"If you could save a baby's life, why wouldn't you?"
That was the question asked by Kathy Forck, organizer of the local 40 Days for Life prayer vigil, in a Catholic Missourian article several years ago.
"I had no excuse," said Mary Hoffmeyer after reading it.
So she joined Forck in prayer on the sidewalk along the busy Providence Road in Columbia, in front of the Planned Parenthood facility.
At 8 a.m. Wednesday, an army of volunteers will join in the prayer vigil 40 Days for Life, which ends March 24. A Jericho March at 3 p.m. Sunday will be the kickoff.
Hoffmeyer will be there four hours a day, four days each week. But even after the rallying effort, she will still show up to pray as she has for years.
Many of those who will pray on location through this time coinciding with Lent come from Jefferson City, Forck said.
St. Joseph Cathedral will send members of its Pro-Life Committee again, as it did for the first time at the fall 40 Days for Life campaign.
Their witness will be in front of Planned Parenthood 2-4 p.m. for the following six Saturdays, said chairman Ed Bode.
"Our purpose is to enhance respect for life," Bode said. "We thought this was an appropriate way to show public support for that mission."
Bode and his wife, Jewell, will be on the sidewalk three of those Saturdays. Like Hoffmeyer, they will do the same throughout the year.
Sometimes they hold signs and sometimes they wave to passersby, but for the most part they pray - either out loud, to themselves or in a group.
"You have to get used to the noise of the street while you're in prayer," Bode said.
Like any new experience, first-time volunteers might be intimidated or uncomfortable.
"It didn't take long to be relaxed because you're in a prayerful mood," Bode said.
As a sidewalk counselor, Hoffmeyer also tries to talk with the mothers, fathers or grandparents walking into or out of the building.
"I tell them I'm praying for them and offer them alternative resources," Hoffmeyer said.
That is more difficult to do on the days Planned Parenthood has escorts, who flank clients as they enter and exit, she said. But some men and women will walk over to her.
"Some of their stories will just break your heart," Hoffmeyer said.
Once, a lady pulled her car in and waved Hoffmeyer over. Looking into the car, Hoffmeyer noticed she had prosthetics on both legs. The woman encouraged the volunteers to continue sharing alternatives to abortion, because she lost her legs due to blood clots, a side effect of the abortion pill, Hoffmeyer said.
Sometimes the volunteers are able to support women before they abort their baby.
They held a baby shower for one mother, who later gave them photos of her newborn.
"It's such a rewarding thing," Hoffmeyer said.