Local Ministries

Coalition Life to supplement pro-life outreach in archdiocese

Brian Niehaus, a sidewalk counselor based in St. Louis, hands out literature and talks to parishioners at St. Joseph Church in Shawnee about sidewalk counseling. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

by Joe Bollig

SHAWNEE — The last line of defense for unborn children and their mothers is the sidewalk in front of the abortion clinic, and that’s where Catholics need to be, said the leader of a new pro-life ministry.

After the archdiocesan Respect Life Mass on Oct. 1 at St. Joseph Church in Shawnee, Coalition Life executive director Brian Westbrook urged archdiocesan Catholics to support this new sidewalk prayer and counseling ministry.

“We know that abortion doesn’t happen at the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion doesn’t happen at the White House and abortion certainly doesn’t happen at the Kansas Supreme Court, either,” said Westbrook. “Abortion happens right here at home, right down the street at 109th and Roe [in Overland Park].”

From left, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Father Keith Chadwick and Father Scott Wallisch celebrate Mass on Oct. 1 at St. Joseph Church in Shawnee to kick off Respect Life Month. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Coalition Life was formed a little more than 12 years ago in St. Louis, where it is based. The ministry has since established itself in Chicago; Fairview Heights, Illinois; Carbondale, Illinois; and now Overland Park. It is a Christian-based organization, attracting both Catholics and non-Catholics.

The nonprofit has 36 individuals on staff from a variety of backgrounds, said Westbrook. Both paid staff members and volunteers undergo initial and ongoing training.

Lisa Weinand, a member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood, is the new local site manager for Coalition Life. It hopes to hire about seven local staff members within a couple of weeks, and recruit about 14 volunteer sidewalk counselors to support the staff.

Father Scott Wallisch, left, and Archbishop Naumann chat with parishioners following the Respect Life Mass at St. Joseph Church in Shawnee. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann invited Coalition Life to the archdiocese, but he learned about it from a seminarian.

“It was one of our seminarians, Dan Mauro, who became acquainted with them in St. Louis and worked with them, and he encouraged us to bring them here,” said the archbishop. “He’d seen how effective their ministry was in St. Louis. We’re delighted that they’re here.”

Why come to the Greater Kansas City area?

Because it already has a pro-life infrastructure, which includes the Advice & Aid Pregnancy Center near the Overland Park Planned Parenthood clinic, as well as strong support from Archbishop Naumann, said Westbrook.

Coalition Life conducted a “beta test” last month in Overland Park to see how effective the ministry could be.

“Because of what’s already here, we sent nine clients in less than a week to Advice & Aid,” said Westbrook. “It was the single best testing week we’ve ever done in any location in the Midwest.”

After the archdiocesan Respect Life Mass on Oct. 1 at St. Joseph Church in Shawnee, Coalition Life executive director Brian Westbrook urged archdiocesan Catholics to support the new sidewalk prayer and counseling ministry. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

The need has never been greater, said Debra Niesen, lead consultant for archdiocesan pro-life ministry.

“We’ve had wonderful volunteers praying on the sidewalks, but because of the landscape we have now, we’ve become the Midwest abortion destination,” she said. “We have so many people traveling to our state.

 “To have a trained, professional, compassionate and Christian-based organization . . . to rescue women and their children from abortion before they walk into Planned Parenthood is so needed.”

The “changed landscape” in formerly pro-life Kansas Niesen referred to is because of two things that made Kansas a “wide open” abortion state.

The first is the April 26, 2019, Kansas Supreme Court ruling in Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt. In this ruling, Kansas’ high court discovered a “right to abortion” in the state’s 1859 constitution. This ruling, in effect, nullified all laws regulating abortion in Kansas.

The second was the August 2, 2022, defeat of the “Value Them Both” proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution, which would have restored the power to regulate abortion to the state Legislature.

Coalition Life executive director Brian Westbrook meets with Archbishop Naumann during a Respect Life event at St. Jospeh Parish in Shawnee. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

The number of abortions in Kansas has, as predicted, skyrocketed after the 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling.

In 2019, there were 6,916 abortions in Kansas; in 2022, there were 12,314, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. There were 5,402 more abortions in 2022 than in 2019, or an increase of 78% comparing the two years.

Archbishop Naumann hopes Catholics will join and support Coalition Life in this important, new ministry.

“I’d encourage them to financially support Coalition Life and if you’re interested in becoming a Coalition Life sidewalk counselor, contact them and apply to go through their training,” said the archbishop.

“We’re really grateful for all those who give prayerful witness outside abortion clinics,” he added. “It is our last hope in trying to save women and children from the tragedy of abortion.”

Coalition Life plans a “meet and greet” for potential donors, volunteers and those interested in the ministry on Nov. 4. The time and location will be announced later. Weinand can be reached by email at: Lisa@CoalitionLife.com or by calling (636) 735-3263. For additional information, go online to: www.CoalitionLife.com.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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