By Laurie Dunklee
They are walking across America to save the babies.
Ten young adults, including two brothers from Denver, and one Australian priest are walking from San Francisco to Toronto, Ontario, to draw attention to the approximately 1.5 million abortions performed each year in the United States.
The group is part of Crossroads, a pro-life organization that sponsors the cross-country walk each summer. Walkers stop in towns and cities along the way to pray at abortion clinics and hold town hall meetings on abortion issues. The group that started from San Francisco will meet up with a second Crossroads group that is walking from Clearwater, Fla. The two groups will converge in Toronto on July 22 for World Youth Day.
In mid-June, the Crossroads walkers reached Colorado and passed through Denver for a weekend. Walkers Mark and Tom Thomason are Denver residents who were pleased to share the work of Crossroads with their own community.
“The more I learn about abortion and its effects, the more I want to be involved in this fight,” said Mark Thomason, 25. “In a way this is my generation’s fight because those of us born since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (when abortion was legalized) are survivors of abortion.”
Thomason is a graduate of Metropolitan State College of Denver and attends Holy Ghost Church. This is the second summer he has participated in the Crossroads Walk.
He said one of the most powerful things the walkers do is pray and counsel at abortion clinics. The group’s Denver itinerary included praying in front of Planned Parenthood at 20th and Vine streets and then walking down Colfax to the State Capitol.
“We don’t yell, scream or berate people. We are quiet, loving and kind. We talk with people if they let us, but mostly we just pray,” Thomason said.
Crossroads was started by Steve Sanborn, a college student who was inspired by Pope John Paul II’s words at World Youth Day 1993 in Denver. The Pope challenged the youth “to go out on the streets and into the public places, like the first apostles who preached Christ and the good news of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages.”
So in the summer of 1995, Sanborn and 10 others joined together to spread the message “All human life is sacred!” across the country. They walked from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., praying for the conversion of hearts and minds and offering up sacrifices to God in atonement for the crime of abortion. Since the first walk, Crossroads has crossed the country nine more times. More than 200 college-age youth have participated in the journey. Their efforts in prayer and sidewalk counseling have saved the lives of many pre-born babies.
Father Hilary Flynn was a participant in the first Crossroads Walk in 1995 and has returned this year. Father Flynn is pastor of Sacred Heart Mission, a parish of about 100 people on Thursday Island on the northern coast of Australia.
“Being with the kids touches my heart,” Father Flynn said. “They asked me to come again, so I came.”
The priest says Mass for the walkers every day. The 62-year-old also walks with them as much as he can.
“We sing, we pray, we tell stories to pass the time and to take our minds off the miles,” he said.
Group members walk in shifts, 20 to 24 hours each day.
“It’s like a big relay,” Thomason said. “You walk five to 10 miles, then rest in the van while someone else walks.”
The “van” is a large camper with bunk beds in back for the girls and room for several sleeping bags in front for the boys. The girls’ and boys’ areas are kept strictly separated, Thomason said.
Even with some privacy, it’s very close quarters.
“It’s one of the sacrifices we make,” said walker Michelle Shea, 20, a theology student at Belmont Abbey in North Carolina. Walkers also keep going when it’s dark, freezing cold, or blazing hot.
“God sees our sacrifices, and we have hope that our faith will end the culture of death that is abortion,” she said.
The walkers’ strong feelings against abortion, and their willingness to sacrifice in order to end it, were themes at the town hall meeting at the Knights of Columbus Council 539 Hall in downtown Denver.
Each walker testified about his or her own personal reasons for joining the walk this summer.
J.D. Flynn, 19, a student at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, said,
“I really don’t like to walk, and I don’t pray that well. So I ask myself, ‘What am I doing here?’ And my answer is that 4,400 children are dying every day from abortion. That’s what I’m doing here.”