PROVIDENCE — Downtown Los Angeles at 2:15 a.m. was where Father Dwight Hoeberech ended up after walking 25 miles from Santa Monica, through Beverly Hills, and Hollywood. Far from lost and wearing a white shirt with the words “pro-life” emblazoned across the front, Father Hoeberech and others were just beginning their cross-country walk for life.
On Friday, May 22, in Los Angeles, Father Hoeberech, a Lowell, Mass. priest, began his walk for Crossroads, a coast-to-coast pro-life pilgrimage that give witness to the dignity and sanctity of all human life. Two other witnesses started in Seattle and San Francisco, respectively, that day, and will complete the walk together August 15 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.
For 15 years, college students from across the United States have been traversing the nation with Crossroads, a three month pro-life walk whose organizers advocate the protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. From the Pacific coast to the Atlantic, walkers cover more than 11,000 miles, pass through 38 states, two Canadian provinces and thousands of cities and towns, according to the Crossroads Web site.
“I come in as 46 year-old, who has been a priest for 12 years and the walkers are generally 18-30,” said Father Hoeberech from Twentynine Palms, CA. “It is an honor to be accepted into the Crossroads experience. It’s been great so far. We have been walking for over a week now.”
Crossroads was founded in 1994 as a way of responding to Pope John Paul II’s call to the youth to “build a culture of life.” During the summer, each participant walks between 1,200-1,500 miles, stopping along the way to advocate for the sanctity of life at all stages.
“I have already heard stories about how after daily Mass people will come up to them and say how great what they are doing is,” said Brendan Flannery, executive director of Crossroads.
Father Hoeberech serves as the vocations director for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate for the East Coast. When interviewed, he and the eight members of his group had already accomplished a 78 mile-long trek. He explained that the walking is done in shifts, with morning and evening walkers — with someone always walking.
Praying for a long time about this opportunity, Father Hoeberech felt that the combination of his pro-life devotion and love for walking would make Crossroads a perfect fit for him.
“I took it to prayer,” said Father Hoeberech. “I felt this would be a great way for my passion to promote life. I understood there was going to be a lot of walking, but they are not joking around when they say you are going to walk across the country.”
Father Hoeberech emphasized that prayer is an essential component of the Crossroads journey. Walkers participate in morning and evening prayer and daily Mass.
“One of the members of our walking group’s responsibility is to know where the camp is and to search out a church,” Father Hoeberech said. “We need the Eucharist to nourish us and strengthen us to take each step.”
Having to always travel light, Father Hoeberech carries one medium-sized duffel bag, a small backpack, and two pairs of sneakers.
“When I was talking with one of our Oblates at St. Joseph the Worker, I asked the director if I could speak after Communion on vocations and about the walk,” Father Hoeberech explained. “I gave a three minute explanation and was greeting people after Mass when a gentleman who is the corporate manager for New Balance sneakers came up to me and said, ‘I want to support you with prayers and support you by giving you a brand new pair of walking shoes. We want your feet to be comfortable.'”
Father Hoeberech explained that their group has already received much positive feedback from people who see them walking, all sporting their pro-life T-shirts.
“We were in a CVS one night and I was talking with one of the workers,” Father Hoeberech recalled. “She asked me what I was doing there so late and I said ‘I’m walking across America.’ She said, ‘You are doing what?’
“We have received a lot of favorable impressions from people and a lot of positive feedback. When people see what we are doing, it stirs up the feelings and emotions in different ways. It’s a peaceful organization and they see that.”
In the future, Father Hoeberech hopes to visit Rhode Island for vocation awareness days to speak about religious vocations and his Crossroads experience.
“Crossroads is another way of getting out into the community to share the pro-life message,” said Father Hoeberech. “It has been a wonderful experience and pilgrimage.”
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