.- This past Saturday the tenth annual Walk for Life West Coast drew people from across the nation and of all age groups, particularly young adults and college students, to a prayerful witness to the value of life.
“We drove up yesterday, an eight hour drive, and we're here to support the movement to end abortion, and to join with other Christians, and other people of faith – and people not of faith – because abortion is not a Christian topic … to fight alongside them, and to pray for an end to abortion,” Simon Esshaki, 22, told CNA Jan. 25 while preparing to begin the Walk.
Esshaki, a seminarian of the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle, had traveled on a bus from San Diego among a sizable group of Chaldean Catholics to participate in the pro-life witness held annually in San Francisco.
Many of the some 50,000 participants were university students, coming from Berkeley across the bay, Thomas Aquinas College downstate, and even from Wyoming Catholic College, four states away.
Jordan Dunnaway, a senior at Wyoming Catholic, told CNA she was “extremely impressed by the number of people.”
She noted the unity of Christians of different denominations who were “all there for the same purpose,” as well as the enthusiasm of the Walk's participants, especially “the joy of everyone singing, praying, chanting.”
Participants came from across the country – as far away as Virginia, and alongside Catholics were Lutherans, Anglicans, Baptists, and agnostics as well.
At a rally held just before the Walk, one of the event's co-founders, Eva Muntean, stressed the importance of changing hearts, and transforming the culture of death into a culture of life. “Laws change because people change,” she reminded those gathered.
The rally's speakers included Grace Dulaney, of the Agnus Dei Foundation, who spoke of the importance of adoption in supporting the value of life, and Clenard Childress, who addressed the profound threat abortion is to the African-American community.
Monica Snyder, of the group Secular Pro-Life, noted that abortion “is not solely a religious” issue. The agnostic called abortion an issue of “human rights, not religion,” pointing out that it doesn't take faith to recognize abortion as murder.
“We are winning,” she said, “because there are secular pro-life persons here today.”
Shari Rigby, an actress and mother who was in the film “October Baby,” encouraged pro-lifers to give mothers who find themselves in crisis pregnancies “hope and encouragement that they won't be abandoned.”
We are called to be “a voice of hope … and forgiveness,” she said.
Prior to the rally, San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said Mass for the pilgrims who had come to give their witness to the value of life, during which he drew attention to the youthful joy of supporting the pro-life movement.
“Yes, the pro-life movement is young, vibrant and growing in strength,” he said during his homily, while inviting the youth to “look around and notice those who are your elders here in this church,” commending them for their example of prayerful patience while supporting the cause of life and the end of abortion.
“We don’t know what the next critical issue threatening human life and dignity will be for the generation that will come after you,” he told the young people gathered in the cathedral.
“One thing, though, we do know: they will look to you as the ones who bore the brunt of the battle in your generation, as you look to your elders now in the pro-life movement.
He admonished, “Don't let them down … eventually they will be your age, and will look to you for inspiration in defending human life and dignity.”
Following the Mass, Archbishop Cordileone told CNA that he is glad to have the Walk for Life West Coast in his city, noting that “we can all gather here, and by virtue of our numbers bear witness to the strength of the pro-life movement.”
Christine Mugridge, media relations director for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, told CNA that the Walk for Life's significance is that “this understanding of human dignity, and the gift of human life, is passed on from generation to generation … it resonates a truth with people that bypasses age groups.”
“People love to see youth walking with a joy in their step, and here they do. They are bouncing with joy; but this is not a joyful topic, so the idea is 'why are they coming here, from all over the country, at great expense and exhaustion on buses, and sharing in something they celebrate'?”
She answered, “Because the meaning and focus of this isn’t anti-anything, its pro-something; that meaning is infectious around the city, people see that it's a joyful witness, of the proclamation of the value and dignity of life, and that joy is contagious, and it's represented by people of all cultural backgrounds and age groups.”