In the May 10-16 issue of the Register, the paper reported on a cross-country pro-life walk sponsored by a student-run non-profit organization called Crossroads (“Coast-to-Coast Walk Attracts Committed Young Pro-Lifers”). This is the final installment in a journal series by Joseph Flipper, a participant in the journey. See front page story about the closing event for Crossroads held in Washington, D.C.
Our Crossroads group has finally entered Washington, D.C. after walking more than 3,000 miles from San Francisco. The journey has taken nearly three months to complete. The last stretch of our pilgrimage for life began in Steubenville, Ohio, the home of Franciscan University, where most Crossroads participants attend school.
As we walked up the hill that leads to school we were greeted by the Franciscan Friars, the other priests at the university, and the students attending summer school. Everyone waited for us and ushered us into noon Mass. Three new people, who decided to walk from Steubenville to the Capital, joined crossroads: Maria Colonna, Martha Nolan, and T. J. Pillion.
Our stay in Steubenville was refreshing. It gave us time to relax a little, through we all wished to move on towards Washington, D. C. Crossroads gave a presentation to students and lay people at St. Peter's Catholic Church where we spoke on the importance of getting personally involved in the Pro-Life movement. Steve Sanborn, the founder of Crossroads, said, “We are doing a small part of what is needed to make people aware of the horrors of abortion. It will take the involvement of everyone to stop the holocaust.”
These last days of our pilgrimage have been the most difficult. All of us have simply wanted to finish the trip and the emotional strain has been heavy. Everyone has had less energy to finish this pilgrimage for life. We've been spiritually attacked more than ever as we've come closer to Washington, D.C. We've been unable to pray or get along well with each other. Many have said that the devil just doesn't want us to complete the walk.
Compounding our difficulties, our RV, which we live out of and use as a base of operations, broke down and lost its brakes. It was in the repair shop for more than a week, making us dependent upon rental vans and borrowed cars. Usually up to ten people can sleep in the RV, so we were forced to pack all of the tents, sleeping bags, and personal gear into our cars. This increased the difficulty of transporting 25 people.
Due to repairs on the RV, we ran short of money, making it necessary to set up last-minute speaking engagements in Washington, D. C. to raise funds. On top of this, the weather has been horrible. It has been raining off and on for more than a week. Suzanne Bergeron, Maria Colonna, Rich Scanlon, and Justin Schnier braved a night of thunderstorms. Everyone else slept in tents, which were wet inside and out by morning. Some Crossroads members used their clothing to block the streams of water running through the tents. Robert Nerney, founder of Catholic Insurgent, a newspaper for Catholic youth, joined us for four days to experience Crossroads and get insights for a feature article about us. He brought zeal that we were lacking, giving us a new enthusiasm and energy. As we walked into Washington, D.C., friendly honks and waves as well as obscenities greeted us. We were expecting great opposition here, so we decided that everyone in Crossroads should walk into the city at the same time. Though there was opposition, the support has greatly outweighed it.
Furthermore, certain events have given us hope to finish the walk with strength. As Chris Sherman and Justin Schnier of Crossroads were walking, they saw two young women pull into a nearby parking lot and get out of their car. Chris said that he felt like the women wanted to talk to them, so Justin and he approached and greeted them. The women asked questions about our cross-country walk and about our motives for undertaking such an endeavor.
These young women weren't antagonistic and were sincerely open to what we had to say. They began to ask “what if” questions about difficult cases, where abortion seems to be the only option. The Crossroads walkers spoke to them about the dignity of the unborn baby and the effects of abortion on women. The walkers spoke of post-abortion syndrome, one of the psychological effects that women experience after having an abortion. One of the girls then said that she had had an abortion, experienced postabortion syndrome, and subsequently tried to kill herself because of the intense pain.
The walkers told them about Project Rachael, a program to help women deal with life after abortion. Mike Gaitley told the young women of the mercy of Jesus, of his forgiveness and love. He also spoke of Mary as our perfect mother and of her healing presence in our lives.
Chris said the appearance of the women had greatly changed by the end of conversation. When they left, both girls were glowing. The walkers gave them rosaries and miraculous medals, then exchanged addresses with them. Those who spoke with the women promised to keep in contact. The experience made us remember that even though we open ourselves to be targets when we are outspoken, we also create a pathway through which God can work to touch and change lives.
Next summer Crossroads hopes to have two groups of students walking from the West Coast to Washington, D.C. The northern route will run from San Francisco to the Capital while the southern route will go from Los Angeles through all of the southern states and to the Capital. Any collegeaged student willing to spend next summer walking and praying for three months is welcome to join our trip.
Throughout the year Crossroads will make students available for speaking at parishes, youth groups, pro-life groups, and conferences.
Joseph Flipper is a student at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.