Jacque Rulf was deep in prayer after daily Mass one morning early last month when she got the news — a soft but certain assurance from deep within: “It’s twins.”

“I repeated it in my head, like a question — ‘Twins?’” Rulf recalls. “And I had this realization: I think the Lord gave me twins.”

No, Rulf isn’t expecting an addition to her family — well, not in the traditional way, at least. As the chair of the Respect Life Committee at Sacred Heart on 49th and Wells, she is one of many parishioners taking part in the Spiritual Adoption Program, launched at the parish on Oct. 3. Participants like Rulf commit to pray daily for the life of an unknown-to-them unborn child who is at risk of being aborted, doing so each day of the child’s nine-month gestation in the womb.

Rulf will never meet the babies for whom she is praying, at least this side of Heaven. But the commitment she has made to lift them (and their mother and father) in prayer is deeply personal — and, she says, transformative. She knows they are out there, somewhere. She knows that God has created them perfectly, and for a specific and glorious purpose. And it is her prayer that they will be allowed to fulfill that purpose.

“I feel these little ones,” Rulf said. “I feel them. These are real babies we’re talking about, who are really in need.”

“Spiritually adopting” an unborn baby threatened by abortion is a common practice popularized through a prayer written by Venerable Fulton Sheen: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you very much. I beg you to spare the life of the unborn baby that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion.”

“It’s about seeing Jesus in every unborn baby,” Rulf said.

This is not the first time that Sacred Heart Croatian Parish has participated in Spiritual Adoption, but this current program includes not only daily prayer but elements of service, education and public witness — a great deal of “bells and whistles,” Rulf said, courtesy of the efforts of parishioners Liz and Dan Zeidler. Liz Zeidler is a member of the Respect Life Committee, and with her husband Dan has been active for decades in the pro-life movement through the Wauwatosa-based Family Life Council, which they founded in 1987.

“Watch Me Grow!” posters adorn the walls at the parish, depicting life from its very earliest stages; the posters are switched out throughout the nine months, showing the progression of the baby’s development. Rulf said the Respect Life Committee is also planning to create a wall of ultrasound photos given by parishioners, side-by-side with current photos of the babies as children, with the title “Me/Still Me!” At the end of the nine months, there will be a “Birthday Celebration” for parishioners to bring diapers, baby clothes and other items to be given to a local pregnancy help center.

There are also weekly pro-life petitions at Mass, and parishioners are encouraged to participate in public prayer witness events such as Life Chain and 40 Days for Life.

But one of the most critical pieces of the campaign is the weekly “Gospel of Life” message included in the parish bulletin, which tackles different topics relating to the sanctity of life and the biological realities of human development. All of these messages include website links for further information on the topic.

“Abortion has been part of the background noise for so long that people kind of push it away — they don’t want to hear about it, even Catholics,” Rulf said. “But there are so many things that people don’t know about abortion, and if we are called as Christians to be salt and light to society, to our culture, then we have to not just swim on the surface, we’ve got to dive in there and get more information to share with others.”

Zeidler said the program, as utilized by Sacred Heart, would be a simple and effective way for any parish or organization to encourage spiritual adoption. He especially encourages Catholic schools to consider implementing it. “Kids love the beautiful images of the unborn child,” he said.

Through widespread legalized abortion, said Zeidler, “the Western world is living an abomination.”

“With the Grace of God, personal prayer and witness can change this,” he said. “And the Spiritual Adoption Program, well-implemented, can help.”

Other parishes or groups interested in learning more about implementing their own Spiritual Adoption Program are invited to contact Sacred Heart Parish – Respect Life Committee through the parish office at 414-774-9418.

A parishioner observing the “Watch Me Grow!” posters that follow along with the baby’s development in the womb. (Submitted photo)