Life Chain draws a crowd of silent witnesses Oct. 6

Bill Keaton, a member of St. Jude Church in Jacksonville, anchors a row of fellow parishioners during the Life Chain Oct. 6 in west Little Rock. Hundreds of pro-life supporters took part in the one-hour event.
Bill Keaton, a member of St. Jude Church in Jacksonville, anchors a row of fellow parishioners during the Life Chain Oct. 6 in west Little Rock. Hundreds of pro-life supporters took part in the one-hour event.
Sarah Lehamn, 19, greets passing motorists during the Life Chain. Lehman, a student at Arkansas State University-Beebe, credits her upbringing at St. Jude Church in Jacksonville for her pro-life views. Dwain Hebda photo
Sarah Lehamn, 19, greets passing motorists during the Life Chain. Lehman, a student at Arkansas State University-Beebe, credits her upbringing at St. Jude Church in Jacksonville for her pro-life views. Dwain Hebda photo
A line of parishioners from Our Lady of Good Counsel stretches south along Bowman Road. Dwain Hebda photo
A line of parishioners from Our Lady of Good Counsel stretches south along Bowman Road. Dwain Hebda photo
Linda Hrynyk of St. Jude Church in Jacksonville stands along Chenal Parkway with her sign. She said Catholics need to vote their conscience as well as be visible on life issues. Dwain Hebda photo
Linda Hrynyk of St. Jude Church in Jacksonville stands along Chenal Parkway with her sign. She said Catholics need to vote their conscience as well as be visible on life issues. Dwain Hebda photo
Denise Morbit, director of youth ministry at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock anchors a line of pro-life witnesses along Chenal Parkway. Dwain Hebda photo
Denise Morbit, director of youth ministry at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock anchors a line of pro-life witnesses along Chenal Parkway. Dwain Hebda photo
Suzanne Carter of St. Jude Church in Jacksonville shields 10-month-old Austin from the bright sunlight during the Life Chain. Dwain Hebda photo
Suzanne Carter of St. Jude Church in Jacksonville shields 10-month-old Austin from the bright sunlight during the Life Chain. Dwain Hebda photo
Margaret Zakrzewski and her husband Frank offer prayers for the unborn during the Life Chain. They attend Our Lady of Good Counsel in Little Rock. Dwain Hebda photo
Margaret Zakrzewski and her husband Frank offer prayers for the unborn during the Life Chain. They attend Our Lady of Good Counsel in Little Rock. Dwain Hebda photo

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by Dwain Hebda
Associate Editor

The most arresting thing about the Oct. 6 Life Chain was the palpable veil of silence that descended upon one of the busiest intersections in west Little Rock, even with the hundreds of people who lined up for blocks radiating from the intersection of Bowman Road and Chenal Parkway.

People spoke to their neighbors, but even among the kids present, the tone was muted. If people sang or prayed, it was softly to themselves. Even the motors of passing cars seemed merely to hum in the face of the dignified witness to life.

So when an unidentified man yelled, “It’s not your (expletive) choice!” as he sped through the intersection, his angry voice cracked the calm midafternoon like a brick.

Margaret Zakrzewski, a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Little Rock, stood in the crosshairs of the insult and smiled gently.

“My heart goes out to them,” she said. “There are people who are still blind, whose hearts are still hard. I just offer up a little extra prayer for them.”

Zakrzewski, who was attending her first Life Chain event, said she didn’t feel intimidated by such comments. She said praying outside Little Rock’s abortion clinic helped her get over that. “You can’t be intimidated when you see all these people out here with you. You’re not standing alone,” she said.

On the intersection’s opposite corner stood Sam Leek, 17, of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in North Little Rock and Lucy Powell, 16, of Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock, anchoring a long line of people stretching east along Chenal Parkway. The two teens said while their immediate circle of friends were pro-life, they didn’t have to go far among their peers to find dissenting opinion.

“I attend Mount St. Mary Academy and I’d say most of the girls there are pro-life, but definitely not all,” Powell said.

The National Life Chain coincided with Respect Life Sunday which also was Day 12 of the national 40 Days for Life. Pro-lifers from Catholic and non-Catholic churches alike participated in the one-hour event. In addition to Little Rock, at least 20 other Life Chains were held around Arkansas.

Standing on the fringe, Linda Hrynyk wasn’t fazed in the least to be where the number of signs started to thin out.

“This is my mission,”’ she said, a multicolored rosary dangling from her right hand. “The first time I was old enough to vote was the first time abortion was legal. I vowed I would never vote for anybody who was not pro-life. We say you are what you eat; well, in a society you are what you vote for. “

Hrynyk was one of around 50 parishioners from St. Jude Church in Jacksonville, a bloc that by itself dominated both sides of Chenal Parkway. Parishioners stiffened with pride talking about their fellow congregants and the priority they place on pro-life issues and events.

“I just think that’s the Holy Spirit at work,” said Suzanne Carter, 38, shielding her 10-month-old son Roman against the bright fall sun. “Even with so many people that are coming and going through the Air Force base, St. Jude is a very giving parish especially with events like this.”

The adult parishioners were particularly heartened by the many teens and young adults representing St. Jude. Retiree Richard Dworshak gave the credit to the parish’s youth program.

“Pro-life issues are something you get involved with very young at our church,” said Sarah Lehman, 19, adding that such an early awareness helps young people as they move into college and start to face more difficult moral decisions. “A lot of young people don’t think about their actions and later they regret it.”

After one hour, the crowd left just as quietly, practically melting into the surrounding parking lots. Participants tucked their signs under their arms, gathered in small prayer groups or simply took in one final moment of reflection.

“I’ve been doing this for five or six years,” said St. Jude parishioner Bill Keaton, who retired 10 years ago from the Little Rock Air Force Base. “The first year it was 44 degrees and drizzling and the wind was blowing so you couldn’t hold your sign if you wore gloves and you couldn’t feel your fingers if you didn’t. Today’s pretty nice.”

Dwain Hebda

You can see Dwain Hebda’s byline in Arkansas Catholic and dozens of other online and print publications. He attends Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock.

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