EVERETT – Accompanied by a 6-foot-tall, wooden crucifix, staff and parishioners from St. Mary Parish in Marysville are praying outside Planned Parenthood every Wednesday and Saturday for five weeks.
The crucifix “attracts attention in a positive way. They see Jesus,” said Father Peter Mactutis, St. Mary’s pastor, who bought the Italian-made crucifix while living in Mount Vernon, then stained and waterproofed it.
The presence of St. Mary’s parishioners and staff is part of 40 Days for Life, an international pro-life campaign that began September 25 and continues through October — Respect Life Month — concluding November 3.
“One of my biggest hopes is that we’re truly there out of love,” Father Mactutis said.
While standing outside the Everett Planned Parenthood clinic, the group says the rosary, prays the Stations of the Cross with a focus on Mary and her perspective, prays the Divine Mercy Chaplet and reads the gospel passage for the coming Sunday, Father Mactutis said.
Counter-protestors have become more aggressive in the last couple of years, the pastor said. Often, they stand in front of the cross; sometimes they scream or blast music. In 2018, as a woman was praying while walking on the sidewalk, a counter-protestor followed her, making inappropriate comments and bumping into her, Father Mactutis said in an email. Police were called to stop the harassing behavior, he added.
Praying outside abortion clinics is nothing new for Father Mactutis. Growing up in Texas, he joined his parents in front of abortion clinics on Saturdays.
“My parents were super, super passionate about it,” Father Mactutis said. His father, now deceased, was a deacon. His mother, who lives in Port Angeles, prays in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Port Angeles, he said.
The 40 Days for Life campaign occurs twice a year, in the fall and again during Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday. The effort “aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a peaceful all-day vigil in front of abortion businesses,” according to the organization’s website.
In Western Washington, people will be praying in front of abortion clinics in Bellevue, Bremerton, Everett, Mount Vernon, Olympia, Tacoma, Port Angeles and Vancouver, according to the website.
The goal for the Everett campaign aims is having volunteers present from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with priority given to the hours the clinic is open, said coordinator Rachel Carrier. The Everett event began in 2007 (the year the 40 Days for Life, started in Texas, went nationwide) and has been held twice a year since 2008, she said.
The St. Mary’s group “definitely attract[s] a lot of attention,” Carrier said. “It’s just amazing how dedicated they are.”