Tag Archives: David Bereit

Birth of a mission

David Bereit left a lucrative sales position to save babies and co-found 40 Days for Life . . .

David Bereit

David Bereit

David Bereit was a successful pharmaceutical sales rep with a company car, expense account, and substantial paycheck when he got a phone call that led him to give it all up for the pro-life cause.

“I will never forget,” Bereit explained. “It was June 26, 2001, and I was calling on doctors in Hearne, Texas, when my cell phone rang.” It was Lauren Gulde, executive director of the Coalition for Life, who told him that Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, had aborted 10 more children that day.

Bereit was crushed. Just three years earlier, he had joined the coalition formed to oppose the opening of the Planned Parenthood facility, eventually becoming board chairman. Once the clinic opened, the coalition put together a plan to close it, but within a month, nothing had been done.

“I knew we had things we could be doing and weren’t doing,” Bereit said. “Maybe,” he told Gulde, “I need to quit my job and do this — make it happen.”

He talked to his wife, Margaret, thinking she would object. But to his surprise, she signaled her support, saying, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

Changing hearts

Little did Bereit know that his decision to become executive director of the coalition would lead three years later to 40 Days for Life — a prayer and fasting campaign outside abortion clinics that since has gone global, reaching 539 cities in every U.S. state and 24 other nations. With 625,000 volunteers and 3,039 campaigns, the effort has seen at least 8,973 lives saved, 56 clinics closed, and 101 clinic workers leave the abortion industry.

Bishop Michael Sis

Bishop Michael Sis

Bishop Michael Sis, who got to know the Bereits while they were students and he was pastor of St. Mary’s Parish at Texas A&M University in College Station, said he could not have predicted that Bereit would take the route he did.

“David always came across as very professional and competent, but the career path I thought he was going to follow had to do with sales, marketing and corporate America,” said Bishop Sis, who heads the Diocese of San Angelo, Texas.

As he helped Bereit discern leaving his sales position, Bishop Sis said he could see that the young husband and father trusted in God’s providential care for his family and was guided by a sense of mission to defend the unborn.

Bishop Sis said he believes the 40 Days campaign that grew from Bereit’s decision has worked because it’s prayerful and peaceful.

“Sometimes you have protesters who kind of presume ill will in the hearts of those they’re opposing. This movement trusts in the power of God to change hearts through a loving, peaceful presence.”

That’s precisely what Abby Johnson, who left her job in 2009 as Planned Parenthood director in Bryan, Texas, noticed when 40 Days for Life began outside her clinic in 2004.

When she started working there, she said, pro-life advocates stationed outside tended to be more hostile toward the clients and the clinic workers. With the onset of 40 Days, she said, “It was as if they had reclaimed the sidewalk for peace. The people who were shouting and condemning were gone, along with their huge, graphic signs. What was left was a group of people who were prayerful, kind and peaceful.”

Those keeping vigil knew her name, told her they were praying for her, and offered her help if she ever wanted to leave. When she did decide to quit, she said, “I knew that I had a safe place to land.”

Praying for the vulnerable

David Bereit and Lila Rose speak at late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s office in Washington, D.C.

David Bereit and Lila Rose speak at late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s office in Washington, D.C.

The idea to fast and pray for 40 days outside abortion clinics was born when Bereit and several other Coalition for Life leaders gathered around a conference table in 2004 to pray for direction. Over the previous three years, they had maintained a presence outside Bryan’s Planned Parenthood and sought to educate the community, but their efforts had slowed while the number of abortions increased.

As they prayed, Bereit said, “There wasn’t some booming voice from on high, but we started having ideas pop into our heads.”

The first was to do something for 40 days because God had used that number in the Bible for periods of transformation. Next came a plan to maintain a 24-hour-a-day prayer vigil in the right-of-way outside the clinic. Finally, they knew they needed community outreach. One of their members, Shawn Carney, devised a plan to reach 35,000 households with a team of college students.

The coalition kicked off the campaign on Sept. 1 with more than 1,000 participants. At the end of 40 days, the number of abortions had decreased 28% in Bryan.

Over the next three years, the concept spread to Dallas, Houston, Green Bay, and Kitsap County, Washington. But when the coalition learned that a group in Charlotte, N.C., had organized a 40 Days for Life without any help from the Texas coalition, Bereit said, “That’s when we knew we’ve got something bigger than just three, four or five cities.”

Abby Johnson

Abby Johnson

By 2007, Bereit started organizing a nationwide 40 Days for Life while working for the American Life League. As the effort took off, ALL released him to set up a separate organization.

Catholic connection

In devoting himself to pro-life work and developing 40 Days, Bereit, the son of a Presbyterian minister, has kept his

Christian faith at the center. A winner of Legatus’ 2013 Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award, Bereit isn’t Catholic. His wife and two children are.

As he has learned more about Catholicism, Bereit said, he has come to admire the Church and to respect its commitment to human life. He continues to discern whether God may be calling him into the Church. “I always pray, ‘God, don’t let me stand in the way of where you want me to be.’”

Bereit said his wife has never pressured him to convert, but his daughter Claire is more aggressive.

A 16-year-old high school junior, Claire confesses she would like to see her father enter the Church. She said it’s been difficult knowing that he doesn’t share all her beliefs, especially when the family goes to Mass together and he cannot join them in receiving Communion.

“It makes me really sad sometimes, but I know he has a really strong faith and he is already an amazing man.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

 

David and Margaret Bereit pose with their children at Easter 2014

David and Margaret Bereit pose with their children at Easter 2014

Legates for Life

Just as he was able to take what he learned in sales and transfer it to the pro-life movement, David Bereit said he believes Legatus members could employ their abilities to benefit ministries like 40 Days for Life.

Legates, he said, may not even recognize the skills they possess as valuable to the pro-life movement and other ministries, but most people doing such work don’t have high-level business skills.

“If Legates are willing to tithe some of their experiences, insights and incredible gifts to ministries promoting a Culture of Life, I think they could revolutionize the pro-life movement.”

Bereit said he also has been strongly influenced by the franchising model described in Legatus founder Tom Monaghan’s book, Pizza Tiger, and his idea of taking a concept and replicating it to build an effective organization.

—ROBERTS

 

Learn more:

40DaysForLife.com

 

Cardinal John O’Connor Pro-Life Award

2013
David Bereit

David Bereit receives the 2013 Cardinal John J. O'Connor Pro-Life Award from Tom Monaghan and Joe Faricy

David Bereit receives the 2013 Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award from Tom Monaghan and Joe Faricy

Reggie Littlejohn
Rita Marker
John Smeaton

2012
Richard Doerflinger
Chuck Donovan
Michael Schwartz

2011
Cardinal Raymond L. Burke
Steve & Vivian Koob
Thomas S. Monaghan
Dan Zeidler

2010
Alveda King
Sam & Gloria Lee
Monsignor Philip Reilly

2009
George W. Bush
Kathleen Eaton
Cardinal Francis George
Johnny Hunter
Dinah Monahan

2008
John Haas
Molly Kelly
Janet Morana

2007
Chris & Joan Bell
Denise Cocciolone
Sisters of Life
Sr. Paula Vandegaer

2006
Joan Byrum
Peggy Hartshorn
Thomas W. Hilgers
Jerry Horn
James Hughes
Bernard Nathanson

2005
James Bopp Jr.
Fr. Tom Euteneuer
Karen Garnett
Magaly Llaguno
Barbara Lyons
Germaine Wensley

2004
Theresa Burke
Mark Crutcher
Nellie Gray
Fr. Frank Pavone
Austin Ruse

2003
Sal Bando
Bishop Victor Galeone
Sen. Rick Santorum
Joseph Scheidler
Phyllis Schlafly
John & Barbara Willke

2002
Judie Brown
Sam Brownback
Greg Cunningham
Fr. Paul Marx
Colleen Parro
Deby Schlapprizzi

2001
Rep. Henry Hyde

Legatus Summit: A call to action

Speakers at the annual event asked Legatus members to bring Jesus to a hurting world . . .

Legatus’ 2014 Summit was a rally cry for Catholic business leaders to activate their faith and change the culture for Christ. Both speakers and attendees voiced concern for the way America is slipping further away from the Christian ideals it was founded on.

The three-day annual conference, hosted by Legatus’ Orlando Chapter, drew nearly 500 Legates and guests from across the country to the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando, Fla., from Feb. 6-8.

Faithful citizenship

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum

Speakers from former Sen. Rick Santorum to Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput called on attendees to embrace the Legatus mission statement to live, learn and spread the Catholic faith. In his Feb. 7 homily, Archbishop Chaput exhorted Legates to exercise their rights of faithful citizenship to create a culture for Christ.

“When we do that, the Church will change because the leadership of the Church will be multiplied thousands upon thousands of times,” he said. “Rather than waiting for the bishops to act, you can act on your own — in union with the bishop, of course, and encouraged by him.”

In his Saturday evening address, former presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum challenged Legates to mobilize and save America before it’s too late. He pointed out that the vast majority of Americans are conservative Christians, but the liberal secularists who make up less than 20% of the population are highly organized, passionate and relentless in changing hearts and minds.

“America is broken,” he said. “We have to take responsibility for that. It was [on] our watch. America is broken because we’re afraid to fight. We must be committed, be all in. We must know what is on the line — souls, eternal souls. We don’t live in a time in America when we can afford to stop fighting.”

Archbishops Wenski, Aquila and Chaput

Archbishops Wenski, Aquila and Chaput

Santorum called on Legatus members to repair the damaged culture by activating their faith. “This organization, the people in this organization, can have a profound effect, can move the needle,” he said. “You’ve got to want it. You’ve got to be all in. You can do it. I have no doubt.”

Legates also heard from Football Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz, Bill Donohue from the Catholic League, author Matthew Kelly, pro-life activist John Smeaton, CEO and business author William Thorndike, Canadian author and journalist Michael Coren, fitness pioneer Dr. Kenneth Cooper, and the hosts of EWTN’s The Catholic View for Women. Motivational speaker Ross Shafer served as the master of ceremonies.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gómez celebrated the opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe. Orlando Bishop John Noonan celebrated the closing Mass.

Call to evangelize

David Bereit

David Bereit

Other speakers urged attendees to bring their faith boldly into a culture that has rejected Christian values. Members of a three-bishop panel — Archbishop Thomas Wenski (Miami), Samuel Aquila (Denver) and Chaput (Philadelphia) — said that kind of evangelization can only happen when we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Curtis Martin — a member of Legatus’ Denver Chapter and founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students — told attendees that discovering Jesus and coming into right relationship with him is akin to the parable of the buried treasure (Mt 13:44).

“To have that kind of passion — because we discovered the treasure first — that unleashes a power in the world that will transform the world,” he said. “When we allow God’s grace to transform us through our wounds and brokenness, nothing is impossible.”

Picking up on that theme, 40 Days for Life founder David Bereit assured Legates that abortion will end.

“History books are going to document how it ended,” he said. “I believe they’re going to point back to 2014, the tipping point when people realized it was a spiritual battle and the revival that broke out as a result. They’re going to read about how business people brought their best practices into the fight.”

Stephen Ray

Stephen Ray

Engaging the culture

Summit co-chair Troy King of Legatus’ Orlando Chapter said he was thrilled not only by the speakers, but by Legatus members’ determination to engage the culture as a result of the conference.

“The highlights were seeing the passion for the faith in all the speakers, seeing the new-found fire for the New Evangelization, and seeing how much emphasis they’re placing on putting us all into action,” he said. “I can’t wait to get home and put these things into action.”

Baton Rouge Legate Sam LaVergne, attending his second Summit, said the event far exceeded his expectations.

“Rick Santorum brought the house down, but the speaker that most intrigued me was Stephen Ray,” he said. “He made us think that visiting the Holy Land is something we need to do.”

Bishop John Noonan

Bishop John Noonan

LaVergne said that Legatus has been a blessing to him and his wife Sally.

“The most important thing that Legatus has done for us — even thought my wife and I have been Catholics for a long time — is the amount of education we’ve gotten to defend our faith,” he explained. “Legatus has empowered us with a lot of information to help us live our faith.”

In his Feb. 7 homily, Archbishop Chaput gave Legates all the advice they need to do just that. “Be embraced by the Lord Jesus,” he said. “Put on the Lord Jesus, as St. Paul says. Make him all of your life. When we do that, we will transform the face of the earth.”

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is the editor-in-chief of Legatus magazine. This article contains reporting from LifeSiteNews.com.

2013 Award Winners

Defender of the Faith
Matthew Kelly, Erin Mersino

Ambassador of the Year
Larry Blanford

Officer of the Year
Scott Teepe

Courage in the Marketplace
Paul Barron, Bruce Barron, Rod & Karen Mersino

Bowie Kuhn Award for Evangelization
Curtis Martin

Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award
David Bereit, Reggie Littlejohn, Rita Marker, John Smeaton

Angott Award
Baton Rouge, Cincinnati

Campbell Award
Cleveland, Mobile, Las Vegas, Twin Cities, Wichita