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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Priest keeps pro-life vigil outside Canadian Parliament for almost three decades

Jesuit Fr Tony Van Hee says nearly 30 years spent fasting and praying on Parliament Hill to end abortion have been the best years of his life.

At age 81, he has no plans of slowing down, despite a raft of rule changes that, among many restrictions, even limit his bathroom breaks.

“I have a need for solitude and the contemplative life of prayer and, oddly enough, I get that on Parliament Hill,” said the priest, a fixture on the Hill every day the House of Commons is in session, rain, shine, sweltering heat or even the bitter cold and snow of an Ottawa winter.

“I never really suffered much from the weather,” he said. “I dressed for it and I enjoyed being outside. The wind and the rain were the most bothersome because the signs would be blowing.”

Fr Van Hee’s prayer-and-fasting ministry began in 1989 through Operation Rescue, a pro-life organisation that used civil disobedience to protest abortion. He was inspired by the example of Kurt Gayle, a leader of Operation Rescue in Canada, who came to Parliament Hill in the summer of 1988 to protest the Supreme Court’s Morgentaler decision, which struck down Canada’s abortion law.

“He and another fellow fasted for 19 days and put a balloon up in the air every five minutes to signify an abortion was taking place in Canada,” Fr Van Hee said.

The following year, Fr Van Hee, who had been arrested three times with Operation Rescue, volunteered to join the fast. The priest had experience with long-term fasting. He said Gayle suggested “there are more people willing to go to jail than to fast,” so Fr Van Hee said, “I’ll fast.”

Picture: Fr Tony Van Hee, 81, who has prayed and fasted on Parliament Hill for an end to abortion every day the House of Commons is in session for almost 30 years, is seen outside Parliament on 20th June in Ottawa, Ontario. (CNS photo/Deborah Gyapong, The Catholic Register).