San Francisco, Calif., Jan 23, 2023 / 07:45 am (CNA).
Thousands of people joined pro-life walks in San Francisco and Los Angeles on Saturday, advocating for the unborn in a state that now bills itself as an abortion “sanctuary” following last year’s historic reversal of Roe v. Wade.
“What so many of us dreamed of, prayed for, and worked hard for during the course of half a century came to pass: the overturning of this monstrous decision,” San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in his homily at a Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral prior to the city’s 19th annual Walk for Life West Coast. He was referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24, 2022, ruling in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that freed states to regulate abortion as they see fit.
“While the now historic Dobbs decision is a great step forward in building a culture of life in our society, in another sense it adds new and even greater challenges, especially here in our own state of California, which promises to be a so-called ‘sanctuary state’ for abortion,” the archbishop said. “Surely there could be no greater oxymoron, for ‘sanctuary’ is about protecting human life and human rights, not taking them away!”
An estimated 10,000 people turned out for the San Francisco walk, the second-largest pro-life demonstration in the U.S. after the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., which marked its 50th anniversary a day earlier.
In Los Angeles, more than 5,000 pro-life supporters attended the ninth annual OneLife LA event, which focuses on combating homelessness and human trafficking and raising awareness of mental health in addition to championing the right to life. Its theme this year was “Our Mission Is Love.”
“Together we are doing something beautiful to make a difference,” Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez said in his welcoming remarks to the participants Saturday.
“We are part of a great movement of human freedom and human dignity, the beautiful movement to build a culture of life and love. We all want to live in a society where human life is cherished and welcomed, where everyone can live with dignity, from conception to natural death,” he continued.
“This is a spiritual movement, a movement of the hearts and minds and souls,” Gomez said. “The movement for life is a movement for love.”
Walk for Life West Coast
The Walk for Life West Coast began with a Silent No More Awareness Campaign event in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza about the adverse consequences of abortion. The speakers there included Shawn Carney of the pro-life campaign 40 Days for Life, who awarded a “4040” scholarship of $4,040 to a college student dedicated to the pro-life cause.
“I love attending the Walk for Life,” Carney told the National Catholic Register. “You meet some great people involved with the pro-life movement, and it’s always a family-friendly, peaceful, joyful event.”
The talks were followed by a 1.8-mile walk from the Civic Center Plaza down San Francisco’s famous Market Street and ending at Embarcadero Plaza.
Among the walkers was Gonzalo Alvarado, the youth and young adult ministry coordinator for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, who led young people from three parishes.
Through Christ “we can overcome the fear of death, suffering, our storms in our lives, and our crosses,” Alvarado said. “The fear of having a baby can be overcome in Christ. Having an abortion is not the answer.”
Joseph Moore, headmaster of the new Chesterton Academy of Sacramento, led a group of faculty and students.
Asked what brings him to the walk each year, Moore responded: “The truth is, I don’t want to participate — but I think I have to!”
He continued: “The walk is necessary, as the truth — that all human life is sacred and that the murder of the unborn is unspeakably evil — is so fundamental that it sickens me that it needs to be made at all. Yet, every year, I’m glad I went, encouraged by the enthusiasm and love displayed by the walkers.”
Our task as parents, Alvarado said, “is to prepare our children to endure and outlast the culture of death and to rebuild our civilization. We need joyful, educated Catholics to resist the tide of nihilism and irrationality that has seized our world, and, as the Church has so often done in the past, rebuild from the ashes. The Walk for Life is where we say to the world: ‘We do not consent. We stand for life!’”
Cordileone specifically addressed young people in his homily for the Walk for Life Mass.
“My dear young people, you who are the pro-life generation: God is calling you to greatness!” he said.
“Greatness does not come from power or wealth, or from what St. Paul calls wisdom by human standards, that is, the dominant narrative of a dehumanized culture divorced from the vision of faith in the one, true God,” Cordileone continued.
“It comes from being foolish enough to be chosen by God to shame the wise of this world, that is, those who perpetrate the destructive myths of the culture of death; by being weak enough to shame the strong, having the spiritual strength to speak truth to power and endure the ridicule, insults, and rejection that will come with it.”
Another pre-walk Mass was celebrated by Bishop Michael Barber of the Diocese of Oakland at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland.
OneLife LA began Saturday with a youth and young-adult kickoff and a greeting from Archbishop Gomez, who then led walkers from Olvera Street to Los Angeles State Historic Park.
The speakers at the park included Jess Echeverry, who shared a testimony of being a child of divorce and “dark times of physical and sexual violence, teenage pregnancy, years of homelessness, abortion, same-sex attraction, and two attempts at suicide.”
Echeverry told the Register that she participates in OneLife LA because she wants to “help ignite the Church into action to help accompany those in need and to have a seat at the table when the homeless person is being spoken about and decisions are being made in regards to their marginalized lives.” She also noted that her participation is “a memorial and act of reparation for the life of my aborted daughter Esperanza.”
Echeverry had an abortion while homeless at age 18, but repented of her decision after converting to Catholicism and attending a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, during which she “claimed my motherhood of her life.”
She added: “In that action, I promised her that I would share her life with everyone I could and to recognize her wherever I had a chance. What better way than OneLife LA?”
Michael Donaldson, senior director of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Office of Life, Justice, and Peace, a key event organizer, told the Register that while this year’s event provided an opportunity to celebrate the demise of Roe v. Wade, California’s embrace of abortion since the Dobbs ruling represents another uphill battle for the pro-life movement.
Among other setbacks, on Nov. 8, 2022, California voters approved the state’s Proposition 1 ballot measure by a 2-to-1 margin, enshrining the “right” to an abortion in the state’s constitution.
“We don’t feel the effect of [Roe’s] overturning,” Donaldson said. “We’re still in the thick of defending life here. We have to figure out how to change the culture.”
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