OGDEN — “We have walked through hail, rain, wind, sunshine, double rainbows, the dark, and the light of the stars,” said Rita Kaehler, 20, a Crossroads walker from Lodi, Calif. “The thing about the Sierra Mountains in Nevada, is the weather changes every 30 minutes, and makes it an adventure.”
Crossroads was founded in 1994 by Steve Sanborn, a student at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, in response to Pope John Paul II’s call to take an active role in the pro-life movement in order to establish a Culture of Life. An integral part of Crossroads is the yearly pilgrimage across the United States.
Each summer, young adults walk from Seattle, Wash., San Francisco, and Los Angeles, Calif., to Washington, D.C. witnessing to the dignity and sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death. During their pilgrimage across the United States, they strive always to join their efforts, prayers and small sacrifices with the sufferings of Christ crucified for the sake of the innocent.
Part of the mission of their walk is to speak to the survivors of abortion, the youth, and parish groups to encourage pro-life activism.
Nine students passed through Salt Lake City and Ogden June 12-14. They left San Francisco May 23, and they will arrive in Washington, D. C. Aug. 15 for a rally.
“What I see when these women and young girls go into these women’s clinics is the sadness they have. You can feel it,” said Kaehler. “They have their boyfriends, or their mothers drive them. These young girls and women are not ones who speak up, it is their friends, their brother, or mother saying leaving us alone. It is always such a sad experience. Your heart goes out to them because you see the hurt that is inside of their eyes, so you can’t help but have compassion for them. That has been my experience.
“My mom had an abortion when she was 18 in 1982,” said Kaehler. “Her friend took her, and she said if she would have had more information, understanding, and wisdom, and if her parents and the Catholic Church would have taught her more about the wrongs of abortion, she is almost positive she would have kept her baby.”
“It just seems that often these women do not feel they have a choice,” said Dave Bathon, Crossroad director from Washington, D. C., who walked in 2005. “The rhetoric the other side will use is pro-choice. These mothers, and even a lot of fathers who are killing their children do not feel they have a choice. They are not told about the different options available to them in crisis pregnancy centers – not just up until they have the child, but for years and years after the fact.
“So the language used by those who will stand against us is lost,” said Bathon. “Choice is freedom and is a gift that God has given us. It is our free will.”
“When you make that choice, you have to live with it,” said Kelsey McManus, from Fairfax, Va. “Just because it has been made legal, does not make it right. It is wrong.
“I am a sophomore and am part of the Right to Life Club at the University of Notre Dame, Ind., and they mentioned the walk,” said McManus. “I felt this would be a wonderful opportunity. My experience has been great. Praying in front of the women’s clinics have helped me to grow in my spirituality and in the cause.”
“I was influenced by my mother’s decision to have an abortion,” said Kaehler, who also has a younger sister Bridget, 18, who is also on the walk. “I am the second oldest of three children. We did not find out until two years ago. It was very hard for her to tell us. She went to a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat for post-abortive mothers, and it was a few weeks after that she told us.
“I don’t think she really knew how to tell us because we were always brought up so Catholic, so pro-life, that it never crossed my mind. I was in total denial and shocked. I felt empathetic and so sorry for her that she had to go through that and did not have the right support even from her own parents.
“I go to a community college, and my major is nursing,” said Kaehler. “I want to become a Neonato ICU nurse.
“I worked at pro-life booths with my grandmother, and did some counseling there,” said Kaehler. “That was my first introduction, and we have attended the last five Walks for Life in San Francisco.
“The challenges spiritually, physically, and mentally on this walk have been great,” said Kaehler. “The spiritual struggles come in because the devil really wants to work on you, and other things that prevent you from praying sometimes. We do pray the rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and the Liturgy of the Hours every morning and night. And whenever possible, we attend daily Mass.
“We struggle with the weather conditions,” said Kaehler. “We switch between day and night walking.
“I like the walking part,” said McManus. “There are less distractions, so I pray. It is really gorgeous when the moon rises and the stars come out. It is pretty when the sun rises.
“Every time I look at a map, it really blows my mind we are walking across the United States, so I just take one day at a time,” said Kaehler. “Utah is awesome.
“I found out in 2005, from a friend I was with in seminary. I told him that was awesome for him. I would think about it and really had no intension of walking across the country,” said Bathon. “Then he visited around Easter, and I prayed about it for a couple of hours, and I decided it was what I needed to do that summer.
“Now four years later, this is what my life is,” said Bathon. “I have come to realize no one can say they have put in their time. Lives are being lost every day and there is still a war to be fought.
“I had plans to teach philosophy, but I see this as something that is so important that this what I do,” said Bathon. “I am actually not walking, I just come in to help out and get in some miles. As long as lives are being lost and as long as the voiceless don’t have a voice, I will be that voice.”
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