Two participants hold rosaries as they take part in a walk across the United States to support the pro-life cause. Photo courtesy of Crossroads Pro Life

Cross-country pro-life trek is 'life changing,' says Crossroads walker

By  Julie Asher, Catholic News Service
  • August 22, 2015

WASHINGTON - Liz Moran said the experience of trekking across the United States this summer to spread the Catholic Church's pro-life message was "life changing."

"The pro-life movement is close to my heart," said the Mississippian, who was one of more than 40 young people who ended their cross-country journey with a pro-life rally Aug. 15 in Washington.

The group was divided into three simultaneous 12-week walks across the United States organized by Crossroads. They set out May 23 from Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. A fourth walk took place in Canada, from Vancouver to Ottawa.

Moran, who graduated this spring from the University of Mississippi, took part in the central route, which left from San Francisco.

She told Catholic News Service that "for as long as I can remember," she'd listen to Crossroads walkers talk about the experience at her parish church as they passed through town and she longed to take part in it but always had some summer commitment -- until this year.

The three-month journey was "a huge whirlwind" and hard "to condense" into words, but it was "obviously life changing," she said in a telephone interview after arriving in Washington.

"We met so many people who were very thankful (for our effort), and not only can I say I am pro-life, but now I have real experiences to back it up," she explained. "I met countless women who have had an abortion. We met with them after Mass, they cried on our shoulder. We prayed with them on the side of highway."

She said she was "really humbled and blown away" by some of the stories of the women the group met. One experience that really stuck out for her and showed Crossroads "is making a difference" happened in Salt Lake City, she said.

"A woman came up to me after Mass gave me a hug and she said, 'Thank you,' and I said, 'For what?' (She'd had) an abortion back in the 1970s, when it was 'cool' and everyone thought it was fine," recounted Moran, 23. For "40 years she had never seen what was wrong with it," until she heard from the Crossroads group, added Moran.

Grace Roberts, a member of St. Patrick's Parish in Columbus, Ohio, who will be a senior this year at Jesuit-run John Carroll University in Cleveland, took the southern route, starting in Los Angeles. She, too, said that hearing Crossroads walkers witness about their experience during visits to her parish over the years inspired her to participate.

It was "absolutely wonderful, very spiritually rewarding," and "definitely a physical challenge." she said of her experience this summer.

Based on "the people we met -- at parishes, (our) host families, (by) praying on side of the road, praying at clinics, we saw how the pro-life movement has" has impacted the country, Roberts told CNS.

Crossroads walkers received "a lot more positive response than negative," added the 21-year-old. "I would definitely say America is pro-life."

William Douglas, who is from Memphis, Tennessee, and will be a sophomore this year at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, said last August he had been looking for something to do this summer and was "kinda Googling adventurous stuff and really just came across the (Crossroads) website." He forgot about it for a while, he said, "but something was pushing me toward Crossroads."

He applied to take part, was accepted and took the northern route from Seattle.

Being raised a Catholic, he said, he has always "definitely been pro-life" but had never been actively engaged in pro-life work.

With Crossroads, said Douglas, he "couldn't have found a better way" to do that.

"Honestly when anyone has me asked what pro-life is, to me it's very simple: It's pro-living," he said. "Pro-life is pro-living, going on adventures, experiencing life. You want everyone around you to experience life as well," so how could you be for abortion, he explained. "To me it's not a lot of what ifs, if we love living."

Since 1995, Crossroads has organized the cross-country walks "to actively take part in rebuilding a culture of life," according to a news release.

During the journey, the participants wear T-shirts that say "PRO-LIFE" in bold letters, and each person on average walks 1,600 kilometres. They speak at churches and to various other groups over the summer. They also engage local communities through peaceful, prayerful protests and sidewalk counseling at abortion clinics in the cities through which they travel.

"They experienced firsthand the reality -- supported by several recent polls, that a majority of Americans are pro-life," the release said. "They encountered a warm welcome and outpouring of support as they passed through 36 states, thousands of towns and cities, and walked 10,000 miles collectively during the 12-week-long walk."

Most who participate are between 18 and 30 years old. Applications are already being accepted for the 2016 walks and are available at the website, www.crossroadswalk.org.

"We have long known that this is a pro-life country because, unlike polls that take a small sample, we have had the advantage of directly meeting countless thousands of Americans at the grass-roots level," said James Nolan, president of Crossroads, which has its headquarters in Columbia, Maryland.

"As a country, I believe we are more and more choosing life and rejecting abortion," he added in a statement.

Commenting on the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials released over the summer, he said that "the veil has finally been lifted on Planned Parenthood and other similar organizations that make untold millions of dollars off the killing of unborn children and the exploitation of women in difficult circumstances."

Tyler Cutler, who recently started working full time as a director at Crossroads, told CNS the ministry is "grass roots. ... We like to joke about being the Johnny Appleseed of the pro-life movement. We cross the country throwing out seeds hoping something sticks."

And over time "the fruits" of that effort are visible, he said, including memorials to the unborn at parishes across country that began with Crossroads' visits, he said. "We're not here to be in the forefront (or) spotlight but first and foremost (to) pray for this country and the unborn and justice."

Cutler described himself as "100 per cent unabashedly" pro-life. Raised by agnostic parents, he said he was not always pro-life.

He became a Catholic during his sophomore year at Ave Maria University. His first association with Crossroads was as a walk leader on the northern route in 2013. Cutler "fell in love" with the ministry and shortly thereafter was offered a full-time job with the organization.

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