By: Chris Bone
Internships, flipping burgers, or lying by the pool wouldn’t cut it this summer for a philosophy major and a Boston College grad, so they decided to walk across the country instead.
In May, Peter Stamm, A&S ’08, and Jennifer Luoma, BC ’06, began their 3,000-mile journeys in Seattle, Wash., and San Francisco, Calif., respectively, and charged east in white T-shirts with “PRO LIFE” written in bold blue letters across the front.
The shirts came from Crossroads, a national anti-abortion group that organized this summer’s 12th-annual pan-American journey for dozens of Catholic college students.
“The idea of Crossroads is that of a pilgrimage,” said Stamm. “You have to surrender yourself and be an instrument.”
Being a finely tuned instrument comes in handy for five-hour walks in all kinds of weather. Aside from the Seattle and San Francisco groups, another began in Los Angeles, but they all followed the same logistics: A van would drop off the “day shift,” whose members would take turns walking five-mile stretches until 10 hours had passed and 30 to 40 miles had been covered. Then the night shift took over with their reflective gear until the two shifts met for morning Mass and then began anew.
Luoma and Stamm, both lifelong Catholics, said that aside from a few fingers and drive-by trash-chuckings, there weren’t many belligerents along the way. (The worst Stamm saw was a spitting in Chicago.)
The groups seemed to avoid hostile run-ins with a respectful presence. “We weren’t carrying around pictures of aborted fetuses or anything,” said Stamm. Louma described her group as “a peaceful army.”
“Our presence in Wal-Marts while food shopping or brushing our teeth in the bathroom, or walking on the roadside, or praying at daily Mass sent a message,” she said.
The groups spent weekends in predetermined cities with host families: a chance to shower, do laundry, and even see the Mall of America near Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.
They spent their time away from the road attending anti-abortion barbecues and praying in front of abortion clinics. “That was the most important part of our week,” said Luoma of one particular Saturday, “since we brought witness to those praying in front of the clinic as well as those going to the clinic.”
In Chicago, Stamm said he and his group told a pregnant woman walking into an abortion clinic that her “child’s a living being with fingers and toes.” Shortly after, she came back out, he said.
Luoma said that after Mass once, a woman approached her group and told them that three years ago she had decided to keep her baby girl after seeing a Crossroads group speak at her Mass.
“The Crossroads walkers from three years ago saved that little girl, but never saw the fruits of their walk,” said Luoma. “We were there to see that little girl,” she added, “and that inspired us tremendously.”
Statistics were another source of inspiration for the walkers who cited that since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, there have been over 38 million abortions in America. “That means that for every two or three friends you have, you should have one or two more,” said Luoma, reasoning that one-fourth to one-third of pregnancies have resulted in abortion.
Asceticism surely flows from the See of Rome, the former home of John Paul II, the man responsible for Crossroads. At the World Youth Day in Denver, Colo., in 1993, he cautioned the youth of today to remember the sacredness and dignity of life.
“So in 1995,” said Luoma, “students decided to do just that and flew out to the west coast and began walking across America.”
“It meant a lot to do something that was so close to Pope John Paul’s heart,” she added. And despite the RV breaking down in the Rocky Mountains and a few shin splints, Luoma said the trip “was a really cool adventure” she would do again.
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