By Henrietta Gomes
After walking 3,100 miles across the country, the Crossroad walkers, one of whom suffered snakebite, reached Washington, D.C., from the West Coast last Friday afternoon in an effort to put an end to abortion.
Crossroads is primarily made up of college age volunteers who spend their summer on a pilgrimage walking across the United States to be a witness to the pro-life movement.
In a Mass celebrated for their safe arrival at the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast, Washington, Auxiliary Bishop Francisco Gonzalez, who presided over the Mass, noted the need to respect life is what life is all about. He said, “Life is a gift from God, and because it is a gift from God, we must proclaim it.”
He commended the walkers on following the words of St. Francis of Assisi who once said, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.’ This is what the walkers did, noted the bishop about the young pilgrims who walked wearing t-shirts with the word “PRO-LIFE” emblazoned on them as their continuous witness to those who saw them on the streets.
The walkers joined by an Australian priest represented states across the country including Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Colorado. They consider themselves to be survivors of the “abortion holocaust.” Most of them were born after the decision of Roe vs. Wade in 1973.
“I want to do all that I can to end the culture of death,” said Mary Paul Gary-Lewis, 19, who was bitten by a copperhead snake during the walk while in Mackin, Ga. The native of Jackson, Miss., was admitted to a hospital and stayed two weeks after undergoing two surgeries due to the bite. The doctor allowed Gary-Lewis to fly to Toronto to join the rest of the group for World Youth Day.
J.D. Flynn, 19, walked for the second time this summer because he felt the need to speak out on behalf of the unheard voices of the abortion victims. “They are being slaughtered…If we can use our voices to save them then we’ve done what Christ has asked of us to do,” said Flynn, whose feet were blistered, dirty and tired upon arriving in the nation’s capital.
Often times the walking can become discouraging because, “we’re not doing something with immediate and tangible results,” said Flynn. However, Crossroads, he said “has had profound effects in the way it shapes people and conforms people to God’s will.” He noted the joy in watching his teammates blossom in holiness from the experience.
“God is still in charge,” said the bishop urging the young people to remain hopeful in bringing an end to abortion. “Don’t be afraid, Jesus is with us. [By] imitating him we become witnesses of his love.”
Andrew Doran, 27, the walk leader, who walked for the first time in 1997, said, “I think this is the most important fight that’s going on in our civilization. The future of the Catholics in the West hinges completely on the fight for life.” Doran added, “If we don’t fight, we won’t survive.”
After the members of Crossroads stopped in her hometown of Denver, Kirstin Holum felt inspired to join the “amazing passionate group of young people,” in continuing the walk across country to bring an end to abortion. “This was the most amazing experience of my I life,” said Holum, 22. “I learned so much about myself, those around me and life.” Most importantly, she added, “I’ve grown so much in my own faith.”
For many of the pilgrims, not all the experiences, however, were happy moments. “We basically run into two types of people, the pro-lifers, and the pro-choicers,” said Mary Worthington, 19, of Charlotte, N.C., who recalled being welcomed into the homes of pro-lifers who showed kindness and hospitality.
Worthington also recalled being tormented by the screams, shouts, curses by many of the pro-choicers they came across. “We were planting seeds. They saw how we remained calm and peaceful.” If they think hard enough [about the protest against abortion], they’ll remember the calm kids kneeling and praying while we let them spit on us,” said Worthington about an experience in front of an abortion clinic in Toronto while the group took part in the World Youth Day festivities.
The volunteer walkers gave up their summer vacation months in order to pray and sacrifice for the sins of their generation. “It is such a great insult that one third of our generation was killed,” said Worthington who believes that the new wave of pro-lifers will bring abortion to an end.
Regardless of the suffering and sacrifice that the group had to deal with, Gary-Lewis said, “It was totally worth it. Snake bite and all, it was worth it,” she said with a smile on her face.
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