Benedictine student ‘walks her talk’

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ROMEOVILLE—Jamie Racki, a junior at Benedictine University in Lisle celebrated her 21st birthday July 5. She could have chosen the route that some college students follow—partying into the wee hours of the next morning. Instead, the parishioner of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Darien continued her 11-week journey of professing her pro-life beliefs by walking across the country. “It wasn’t a tough question of what to do on my 21st birthday,” she told the Catholic Explorer July 15 while talking on her cell phone and walking along U. S. Route 14 from Mount Prospect to Des Plaines.

On May 20, the Hinsdale resident started walking in Seattle, Wash., and she plans on continuing her trek through August 11. Racki is participating in the 2006 northern walk of Crossroads, a pro-life initiative started in 1994 by Steve Sanborn, who was then a student at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Each summer, college-age walkers spread the pro-life message as they pray at abortion clinics along the route, enrich their faith through daily Mass and pray for a change in culture while reciting the rosary and walking.

The “physically and spiritually challenging” endeavor has been very attractive to young adults, commented Martha Nolan, national director of Crossroads. The interest has been so high that the original walk with about a dozen participants has turned into three separate walks with a total of about 36 participants.

“We know our prayers and sacrifices in blisters and aches from walking make a difference in our culture. … We might not get national media exposure, but we’ve seen thousands of people face to face,” she added. Nolan said in addition to rallying thousands of people behind the cause, the walkers have inspired women to change their minds about undergoing an abortion.

The three walks that began in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles are scheduled to merge Aug. 12 in Washington for a rally outside the U.S. Capitol Building. Nolan said, “We want to inform people why the church teaches this.”

Racki, who has participated in national events such as the March for Life and local life chains, said, “I always wanted to do something big, and I didn’t think what I was doing was enough.” She became acquainted with representatives of Crossroads while attending a national conference about protecting the sanctity of life. She remembered, “I couldn’t think of a reason good enough not to do it.”

Caring fellow Catholics at Our Lady of Peace Parish and Notre Dame Parish in Clarendon Hills as well as a handful of students and faculty at Benedictine University eliminated her only roadblock—finances. She explained that she had planned on earning money for the next semester of college during the summer months and she couldn’t afford to sacrifice her potential earnings. Members of the faith communities donated close to $6,000 to Racki when she shared her ambitions with them during weekend Masses. Their gratuity afforded her the opportunity to pay for airfare, supplies and supplement lost income.

The overwhelming generosity and hospitality of Catholics is just one of the lessons Racki has gleaned from her experience. But more importantly, she said she’s learned the roots of that spirit within the text of the Bible and the documents of the church. A few of her 11 fellow walkers are discerning religious life and have inspired her with their own insights on Catholic life and dedication to prayer. She said, “I’ve learned so much about the Catholic faith.”

Racki has had a chance to discern her own vocation as her feet have hit the pavement time and time again. The elementary education major said she is now determined to teach at a Catholic school. She said, “It’s a good way to spread the Gospel.”

Assistant campus minister, Benedictine Brother Richard Poro, said he hoped the endeavor would strengthen Racki’s resolve to continue her pro-life efforts at the Lisle university. He said this journey exemplifies her determination and will to spread the message. “It certainly takes a special person to do something like that. Her experience by doing that will hopefully encourage other students to (fight for life) as well.”