COLORADO SPRINGS. In the early morning hours of Jan. 25, 23 young people and adult chaperones gathered in the dark at the Catholic Pastoral Center to get on a bus to Denver International Airport. There was some unspoken concern by parents and chaperones that flying into San Francisco for the Walk for Life West Coast would be akin to walking into the lion’s den. However, just like Daniel, we had no reason to fear.
The Walk for Life West Coast had a record-breaking 70,000 participants and was covered (quite favorably and fairly) by every major news affiliate in San Francisco — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS — as well as the San Francisco Chronicle and the Associated Press. There were several vigil Masses and adoration events, including the one attended by our group at the parish of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Thanks to Sister Bernadette Mota, we were able to have a private mass for our Colorado Springs group, and after dinner we returned to Sts. Peter and Paul for adoration and the beginning of the all-night Adoration Vigil for Life on the eve of the Walk.
After attending Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday, our group walked to Civic Center Plaza for the Info Fair, Silent No More testimonies and to hear the speakers including Terry Beatley, Pastor Clenard Howard Childress, Jr., and Joe Scheidler.
After being fortified by invocation and prayer from a number of religious leaders in attendance, the group moved off down Market Street to the Ferry Pier at the Embarcadero. Students and chaperones alike sang and prayed as they walked. There was a block of counter-protesters, separated from the walkers by a police cordon, and perhaps most surprising for the group was the encounter with a group of anti-Catholic “Christian” protesters and preachers.
Most of the youth in attendance paid a $500 fee to join the group. Three Respect Life Youth contest winners from 2016 — Diego Rojas, David VanRemortel, and Liz Vall — were on the trip as the prize for their award-winning billboard against assisted suicide. Two Respect Life youth contest winners from 2015 — Brennan Bellei and Jack Snyder — were on the trip as a prize for their winning video entry.
“How cool is it to come together for this cause in a prayerful way,” Rojas said. “We felt welcome, supported and protected!” He said that he liked what he got to see of San Francisco, and he would like to go back and do it again.
“It was a wonderful, powerful opportunity for the kids to share God’s love and be a witness of faith in the Life Movement,” said parent chaperone Melissa Smith. “My daughters and I are so grateful for everyone’s support of the Life Dinner in October that made the event possible.”
Plans are underway already to attend the 2019 Walk for Life West Coast on Jan. 26 and the Students for Life event on Jan. 27 in San Francisco. “We are a western state, I feel we should witness here in the west, and we can make a real difference here,” Father Bierbaum said.
The Walk for Life trip is organized like a pilgrimage. While we have some time to see the city we are visiting, there is always time made for daily Mass, private prayer and group discussion. This year, Father Bierbaum and Father Joe Dygert either celebrated or concelebrated Mass for our group at St. Patrick Parish, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish and at St. Mary’s Cathedral, and the activities surrounding the Walk for Life take precedence over all other activities.
While most students and their parents and adult chaperones pay a fee to attend, the remainder of the trip is subsidized by the diocese from the funds raised at the Respect Life Dinner. No student is turned away for the inability to pay, and as the late Father Bill Carmody used to say, “Kids who go to the March for Life come back on fire for life.”
For the 2017 youth project contest, teens were asked to submit television commercials on the theme “Every Life Has Value.” Gianna Spangler, Ian Christiansen, Katherine Brungardt, Thomas Shiely and Jackson Kearns from Our Lady of the Visitation Parish in Elizabeth and Morgan Trechter, Shelby Bland and Kaitlyn Schreiber from St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish submitted a winning video entry and received scholarships to the 2019 Walk for Life West Coast. The commercials are being broadcast on several networks during the Olympics.
For information about the Walk for Life West Coast 2019, please contact Mary Theresa Thomas, Diocesan Director of Special Projects at 719-866-6460 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.