OTTAWA, Canada – A group of young people wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Pro-Life” ended their cross Canada journey to promote the Culture of Life on Aug. 11 on Parliament Hill.
The Crossroads Walkers, aged between 18 and 30, left Vancouver in mid-May, and averaged about 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) a day, walking day and night. This is the first time a group has crossed Canada, though Crossroads (www.crossroadwalk.com) has been sending teams of young people across the United States since 1995.
“This is not going to be a one time thing,” said team leader Cyril Doll, of Calgary, when the group reached the Centennial Flame where they were greeted by about 40 supporters, including Conservative member of Parliament (MP) Pierre Lemieux (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, Ont.).
“I want to give thanks to Jesus Christ for watching out for us, for keeping us safe, for keeping us together and for keeping us motivated,” Doll said.
He said the team offered not only their prayers but also their sufferings, their blisters, their aches and pains to Christ for the sake of “those who have no voices.”
Lemieux thanked the walkers on behalf of Parliament and of Canadians and presented them with a Canadian flag and certificates.
Lemieux told those gathered that Crossroads’ purpose is to “help bring a culture of life.” At World Youth Day in 1993, Pope John Paul II “challenged young people worldwide to spread the gospel of life,” he said, noting that not long after that, Crossroads began sending teams across the United States.
“I thank you for your witness to life, and I thank you for your sacrifices and prayers for the promotion and defense of human life,” he said.
In 1999, Doll walked across the United States from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. He said it was an honor to lead the team on Canada’s first Crossroads Walk, describing it as “a great experience, the best one of my life.”
Ben Broussard of Sulpher, La., was one of two Americans who accompanied the Canadian walkers. He had done three walks across the U.S previously. The Canadian walk ended in Ottawa because most of the walkers are college students who only have a limited time frame. He said future Canadian walks might have a team coming from the east, and another from the west converging in Ottawa.
Sarah Gallagher from Manassas, Va., like her fellow American is a veteran walker. Last year, she trekked from Seattle to Washington. What struck her this time was the apathy of Canadians.
“It took me aback,” she said. Most of the time people would say nothing about their T-shirts, while in the U.S. people would honk or strike up conversations.
According to Doll, the teams met with great support in each city they visited. They relied on donations to support pay for their meals, the van that accompanied them, and other expenses. They spoke at churches along the way. Though Crossroads is an officially Catholic organization, they were often welcomed in non-Catholic churches.
Etienne O’Toole of Vancouver, B.C. said the hardest part was the pain, blisters and sleep deprivation. Yet as hard as the walking was, he had so many great experiences and conversations he would “do it all over again.”
Wendy Macagno was the only other woman besides Sarah on the walk. “It’s really inspiring to see so many men concerned about the dignity of women,” she said. “Abortion does tend to attack the femininity of women.”
Jeremy Fraser of High River, Alta., said one of the best aspects was seeing the great spirit of hope in the pro-life movement, even though many have been fighting for a long time. Greg Roth of Saskatoon, Sask., said the walk has had a “huge impact” on him. At night they walk one by one, and that makes for lots of solitude. “You really get to know yourself better. It’s just you and the Lord and a couple of bears and deer.” Roth used the time to reflect on whether he is called to the priesthood. He plans to enter St. Peter’s Seminary in London this fall.
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