Monday, January 24, 2011

“Saving babies on the streets of San Francisco”

“Saving babies on the streets of San Francisco”

Record-breaking turnout at Walk for Life West Coast

By Gibbons J. Cooney 
Special to California Catholic Daily 

Under flawless skies and amid warm temperatures, the Seventh Annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco on Saturday, Jan. 22, exceeded even the organizers’ expectations. KTVU television reported that at least 50,000 pro-lifers attended the event, and the San Francisco Police Department confirmed that the 2011 Walk was the largest ever. 

Although Catholic in origin, the Walk attracts members of many religious denominations, as well as pro-life non-believers 

The most striking aspect of the Walk continues to be the incredible number of young people and families from all over the West in attendance. Catholic churches and high schools, including Notre Dame des Victoires, Archbishop Riordan High School, Saints Peter and Paul Church, and the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption opened their doors so that visitors would have places to stay. 

Cody Stowe, a junior at the University of New Mexico, came with a group of 11 teens and young adults led by Brenda Sais from San Clemente parish in Los Lunes, New Mexico. This was Stowe’s first Walk. “What drew me the walk is the opportunity to be a voice for the unborn, and to spend time in community, praying for those who are killed, but also for the mothers, fathers, and families of the babies,” he said. 

The parishes of St. Patrick’s of Sonora, St. Patrick’s of Angels Camp, Holy Family of Modesto, and St. Andrew’s of San Andreas sent a unified contingent to the Walk for the fifth time. This year’s group consisted of 17 teenagers and three adults. Hanna Walsh said a Life on the Rock Video featuring Lila Rose had been a powerful motivation to attend the Walk. For Steven Grolle it was an opportunity for “saving babies on the streets of San Francisco.” Erin Courtney Smith was even more succinct: “We’re non-abortion believers.” 

John Paul the Great Catholic University and Thomas Aquinas College both sent large contingents to the Walk. 2011 is the fourth year in a row John Paul University students have attended. “I’m originally from Nebraska, and we don’t have marches like this,” said Lucy Bruckner, whose pro-life passion was sharpened by a short documentary she made on abortion. “I came last year and it was my first chance to experience such an enormous gathering of Christians and Catholics and pro-life people. Sometimes we feel alone in this world. Last year was the first time I saw that I was not alone, that many people believe in the same things I do, and are fighting for same things. After I came last year, I was compelled to come this year.” 

“I went to the March on the East Coast when I was at Belmont Abbey College,” said her friend, Diana Urbina, also a JP student. “I saw hundreds of thousands of people advocating for life. When I heard San Francisco had a march I wanted to attend. What is so amazing is the youth and families. It gives hope for the future to see so many people with a true love for human dignity.” 

Adults were equally eloquent. Michael Angel Molina, a life-long native of San Francisco, attended his third walk with his entire family. “So many people have so many wrong thoughts about what the Catholic faith is all about,” he said. “The Walk for Life gives meaning to marriage, the priesthood, and life itself. We are our brother’s keepers. It is incredible the gift and blessing of our faith, a blessing that should never be extinguished or put out. Our faith calls us to become saints.” Molina’s dream is to organize a Eucharistic Procession on San Francisco’s main thoroughfare, Market Street. 

As always, a small number of opponents, including socialists, anarchists, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were there to oppose the pro-lifers. Alan Smith, a San Franciscan who has attended every Walk for Life said that this year he noticed many more outright attacks on the Catholic Church. “In past years, there seemed to be more signs focused specifically on the issue of abortion. This year it seemed to me that more opposition was directed against the Church itself.” 

“Our numbers are growing and our message is resounding more and more,” said Karen Hodel, a co-founder of the Walk and member of the organizing committee. “We are out here for women, we are out here for families. Today was a great day, a peaceful day, and we will see you again next year!”