INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (CNS) – They walk and pray and walk some more and pray again with one goal in sight. Their destination is the nation’s capital, and their goal is expressed by their slogan of “saving lives one step at a time.”
During the 13th annual Crossroads Pro-Life Walk Across America this summer, more than 50 young adults are trying to educate countless Americans about how abortion kills babies. They are walking on one of three 10-week, 3,200-mile, coast-to-capital pilgrimages and sharing their pro-life messages with an estimated 1 million people in dozens of cities.
Walking an average of 17 miles a day, each Crossroads volunteer will cover more than 1,200 miles by Aug. 11 when all three groups of pro-life pilgrims are scheduled to arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington for a prayer service.
Organizers of Crossroads said that since the first cross-country pilgrimage took place in 1995, the walkers have saved the lives of many unborn babies, and 10 former walkers have pledged their lives to God as priests or religious.
Franciscan Father Dan Pattee, a native of South Bend, Ind., and director of graduate theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, and seven young adults departed from San Francisco in May, following the pilgrimage’s central route. They started at the same time that two other Crossroads groups left from Los Angeles and Seattle to follow a southern and a northern route, respectively.
Also, for the first year, a group of Canadian youths are walking from coast to coast in their country to promote the dignity of human life. They left Vancouver, British Columbia, May 19, with plans to arrive in Ottawa Aug. 11.
“It’s been a real joy in the journey,” Father Pattee said July 21 in the midst of a weekend of pro-life activities in the Indianapolis Archdiocese.
“God slipped it into my heart,” the priest said of his decision to join the nationwide pro-life walk at the invitation of several Franciscan University students.
“In October, I asked my superior and he permitted me to go,” Father Pattee said. “Then I knew it was the work of the Lord.”
From the Pacific coast, walkers on the central route crossed the arid desert in Nevada and Utah, then snow-covered mountain ranges in Colorado and continued on through the Great Plains states on their way to the Midwest and eastward to the District of Columbia, walking in all kinds of weather and temperatures that ranged from 25 degrees to 110 degrees.
“I am inspired by each one of the walkers,” Father Pattee told The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese.
“For them, this (pilgrimage) is personal because they are post-1973 babies who were born after women had a choice and could be pro-death,” he said, referring to the year the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion during all nine months of pregnancy.
“A lot of their peers have not made it into this world and they feel that. To me, it’s been a real lesson on just how motivated this generation feels when they come on to the truth of what abortion is doing to their generation,” the priest said.
Central walk leader Jason Spoolstra, youth director of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Fort Worth, Texas, was walking across the country for the second time.
“It’s the small gestures from people that really mean a lot to us,” Spoolstra said. “In 2005, I did part of the southern walk then the rest of the way on the central walk. I told myself, ‘If God wills it, if God wants it, I’ll walk again, and here I am.”
Beth Ann Flessner, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Madison, Miss., and a senior at the University of Dallas, joined the pro-life pilgrimage because she was born Jan. 22, 1986, the 13th anniversary of Roe.
Flessner said her birthday “always made me think that I was supposed to do something for the pro-life movement.”
Prayer is an integral part of the pro-life movement for Tina Hardy, a member of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Buffalo, N.Y., and a recent graduate of Franciscan University.
“I wanted to do something pro-life after graduation,” Hardy said. “There are days that are harder than others. It’s important to get involved and pray. I think prayer is the most important thing you can do for the pro-life movement.”
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