Blisters part of the drill for Pro-Life Walkers

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ROMEOVILLE, IL (CNS) – “I am a survivor of abortion,” Dave Bathon told the Catholic Explorer, newspaper of the Joliet Diocese, by telephone.

The 21-year-old former student of Naperville’s SS. Peter and Paul School called from the road — he is one of about 40 college students walking across the country this summer to promote the value of human life. The students, split into three groups, started in May in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. They are to meet in Washington at a pro-life rally Aug. 6 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

In describing the circumstances surrounding his birth, Bathon said that in 1984 his mother was advised by doctors to abort her unborn son because she was diagnosed with throat cancer.

“She said she chose to love me,” he said, noting that many women in the same situation would have opted to have an abortion.

Three years after his birth, cancer spread to the rest of his mother’s body and she died.

Her efforts to save his life were so powerful that he has become a pro-life activist, he said. Bathon started a pro-life group when he was a teenager at St. Joseph High School in South Bend, Ind. As a student at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona, he is a member of St. Joseph County Right to Life.

“I’m trying to share my mother’s hope with other people,” he said.

The experiences of Bathon and his fellow walkers are being followed on the Web site The cross-country treks are in their 11th year and are sponsored by Crossroads. There is a northern walk, a central walk and a southern walk; the northern route was added this year.

The June 25-26 weekend marked the halfway point for participants. They try to walk 15 to 20 miles a day; when they are finished they will have covered more than 9,500 miles across 31 states.

Organizers said the idea for the walks was inspired by Pope John Paul II, who in 1993 at World Youth Day in Denver called for America’s youths to “preach the Gospel of life from the rooftops.”

Sporting white T-shirts with large, black letters spelling “pro-life,” the young people walk through big and small towns, and colleagues stop on weekends to pray at abortion clinics, offer sidewalk counseling and speak at parishes.

“It’s been about as real as it can get,” Bathon said of the experience. He rattled off the pains and strains that go along with such a trek, including blisters, insect bites and minor injuries sustained by his fellow walkers. One walker’s blisters were as severe as a second-degree burn; another participant fractured toes on her right foot.

On July 1, the northern walk was slated to enter the Chicago area, where the walkers planned to speak at parishes throughout the archdiocese, offering insights and asking for prayers and financial support.

“We live on those donations from week to week. … God provides,” Bathon said.

The cross-country journey has “helped strengthen my prayer life,” he added. He prays the rosary multiple times a day along with the Divine Mercy chaplet and attends daily Mass.

Especially touching to him are the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. His aching muscles and sore blisters seem insignificant as he meditates on the agony in the garden, scourging at the pillar, crowning with thorns, carrying of the cross and Crucifixion.

“We’re offering up our prayers and sacrifices for the culture of life,” he added.

Martha Nolan, national director of Crossroads, explained that participants intend to continue their advocacy during World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in August.

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