August 3, 2007

Walking to end abortion: Crossroads walkers mark 13 years of pro-life activism

Crossroads walkers Beth Ann Flessner, left, from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Madison, Miss., and Alzbeta Voboril from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wichita, Kan., pray with the archdiocesan Helpers of God’s Precious Infants on July 21 in front of an abortion clinic in Indianapolis.

Crossroads walkers Beth Ann Flessner, left, from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Madison, Miss., and Alzbeta Voboril from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wichita, Kan., pray with the archdiocesan Helpers of God’s Precious Infants on July 21 in front of an abortion clinic in Indianapolis.

By Mary Ann Wyand

They walk and pray and walk some more and pray again with one goal in sight.

Their destination is the nation’s capital, and their goal is expressed by their slogan of “saving lives one step at a time.”

By speaking the truth about abortion and praying every day during the 13th annual Crossroads Pro-Life Walk Across America this summer, they are trying to educate countless Americans about how abortion kills babies.

They believe that the truth will change people’s minds and hearts, which will lead to an end to legalized abortion.

And so they walk for the more than 48 million babies who have died in abortions in the U.S. since 1973 and the unborn babies whose lives are at risk as well as for the men and women whose lives have been changed forever by the tragedy of abortion.

This summer, more than 50 young adults are walking on one of three 10-week, 3,200-mile, coast-to-capital pilgrimages and sharing their pro-life messages with an estimated 1 million people in dozens of cities.

Walking an average of 17 miles a day, each Crossroads volunteer will cover more than 1,200 miles by Aug. 11 when all three groups of pro-life pilgrims are scheduled to arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington for a prayer service.

Since the first Crossroads pro-life pilgrimage in 1995, the walkers have been able to save the lives of many unborn babies and 10 former walkers have pledged their lives to God as priests or religious.

Third Order Regular Franciscan Father Dan Pattee, a native of South Bend, Ind., and director of graduate theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, and seven young adults departed from San Francisco in May at the same time that two other Crossroads groups started walking east from Los Angeles and Seattle.

“It’s been a real joy in the journey,” Father Dan said on July 21 in the midst of a weekend of pro-life activities in the archdiocese.

In Indianapolis, they participated in the monthly archdiocesan Helpers of God’s Precious Infants Pro-Life Mass celebrated by Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general, on July 21 at St. Michael the Archangel Church then prayed the rosary for an end to abortion outside the Clinic for Women on West 16th Street.

They also spoke before Masses on July 21-22 at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, St. Luke the Evangelist, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Bernadette, St. Joan of Arc and Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ parishes in Indianapolis.

“God slipped it into my heart,” Father Dan said about his decision to join the nationwide pro-life walk at the invitation of several Franciscan University students.

“In October, I asked my superior and he permitted me to go,” Father Dan said. “Then I knew it was the work of the Lord.”

From the Pacific coast, walkers on the central route crossed the arid desert in Nevada and Utah then snow-covered mountain ranges in Colorado and continued on through the Great Plains states on their way to the Midwest and eastward to the District of Columbia, walking in all kinds of weather and extreme temperatures that ranged from 25 degrees to 110 degrees.

“I am inspired by each one of the walkers,” Father Dan said. “For them, this [pilgrimage] is personal because they are post-1973 babies who were born after women had a choice and could be pro-death. A lot of their peers have not made it into this world and they feel that. To me, it’s been a real lesson on just how motivated this generation feels when they come on to the truth of what abortion is doing to their generation.

“One of the most pro-life virtues I can think of for young people today is the virtue of chastity,” he said. “It’s so pro-life. It’s pro-dignity of the human person. It’s valuing the whole person, and it’s the virtue that preserves you for the future, whatever your vocation might be. That is one thing I pray for because it keeps all your doors open in the order of nature and grace.”

Central walk leader Jason Spoolstra, youth director of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Fort Worth, Texas, is walking across the country for the second time.

“It’s the small gestures from people that really mean a lot to us,” Spoolstra said. “In 2005, I did part of the southern walk then the rest of the way on the central walk. I told myself, ‘If God wills it, if God wants it, I’ll walk again, and here I am.”

Beth Ann Flessner, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Madison, Miss., and a senior at the University of Dallas, joined the pro-life pilgrimage because she was born on Jan. 22, 1986, the 13th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion during all nine months of pregnancy.

Flessner said her birthday “always made me think that I was supposed to do something for the pro-life movement.”

Seminarian Jason Handcock from the Diocese of Sacramento, Calif., decided to participate in the pro-life

pilgrimage after praying about summer ministry plans during eucharistic adoration.

“I received permission from [Sacramento] Bishop William Weigand to do it,” Handcock said. “There’s a great spirituality that goes along with Crossroads. I think it’s a great way to get out and see the country and meet the faithful. … You visit so many parishes and meet so many people. … That will be

helpful in my future ministry.”

Prayer is an integral part of the pro-life movement for Tina Hardy, a member of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Buffalo, N.Y., and recent graduate of Franciscan University.

“I wanted to do something pro-life after graduation,” Hardy said. “There are days that are harder than others. It’s important to get involved and pray. I think prayer is the most important thing you can do for the pro-life movement.” †

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