Pro-Lifers Prep for West Coast Walk for Life and OneLife LA to Champion the Unborn

Both pro-life events taking place in California are scheduled for this weekend.

Clockwise L-R: West Coast Walk for Life 2020 is underway in San Francisco. The pro-life community marches down Market Street in San Francisco. Marchers from Thomas Aquinas College gather for a photo during OneLife LA 2020. Hundreds gather to march through the streets of Los Angeles during OneLife LA 2020.
Clockwise L-R: West Coast Walk for Life 2020 is underway in San Francisco. The pro-life community marches down Market Street in San Francisco. Marchers from Thomas Aquinas College gather for a photo during OneLife LA 2020. Hundreds gather to march through the streets of Los Angeles during OneLife LA 2020. (photo: Courtesy photos / West Coast Walk for Life/OneLife LA/TAC)

Walk for Life West Coast and OneLife LA, two major pro-life walks on the West Coast of the United States, will both be held Saturday, Jan. 22, on the 49th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which struck down the nation’s anti-abortion laws. The 18th-annual Walk for Life West Coast is a largely Catholic event featuring a walk through the streets of downtown San Francisco; the eighth-annual OneLife LA is an Archdiocese of Los Angeles event featuring a walk through the streets of Los Angeles. Both are scheduled to be in-person events.

In 2020, the San Francisco event drew 50,000, and the Los Angeles event drew 30,000. Issues related to the pandemic reduced the size of the San Francisco event to 3,000 walkers in 2021, while the Los Angeles event went entirely online. Organizers hope that numbers will rebound for 2022.

The Walk for Life West Coast begins with a Silent No More Awareness campaign in the Civic Center Plaza in downtown San Francisco featuring testimonials of people involved with abortion and the negative effects it has had in their lives. The main event includes a rally, featuring presentations by speakers Lila Rose of Live Action, Christi Hockel Davenport, who advocates for people with Down syndrome like herself, Irene Zamorano-Archacki of Silent No More, and Rev. Clenard Childress, a Black Protestant pastor who shares how abortion disproportionately affects the Black community.

The walk then proceeds 1.8 miles to Embarcadero Plaza. Check the walk website for details and to see companion events, such as “All-Night Adoration for Life” at Sts. Peter and Paul and Star of the Sea parishes.

Eva Muntean, Walk for Life West Coast organizer, is optimistic that the number of walkers will rebound this year, while Katie Bruno, another organizer, noted that they were making an effort to turn out college students from both secular and Catholic universities. One of the leading college participants is Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) of Santa Paula, California, which will be sending four buses of 260 students, or two-thirds of the student body.

TAC junior Martin O’Hara is helping organize the effort. He’s from Sacramento and has been to many walks. “I love going every year because you see so many people praying and singing and showing their support for life,” he said.

Some parishes provide overnight lodging to students such as O’Hara, as well as food and a place to pray. Among such parishes is Star of the Sea, which this year will provide accommodations to 120 people. Its pastor, Father Joseph Illo, has made advocacy for life a hallmark of his priesthood. He was motivated to do so 35 years ago when, as a seminarian, he viewed former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s 1987 film Eclipse of Reason. He has also been a participant of every walk save one, and this year, he will bring 150 of his parishioners along to the walk with him. Speaking up for the rights of the unborn, he believes, should be “part of the prophetic witness of the priesthood.”

He thinks the country as a whole has become more pro-life in recent decades and is optimistic Roe will be overturned: “When I gave my first pro-life homily years ago, people walked out. Now, not only do they not walk out, sometimes they applaud.”

He noted that the walk has become “like World Youth Day,” as it draws many young people, and praised San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for his participation and support. “The archbishop gives stirring homilies and helps make the walk an event of hope, energy and joy.”

Bruno added that the success of the Walk for Life West Coast “has spawned dozens, if not a hundred, similar walks in the U.S. and throughout the world.”

Stephen Morris, director of youth ministry for the northern California Diocese of Santa Rosa, has been attending the walk for more than a decade and will again attend this year with his bishop, Robert Vasa. He has been involved in helping shape a positive narrative in the secular media about the walk, as well as recruiting college students to spearhead the walk. “Everyone in our culture seems to have a cause they want to yell about and get people to join their side,” said Morris. “For me, I believe that by peaceful, silent walking, I can get people’s attention. That’s what it is: a charitable, loving, peaceful walk.”

OneLife LA features a walk through the streets of downtown Los Angeles led by Archbishop José Gomez from Olvera Street to Los Angeles State Historic Park. The event begins with a youth and young adult kickoff, with performer Francis Cabildo and a greeting from Archbishop Gomez. Walkers then head to the park for speakers and performers; a requiem Mass for the unborn will follow at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral.

Speakers include Gloria Purvis, pastoral fellow at the University of Notre Dame Office of Life and Human Dignity; Sister Bethany Madonna of Sisters of Life; Deacon Ed Shoener; youth speaker Mari Pablo; Sister Norma Pimentel, of the Missionaries of Jesus, who is executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley; speaker Christopher Duffley, who inspires people through his life story of living joyfully amid challenges, and actress Karyme Lozano. Visit the OneLife LA website for details and to register for the walk. A Holy Hour, which may be attended in-person or virtually, will precede the walk on Friday evening at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Gardena.  

OneLife LA speakers will address a host of pro-life topics. Speaker Deacon Ed Shoener of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, for example, speaks on mental health, as his daughter struggled with mental-health issues and died by suicide in 2016. As he told the Register, “There is a stigma and discrimination people with mental-health issues can face, so we must affirm to them that they are loved by Christ and Christ is with them in their struggle.”

His message is in harmony with a pro-life walk, he believes, as the event “is about celebrating the value and dignity of all human life, from conception to natural death.”