A Tree Grew in Brooklyn
Although 1973 ushered in the infamous Roe v Wade ‘law’ in America, abortion had already been ‘law’ in America for a number of years. The difference was that Roe v Wade allowed the baby to be killed at any time throughout the pregnancy including up to birth. So, before this time Monsignor Philip Reilly and others had already spent years fighting hard in the pro-life battle. Mostly this took the form of “Rescue”, which meant blocking the entrances of the abortion mills, as they came to be called.
Rescues meant sitting on the floor and linking arms, thereby physically blocking the door-ways with your body, while often praying and singing hymns. The police usually arrived very quickly, dragging people away and hitting them with their batons; many would be arrested, including Msgr. Reilly, Father Benedict Groeschel CFR and other well-known pro-life people. The idea was that the pro-lifers would identify themselves with the babies being carried into the abortion ‘clinics’ – unable to resist or defend themselves – so they would go completely limp and make no attempt to stave off any blows they received.
For many years these were the sort of demonstrations and protests that took place in America. After 22 years of this, Msgr. Reilly realised nothing was really being achieved. One day while he was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, he said “Lord, I can’t do this – it isn’t working. We must ask You to do it.” He laughingly says that God answered him – “At last, you stubborn Irishman, you realise that you can’t change this, only I can.” And Msgr realised that there has to be conversion – hearts have to be changed. The primary aim is not to save the physical life of the baby, but to convert the mother. If you convert the mother, you have saved the baby. And this can only be done by prayer and fasting. It has to be a peaceful and prayerful vigil with no demonstrations, no protesting and no picketing.
Monsignor Reilly tells us that once more when he was before the Blessed Sacrament, he told God that they had chosen the name “The Holy Innocents”, but that some people felt that those who were not Catholic wouldn’t see the connection, so they changed it to Helpers of The Precious Infants. Precious because they are created in the image of God and Infant because it comes from the Latin ‘not able to speak’. He says that God told him to “get the The out of it and put in God’s” – the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. Msgr. then tells us that God said, “Now, take the army I have given you and start your work.” “My army? There’s only 5 of us!” God replied, “If I gave you any more, you would think that you were doing it again and not Me.”
So on the Feast of The Holy Rosary, 1989, The Helpers of God’s Precious Infants was born and the little group went to pray outside the abortion mill in Brooklyn – feeling very self-conscious. Soon, though, more and more people joined them and they had a large procession that left the church after Mass and processed through the streets to the abortion mill where they stood or knelt and prayed the Rosary and sang hymns, while counsellors offered help to those going in and coming out of the ‘clinic’.
Monsignor Reilly was the Rector of the minor seminary in Brooklyn and one day they were told that Bishop Daily was coming to visit them. When Bishop Daily asked to see Monsignor, he thought that he would ask how things were going etc., but Bishop Daily said, “I understand you pray outside abortion clinics.” Monsignor said he did and then the Bishop said, “Would you mind if I joined you?” Msgr. thought ‘Would I mind?’ Now there are over 100 Bishops and 6 Cardinals leading Helpers vigils in 40 States in America.
A tree grew in Brooklyn and spread all over the world. The Helpers of God’s Precious Infants are firmly established in many countries in every continent:
In the UK we have HGPI groups in Bath, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Buckhurst Hill [Essex], Dundee, Edinburgh, Fallowfield, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Leeds, Leicester, Maidstone [Kent], Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Southend-on-Sea, Stevenage and in London there are 6 locations, Central, East, South West, West and 2 in South London.
In 1993, Mr. Dietmar Fischer founded HLI in Austria and in 1997 asked Msgr. Reilly to go to Austria for a “Week For Life” – he believed that the model created by Msgr. Reilly was the most effective means of counteracting the worldwide evil of abortion and so the staff began to witness daily to Life in front of Vienna’s largest abortion centre.
There are Helpers groups in over 40 countries throughout the world including most of Europe, Central and South America, Australia and New Zealand. In Australia there are HGPI groups in Canberra, Albury and Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns, Rockhampton and Adelaide, and Melbourne.
We are not sure of the number of Cardinals and Bishops that are involved with Helpers vigils, but we know that there have been many bishops over the years. In the Brooklyn Diocese auxiliary Bishops have come on a regular basis to our monthly vigils. We know of about 25 abortion facilities closed in the greater New York area, and we have had many reports of closures around the world, but we do not have a firm number.
A lady from South Africa heard about the Helpers in the UK and got in touch with our office and was given a “starter pack” with all the information she needed. Subsequently, in February 2006, Msgr. Reilly was asked to go there and he held a ‘big’ HGPI vigil in Capetown.
An Indian lady who attended the March For Life in America in 2016, asked how she could get help in getting pro-life work started in India. She was introduced to Msgr. Reilly and the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants approach, witnessing the closing down of a Planned Parenthood Centre in Elizabeth NJ. The Helpers are now firmly established in India.
The Helpers of God’s Precious Infants is like the mustard seed – it is the smallest of seeds but grows into the largest of trees where birds nestle in its branches in safety, and this particular tree has indeed spread its branches throughout the whole world. Thank you, God, for giving us Monsignor Philip Reilly.
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