Student is a Walking Witness

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by Cathy Dyson

College student Mary Alling is spending her summer taking steps – mile after mile of them – to share her belief that every unborn child has the right to life.

As soon as the Spotsylvania County resident finished her first year at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, she went to California to catch up with a team from Crossroads, a group that spreads its anti-abortion message by organizing cross-country walks for college students.

This is the 15th year for the treks. Three groups that started from Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles on May 22 will meet up in Washington on Aug. 15.

Alling, 19, missed the first week of the walk because she was still in class. Since late May, she has been part of a core group of 10 people on what’s called the southern walk.

The route has taken her through the Mojave Desert, where she saw jack rabbits, wild boars, rattlesnakes and armadillos. She hiked through the center of Texas, then crossed into the Gulf Coast states and headed north toward the Carolinas. The group entered Virginia on Thursday and passed through the Fredericksburg area, on U.S. 1, on Friday.

The walkers are divided into two or three shifts, each walking five miles at a time.

“It’s just a giant relay,” she said from her cell phone Thursday

Her group plans to hit Washington about a week earlier than expected. The walkers hit a groove early on, and Alling guesses she has walked more than 20 miles a day.

“We’ve got a lot of blisters, but otherwise, we’ve been really blessed,” she said.

Alling heard about Crossroads from a fellow parishioner at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Spotsylvania. She took care of all the arrangements, said her mother, Lori Mattson.

Mattson and her husband, Gordon Alling, knew their daughter shared their anti-abortion passion, but Mattson wasn’t sure that it would translate into a trip across the country with strangers.

“It’s one thing to have an ideal, it’s another thing to act on it,” her mother said. “She’s doing something she really believes in, and I’m proud of her.”

Alling was Riverbend High School’s salutatorian in 2008. She’s majoring in biology and international studies at Scranton.

She’s met a lot of people on her cross-country journey. The walkers wear shirts sporting their anti-abortion message, and the RV they sleep in has “PRO-BABY” on its license plate.

The group stops daily for Mass, and walkers talk with anyone who’ll listen.

“We ask people to get involved with the pro-life movement and do whatever they can do,” Alling said. “We just want to be a witness, to change hearts and change lives.”

Alling will gather with about 30 other college students who took the northern and central routes. They’ll meet at the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 15.

Alling won’t have much time to soak her feet. Her classes resume the following Wednesday.

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