SAN FRANCISCO — Tens of thousands of pro-life advocates thronged to San Francisco on Saturday morning to stand against abortion at the 16th-annual Walk for Life West Coast. Comprised of mostly families and students, the crowd filled Market Street singing, chanting and praying the Rosary while walking the nearly 2 miles from Civic Center Plaza to Embarcadero Plaza.

Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption before the walk and preceding rally. He quoted from Romans 10 to emphasize the faithful’s obligation to counter the “barbaric” culture. Romans 10:14-15 says: “But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent?”

Archbishop Sample called those present to evangelize. “My dear brothers and sisters, we are the ones who are sent. Christ sends us to proclaim this Good News. Each one of us in our own way, in our own station in life, in our own vocation, are called and sent to proclaim the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Part of our witness to that Gospel is a witness to the gospel of life. We are called to proclaim the gospel of life into the culture of death.”

He stressed each person’s inherent value. “We preach that dignity, but we do not give that dignity to another. We do not grant that dignity, that sacredness of life, to anyone. It is God himself who imparts that dignity of each inherit human life. It is a dignity which God gives. We have nothing to say about it. We have only to honor it.”

Barbara De La Torre, a founder and board member of St. Joseph Academy in San Marcos, brought 45 kids and 10 chaperones, “close to half our high school,” to the walk. “It’s fun and it’s prayerful, as well, and they know they’re on a mission here for the unborn. It’s so important for the teens, especially, because they want to fight for a cause, and we give them a great cause to fight for. And when they can do this when they’re younger, then it’s not difficult when they’re older. When they’re older it might seem kind of scary, it might seem kind of uncomfortable, but when they’ve done it for four years in high school, it just becomes natural that they’re going to be involved in pro-life.”

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, has come to the walk almost every year since its inception and this year was a speaker at the rally. He emphasized the importance of the upcoming elections. “The pro-life message is such that it applies to every state in America. We’re talking about essentially an American movement founded on principles that America is built on. No state, no city is exempt from the duty to protect life or from our responsibility to go there and claim it for life.”

Liz, from Our Lady of Peace Shrine in Santa Clara, brought her four young children. “I think it's important that they recognize the dignity of their life, as well as the dignity of other people's lives — not only the unborn, but everyone in between. I think by bringing them here they start to realize that they are a gift from God from the moment of conception. If they just go through their lives thinking they're just here by chance, they can easily go into the culture and follow whatever it’s saying and never realize what they're really here for, which is to love God and to serve him.”

William, a third-year theology student, attended the walk with about 40 faculty members, staff, priests and seminarians of St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. “We believe in the sanctity of life, the dignity of each person, the fundamental right to life because we are created by God, and that is the reason why each person has dignity. Our dignity comes from being human, which starts at the moment of conception. We support that fight for life, and we pray for the culture of life, the community to develop that culture of life, to counter the culture of death.”

Even when it’s difficult, we must evangelize, William said. “You have to continue doing what you need to do to proclaim the Good News in good times and in bad times. I think most especially in bad times, when people are against it, because then you really have to persevere and help them see the true sense of faith. It may not necessarily be easy, but it's never impossible because God is always with us. All that we do is simply become instruments of God's work. It is God working through us.”

Madge brought six of her seven children and found time to engage with a pro-abortion protester. “Every year I always make sure I come, even if it's like, ‘Oh, we're so tired’ or it's going to rain, because I really care about the people who are on the side — like this guy, who have a little bit of the information. But maybe they're on the border of deciding whether or not it's right or wrong or they think they're advocating for women or supporting women. And they're really not supporting women, and they're not helping anyone. So I like getting in conversations with people who want to have a discussion, not people who are just angry, but people who want to talk. I also like seeing all the people. It's really supportive, and it's really great to see all these people who are really kind and friendly and all for what I think is the most important issue right now in America: that we are killing all our children.”

At the rally before the walk, Ron Konopaski received the annual “St. Gianna Molla Award for Pro-Life Heroism.” He made national news last year when he was knocked down and viciously kicked by an assailant trying to steal his 40 Days for Life banner outside a San Francisco abortion business. Konopaski, who was 85 at the time he was assaulted, told the crowd at the walk that he has a dream: “Imagine if every one of you, when you leave here today, you go home and join with one other person, or more, and you do everything you can for the next year to end abortion. Just imagine. We could be here next year celebrating for the end of abortion. We would turn this city upside down.”

Register correspondent Mary Rose Short writes from Southern California.