This year’s 40 Days for Life vigil in Toronto saw nine mothers choose life over abortion. Photo courtesy of Maria Buelvas

40-day fast brings pro-life miracles

By 
  • April 22, 2022

Maria Buelvas said she experienced miracles from God at every step along her journey leading a pro-life campaign that saw 157 volunteers fast on bread and water alone for 40 days from March 2 to April 10.

She, her husband and two children, and a multitude of fellow congregants of St. James Parish in Toronto, hoped their example of prayer, sacrifice and fasting would inspire women contemplating abortion to instead choose life for the unborn child in their womb.

Buelvas, a registered nurse, said one of the miracles of the experience was that a large quantity of volunteers did step up to offer their time, and their passionate dedication to the cause remained sturdy from start to finish.

“They were not hesitant or fearful. There was such a cohesiveness throughout the group, and a willingness to be there with an open heart to what God had in store for us,” said Buelvas. “We had no expectations for what we (would accomplish), just an open heart.”

Buelvas and members of the large group stood throughout the campaign outside the Women’s Care Clinic on Lawrence Avenue holding signs with different messages such as “Pray to end abortion,” “Here to help” and “Ask me about healing after abortion.”

At the fast’s conclusion on Palm Sunday, Buelvas said she directly connected with six mothers who chose life over abortion. When she spoke with The Catholic Register on Holy Thursday, that number had grown to nine. The pre-fast mobilization efforts were so noticeable, said Buelvas, that a pregnant woman reached out looking for assistance before the campaign began.

This pro-life community also encountered a 27-year-old who sought an abortion after a relationship breakup, but changed her mind on seeing the “We will help you” sign. Another woman wandered the streets looking for a providential signal to determine if she should terminate her pregnancy. She said the clear message she sought was a poster reading, “You don’t have to do this today.”

“There was consolation after consolation that gave us strength to keep fasting,” said Buelvas. “(In previous years) we dealt with attacks (from) the pro-choice side, and other people saying horrible things about this campaign. The worst we got this year was ‘the finger.’ Compared to other campaigns that was nothing.”

Mothers seeking help were connected with Toronto’s Sisters of Life religious community, a Catholic sisterhood that assists vulnerable pregnant women throughout the GTA.

Buelvas envisions a next step of St. James parishioners establishing a formalized pro-life group to assist the Sisters of Life in their ministry. The Sisters of Life told her April 13 that many more lives were touched by the campaign beyond women with whom she had direct contact.

“Right now, the Sisters of Life are just overflowing,” said Buelvas. “I was told ‘since you guys started the campaign, more than 100 women have been calling to us in crisis and we are walking with them. We can’t keep up. It is really busy.’ ”

Jeff Gunnarson, national president of the Campaign Life Coalition, expressed his admiration for what the 40-day fast accomplished.

“This inspiring story shows that for pro-life activism to be truly fruitful, it must be backed by prayer and real sacrifice. These individuals added God’s life-saving power to their efforts. This is a profound lesson for us all,” Gunnarson said.

Buelvas was originally asked in 2019 by her parish priest, Fr. Gustavo Campo, to lead the parish’s pro-life advocacy. She took time to consider as she was “very reluctant” and unsure what she specifically could bring. Ultimately, she answered the call of her pastor in 2020 and “experienced God’s providence.”

Leading up to this year’s 40 Days for Life, Buelvas said she desired a sign from God directly telling her she is meant to assume the leadership mantle doubt-free.

“I said, ‘God, I know you can do everything. Can you give me a sign so I can go ahead and do this campaign because you really want me to?’ ”

Her sons, Daniel, eight, and Andre, seven, told their mother they knew “she was struggling with something” and should go to her room to pray.

Later that day, her husband Elber arrived home with a package. It contained letters from the 40 Days for Life organization in the U. S. thanking her for her leadership. Buelvas felt her prayer was answered.

Now, after a successful 40 days of sacrificial fasting for the pre-born, Buelvas said her faith has burst.

“I’m not afraid anymore to tell anybody to take a leap of faith. To jump in and let God fully take control. I was very reluctant, but now I have no doubt at all.”

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