LOS ANGELES — An estimated 30,000 people participated in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ OneLife LA walk through the streets of downtown Los Angeles Saturday, led by Archbishop José Gomez and bishops of the neighboring dioceses and auxiliary bishops, and drawing parish and school groups as well as families and individuals from throughout the Southland.
The sixth-annual walk is a pro-life event and more, coinciding with the 47th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which struck down the nation’s anti-abortion laws. Its purpose, according to Archbishop Gomez, “is to celebrate the dignity and the beauty of human life.”
“OneLife LA is not an event — it is a movement,” explained Archbishop Gomez. “OneLife LA is a movement of love that sees in every person the beauty of God’s creation, a child of God.”
Archbishop Gomez kicked off the event with a noontime welcome, followed by an inner-city walk to Los Angeles State Historic Park for presentations by inspirational speakers and performances by musicians. The archbishop celebrated the 25th-annual “Respect Life Mass” in the evening at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
Among the featured speakers was Cyntoia Brown-Long, a victim of teenage sex trafficking who was convicted of murder but had her sentence commuted to 15 years’ imprisonment by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam after he determined that she had sufficiently reformed her life. She was released in 2019. Kathleen Domingo of the archdiocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace and coordinator of OneLife LA, said Brown-Long was chosen to speak at the event because “hers is a powerful experience of forgiveness and overcoming.”
Daniel Ritchie, an armless writer from North Carolina, was also a speaker. Because of his disability, his parents were told at Ritchie’s birth that he was “not fit to live,” continued Domingo, but Ritchie’s parents rejected the message, and he now works to help others “see the beauty and dignity of their lives.”
Canadian Stephanie Gray delivered a pro-life message. She has delivered more than 900 pro-life talks worldwide and has been regularly featured in a variety of media outlets. Twenty-eight-year foster parent Noemi Amezcua and Las Vegas shooting survivor Marcela Luevanos were also among the presenters. As Domingo said, “All of our speakers were wonderful and well received.”
New this year was the presentation of a “OneLife LA Service Award” to Jess Echeverry, a former victim of physical and sexual violence, teenage pregnancy and homelessness, in recognition of her work combating homelessness through her nonprofit SOFESA.
Participants from all over the Golden State came out to take a stand for the unborn.
A regular participant for the past six years has been Barbra Manriquez of St. Linus parish in Norwalk. This year, she helped recruit 65 fellow parishioners who attended the walk, most of whom rode to the walk site in a bus rented by the parish. For the first time this year two of the priests who serve the parish were among those who walked with the group, a powerful presence to parishioners, she believes. Manriquez’s group was easily identifiable by their pro-life T-shirts, which she designed nearly a decade ago, changing only the color for each year’s walk.
She found the event this year, as in previous years, to be “inspiring and encouraging.” She said, “I support everything the walk stands for, and I believe it is important that our voices be louder than those of the culture of death.”
Her involvement with the pro-life movement began more than a decade ago, with the adoption of two small children who were at risk of being aborted. Those children, today ages 14 and 19, joined her and others in her family for the walk. She added, “Everyone should have the chance at life. Abortion should not be an option. We need to protect life at all stages of development and end the mentality that we can get rid of human life we find inconvenient.”
Heidi Torres, youth and confirmation coordinator at St. Rose of Lima parish in Maywood, was attending her fourth OneLife LA, this year bringing 150 of her students with her. “Not only do I want our youngsters to go to Sunday Mass, I want them to be active participants in our faith,” she said. “OneLife LA brings a diverse group of Catholics together with a common goal: to celebrate the gift of life. I think it was important they were out there.”
She enjoyed walking with her archbishop, she said, and hearing the testimonies. She also believes that participation in OneLife LA encourages pro-life volunteerism on the part of her students and their parents. “They came back wanting to know where they can volunteer and also wanting to know about their faith and what it teaches. It’s a beautiful experience.”
Jordan Raum, a sophomore at Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) in Santa Paula, came with 35 of his fellow TAC students. With babies “dying in the womb” through abortion, he said, his participation “was the least I could do.”
The walk was “a joyful, happy experience,” he noted. Bystanders are puzzled when they see the walkers passing by, he believes, because OneLife LA participants “are singing songs, smiling and waving. I think people passing by are surprised by the positive energy they experience.”
Domingo was thrilled with the turnout for the event. She described the crowd as “giant and energetic.” A smattering of protesters turned out as well, Domingo said, “but we overwhelmed them with love.”
Jim Graves writes from Newport Beach, California.
More photos were added Jan. 19 and Jan. 21; the caption/credit information was also updated accordingly.