Virginia Teen Walking From Coast to Coast for Life

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Arlington, Va – Three months could mean a lot of things for college students: a trip to Europe, a bank-account boosting summer job, repeated days of waking up at 2 p.m.

For 19-year-old Kelsey McManus, however, it means three months of walking 20 miles a day from one coast of the United States to the other. The reason: her passion for the pro-life cause. McManus, an alumna of Holy Spirit School in Annandale and a rising sophomore at Notre Dame University in Indiana, is walking with 30 other young adults with the pro-life program Crossroads.

“Of all the things I stand for, this is the thing I stand for most,” McManus said.

According to its Web site, Crossroads was founded in 1994 as a way of responding to Pope John Paul II’s call to establish a culture of life. During the summer, each walker completes anywhere from 1,200-1,500 miles, stopping along the way to give talks and advocate for life outside of abortion clinics.

McManus is walking the central route (two other paths follow northern and southern routes), beginning in San Francisco, and ending in Washington, D.C., in time for a pro-life rally in front of the Capitol on Aug. 15. She will walk in four-hour shifts with the others, averaging 15 to 20 miles each day. Evenings are spent at campgrounds or parishes.

Young people have a “powerful impact,” said Brendan Flannery, executive director of Crossroads. “So many people are touched by the youth.”

The walk is an opportunity for young people to speak out as leaders in the next generation, he said.

“They’re tired of being told that, ‘you guys are the future, but this is how you’re going to think,’” Flannery said. The cross-country walk is “something that allows them to get out there and say ‘no.’”

Though by the time the summer is over McManus will have treaded through California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado — including the Rocky Mountains — Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the nation’s capital, she is unconcerned about the physical impact of walking so far.

“Obviously it is a really big deal, but for me it doesn’t seem as much of a sacrifice, because I am so for the cause,” she said. “I think it’s really important, especially in this time.”

Along with the physical toll, walkers also wage a “spiritual battle,” said Flannery, which consists of daily Mass, morning and evening prayer, and — while walking — reciting all the mysteries of the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

McManus said her passion for the pro-life cause stems from her Catholic grade school.

“I remember in fifth grade, I heard about March for Life for the first time,” McManus said. That year, she congregated in downtown Washington with her grandmother, thus beginning a tradition that she has kept up nearly every year since.

Now McManus is participating in what is essentially the March for Life on steroids — during which she’s looking forward to “meeting people and changing opinions,” especially “the women who are on the edge” and haven’t formed opinions regarding the pro-life issue, she said.

“I’m sure I’ll have some great experiences,” she said. “Every place I’ll go will be amazing.”

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