|October 9, 2017 • VOL. 55, NO. 17 • Oakland, CA|
Respect for Life
Prayer, assistance help retired cop in pro-life work
Rosary in hand, Jim Crowley walks the walk in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Walnut Creek.
Through Nov. 5, he will be among the participants in 40 Days for Life, in which vigil will be kept, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the public right-of-way in front of the Planned Parenthood office.
The retired police lieutenant always calls the Walnut Creek police in advance of the 40 Days events, to let them know the event will be "peaceful and prayerful."
He said he is heartened to see young people becoming more involved in the prolife movement, and has been supported in the work by his fellow Knights of Columbus.
Standing vigil at Planned Parenthood, Crowley witnesses great sadness.
"It's very sad to see all these young women," Crowley said. Sometimes, he sees "a family, which appears to be Mother, Father, two little kids, Mom's pregnant, they're going in."
"It's sad," he said. "You hate to see things like that."
In addition to the power of prayer, Crowley and his companions offer help, in the form of a brochure from Birthright. The brochure directs people to services that they might not otherwise know existed, not far from where they are standing.
His prolife work dates back to the 1980s, when Operation Rescue was active in San Francisco. On his way back to the station after investigating a homicide, he walked by the "cage" where people arrested during a protest were being held.
"Inspector Crowley," a voice called out.
It belonged to an evangelical pastor he knew. "He introduced me to a Catholic priest," Crowley said. "I saw nuns in there. I was just stunned. They told me they were part of Operation Rescue."
Crowley, active in Cops for Christ, "bought every book on Operation Rescue."
He also had a column in the monthly Police Officers Association newsletter.
"The next month, instead of the normal evangelization article, I started writing about the prolife issue," Crowley said.
It caused "a commotion," he said. "I was very naïve at that time."
Among the complaints: that he was anti-woman.
"At the time, I was 25 years' married, had three daughters and a granddaughter," he said. "It's ironic that a homicide inspector was being attacked for protecting life."
Criticism didn't stop him.
"From that point on, I got involved in prolife work," he said. He started the prolife ministry at his parish; he and his wife are monthly supporters of Birthright of Concord. He sings Irish songs at the organization's fundraisers.
Through the church, he joined with parishioners who have been going to the Planned Parenthood office to pray after the 6:30 a.m. Mass on Fridays.
"I started going with them. They pray the rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet and leave," he said. "This is not enough. Abortions go on all morning."
He asked his pastor if he could speak at the end of each Mass one weekend. He put his two minutes to good use: Nineteen additional volunteers came forward. He now had enough people to staff from 7 a.m. to noon.
One of the people who heard his message was Linda Mertes, who had started 40 Days for Life in San Ramon. Now, the 40 Days vigil has moved to Walnut Creek.
While there are many days when volunteers are unable to reach people, there are the memorable days that they do.
"I always have rosary beads hanging from my hand," Crowley said. At 8 a.m. one day, he was praying with an evangelical woman in front of the clinic when a car drove into the parking lot.
"She parked her car," he recalled. "I didn't have a chance to talk with her."
But she didn't enter the clinic. As she drove out, she rolled down her window.
"She put a finger to her lips," he said. 'Don't tell them I changed my mind. I'm not going to do it.'"
Why? " 'Because I saw you praying.'"
Crowley saw something, too. "I noticed rosary beads hanging down from her rearview mirror," he said.
He handed her a Birthright brochure. "We will get you help," he told her.
"She went to Birthright," he said. "She carried her baby."
Bishop Barber endorses 40 Days for Life vigil
In a letter supporting the 40 Days for Life vigil, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, of Oakland wrote:
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