, Father Martin said.
In spite of rude responses from the public that were not directed at the roadside witnesses even a year ago, “we have to be in the public arena, we have to take up some public space and show that what we believe in” while responding in a Christ-like manner, Father Martin said.
The committee sought pastoral blessings before the first Jericho March on April 9. Each march has featured prayers — including the rosary — two shofar blowers who sound ram’s horn trumpets, and a silent walk around the Planned Parenthood facility on Fridays — the day abortions are usually scheduled, Huber said.
“We have the Trinity crucifix. We carry the New Covenant, because in the old Jericho they had the old covenant. And we have a new covenant, and that’s the pregnant Mary — we have a statue of Mary in her pregnancy. We carry the St. Michael blessed candle, and we carry our rosaries,” she said.
Someone called the police when the marchers went behind the building. “We had three police cars show up, (and we said,) ‘Wait a minute, guys. You know this (alley) is taxpayer property,’” Huber said.
“The officers said, ‘We’re not here to tell you differently. We just have to honor the call that comes in to us,’” she said. “And they were very nice with us and they said, ‘Carry on — do what you do.’”
“Our hope is that we can crack the wall, and we’re going to work on (legislation),” by networking with the two pro-life groups, Huber said. Unifying the people of Delaware by building awareness and encouraging pro-life legislation is also important, she added.
“Sen. Bryant Richardson has been very helpful with us,” she said. On April 14, the Delaware senator introduced SB 108, also known as “The Woman’s Right to Know Act.” The bill would require ultrasound imaging and fetal heartbeat monitoring before an abortion could be performed. The girl or woman could decline knowing the results.
According to Huber, “78% of the women that have the ultrasound and hear the heartbeat and see the baby don’t have the abortion.” A June rally to support the legislation is planned in Dover, and Huber said her group is thinking about “getting a bus and heading up (to the rally) because that’s the legislation that we need … to save these babies.”
The marchers “are living the gospel, especially in this time,” Father Martin said.
The next Jericho Marches will take place at 10:30 a.m. Fridays, May 7, 14 and 21, (rain or shine) at Planned Parenthood, 805 S. Governors Ave., Dover, Del. For more information about St. Ann’s Pro-Life Committee, contact Gloria Huber at 410-292-3465.