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Our Lady of Guadalupe is interceding with great effect on the streets of Toronto, a sidewalk counsellor believes. “We’ve never had results like we have since we started bringing an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Edgar, a veteran volunteer counsellor, told LifeSiteNews.

Edgar, who asked only his first name be used out of concern for employees of the clinic who appear to be stalking him, reported four “turnarounds” during his stint this Monday at the Women’s Care Clinic near the intersection of Dufferin and Lawrence, where women have either changed their mind before entering the clinic or, as is more common, let the counsellors know they have changed their mind on their way out.

While Edgar does his counselling year round, he timed his latest effort to coincide with 40 Days for Life, the increasingly popular international prayer vigil that takes place throughout Lent every year and for a matching period each fall. Taking place in 291 communities in 11 countries from September 24 to November 2 this year, 40 Days for Life claims to have saved 409 unborn children this year “that we know of.”

At the Women’s Care Clinic, the 40 Days vigil keepers, a community of some 35 regulars and 300 casual volunteers, stand across a busy street while one or two counsellors stand outside the clinic itself speaking to women or couples walking to it from nearby public transit stops.

Lately, Edgar’s female co-counsellor has been carrying an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as Mary appeared to the Mexican peasant Juan Diego in 1531, pregnant with Jesus. “Since then,” Edgar told LifeSiteNews, “it’s really incredible the change in people’s attitude.” Even the escorts paid by the clinic to interfere with the counsellors have lessened their hostility, Edgar reports.

Three of the four women who changed their minds on Monday stopped to talk with Edgar, who has been sidewalk counselling for seven years, while the fourth showed through her body language she had decided to keep her baby. “They look very peaceful. Or they come out too soon [to have had an abortion] or they ask for more literature.”  But they don’t necessarily stop to talk. “A lot of times they don’t want to admit they changed their minds because they are ashamed that they had decided to have an abortion in the first place,” he said.

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Such encounters are more common with the picture of Our Lady present. “We feel her presence,” said Edgar. “It is more peaceful.”

Christina Alaimo of the Toronto-based Campaign Life Coalition, which co-ordinates six of the 15 40 Days for Life vigils across Canada, says sidewalk counselling is “truly an 11th hour effort,” with the abortion clinic just a few feet away. Even if a woman changes her mind, she may well change it back unless counsellors can get her support or, if they have a medical reason for their abortion, an appointment with a pro-life doctor within a minute or two. “We have them on speed dial,” she told LifeSiteNews.

Edgar said there are two keys to sidewalk counselling: first, being positive and not judgmental; and second, “always have interior peace. You don’t have to be perfect, but be in a state of interior peace.” 

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