Members of the Crossroads Northern Walk, pictured here with members of St. Brendan’s Youth Group in Bellingham, shared their experience with young parishioners July 30.
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BELLINGHAM — At first glance the 12 young adults gathered inside St. Brendan Catholic Church July 30 look like any group of college kids hanging out on summer vacation. They are tan, energetic and happy. They share private jokes and laugh easily. Clad in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops, they appear to be the picture of carefree youth. But a second look reveals a deeper purpose.
These are the cross-country walkers from the pro-life advocacy group, Crossroads, and a talk given to St. Brendan’s Youth Group is just one of local stops the group made this weekend. Since May 20th they have literally taken their message to the street, walking all the way from Seattle to spread the pro-life message across the northern United States. In two weeks they will end their journey by meeting up with other young advocates who are traveling central and southern cross-country routes. They’ll mark the end of their campaign with a rally outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on August 12th.
The students walk in shifts, logging 70 miles a day. Each day begins with Mass, and prayer is an integral part of their mission. They offer up their discomfort and view their suffering as atonement for lives lost to abortion.
Their goal is simple. They walk to promote the dignity of life from conception to natural death, and they are motivated by the effect abortion has had on their generation.
“One-third of our generation is missing,” said Jessica Cozart, 19, of Memphis, Tenn., “I could have had so many more friends.” As they walk they are encouraging other youth to take a stand. “We are trying to change hearts,” she said.
For the most part, the response across the country has been overwhelmingly positive.
“People come up to us and thank us,” Cozart said, “Most of the youth is positive. America is pro-life — we have witnessed that.”
Crossroads was started in 1995 by Steve Sanborn, then a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Inspired by the words of Pope John II at World Youth Day in 1993, Sanborn decided “to go out into the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the square of cities, towns and villages,” as the Holy Father had encouraged.
The first trip began in San Francisco. Relying more on prayer than on their limited funds, the inaugural group spoke with over 100,000 people as they campaigned. They concluded their trip with a rally on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, igniting a tradition that has continued ever since.
The walkers are spreading their message to anyone who will listen. They promote their message peacefully, and they are always eager to engage in a discussion. Along the way they have stopped to pray and counsel at abortion clinics. By all accounts, the most rewarding experience they have had this summer is helping a young mother make the decision not to have an abortion. When the young woman approached the group as they prayed outside a clinic, they encouraged her to go to a nearby hospital for an ultrasound. After seeing her child, the young woman changed her mind.
Crossroads’s motto is, “Taking steps to save lives,” but the walkers are modest about the extent of their influence. They don’t expect their actions to convince everyone, only to be able to know they have done their best.
“I want to get to heaven and hear Jesus say, ‘Your actions and prayers have helped,’” said 21-year-old Elizabeth Hoisington of Forth Meyers, Fla.
Cheryl Duran is the director of St. Brendan’s Youth Group. She said listening to young adults speak of their commitment to protecting life has a profound influence on the parish’s youth.
“It’s always great to have kids their own age or a little bit older,” she said, “The kids were very attentive.”
Spending a summer on the road means these students have no time to work and make much needed money for textbooks and other necessities for the upcoming school year.
Much of the support for Crossroads comes from the walkers’ parish communities.
“My parish is so supportive,” said Jaimi Racki, 21, of Chicago, “They have raised even more money than I need to do this, and they are tracking our trip. They have a reception planned for when I go home.”
All the walkers are enthusiastic about their experience and are eager to encourage others follow.
“Become active,” urges Hoisington, who is completing her third Crossroads summer, “Even just saying, ‘I’m pro-life,’ means so much.”
[Editor’s note: More information about Crossroads’ mission, is available at www.crossroadswalk.com.]