Throughout the last couple of years there have been very positive signs of growth and new vitality within the pro-life movement in the UK. This year’s Pro Life March in Birmingham was a great success with impressive numbers attending. It looks set to be something that will just get bigger and bigger. The 40 days for life movement and prayer vigils continue to attract supporters and their prayerful presence each year quietly proclaims the values of life. One area where there has been slower growth has been the creation of memorials for the unborn. This is something that I would like to see emerge in our country over the next few years.
During the last thirty years memorials to the unborn have been developed within the USA. Such memorials have included stone tablets in churches, prayer gardens, churches and sometimes are in prominent public places. They have the threefold purpose of providing a place to mourn, to witness to the sanctity of life and as an act of reparation.
The most notable development in America has been the foundation of a national memorial to the unborn in Chattanooga, Tennesse. This centre was founded as a focus for healing and also as a place where the value of life is quietly proclaimed. A 50 foot long stone remembrance wall contains brass plaques with words of remembrance for individual children and the families. A garden also provides a place for reflection and prayer. Alongside this place of devotion is a service which provides counselling and support for those who have been damaged by abortion. For thousands of people it has become a place of blessing, reflection , repentance and forgiveness.
One of the catalysts for this growth in the USA has been the Knights of St Columbus who have offered funding to parishes and groups to help establish memorials. As a result of this generosity and encouragement there are now in excess of 2000 such memorials across the USA.
There are a few notable memorials which have been erected in the UK but at present they are fairly modest and unknown. In Market Harborough, Leicestershire, the local Catholic parish have placed a beautiful slate plaque on the outside church wall. It is clearly visible from the street and provides a focus within the community.
The memorial contains a central image of our lady and Jesus flanked by angels with a cross in the background. In the centre are the words of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel, “Let the Children come to me” and at the bottom it simply reads “in memory of the unborn”. The parish hope that this will bring comfort as well as speaking in a quiet way about the intrinsic value of life.
The scheme was funded by a local funeral director in thanksgiving for the golden jubilee of the parish priest’s ordination. It is a wonderful example of how an ordinary parish do something simple and effective.
Memorials do not have to be ostentatious although it would be wonderful if a national centre could be developed like the one in Tennessee. Parishes could provide a simple focus in their grounds which gently give witness to pro-life values and be focusses for healing. I would dearly love to see memorials placed in prominent locations such as Walsingham and outside of Churches where they can be seen by those passing by. They have certainly become important to the Pro Life movement in the USA and it would be wonderful if their development could grow in this country alongside all the other efforts which are bearing fruit.