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Divine Mercy and LIFE at the Golden Gate Bridge
At 6:30AM on a foggy Ash Wednesday morning, a group of young pro-lifers gathered at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The group was there for the start of the West Coast Leg of the LIFE Runners A-Cross America Relay. The LIFE Runners relay is a nationwide event in which LIFE Runners will run 1,103 relay legs of 5K each, covering a total of 4,089 miles over the 40 days of Lent. The East Coast Arm starts at the Brooklyn Bridge and the West Coast Arm begins at the Golden Gate Bridge.
About fifteen people were gathered at the Vista Point parking lot at the Golden Gate Bridge’s northern end. They included LIFE Runners Leanne Ruperto, Tom Wagner, and Laura Wise, LIFE Runners support crew, and organizers from the Walk for Life West Coast, including co-founders Kelly Connelly and Eva Muntean.
Quite conspicuous was a large pink and blue van, whose logo was a stork delivering a baby and “Save the Storks” written on the side.
The van was from the group Save the Storks, which provides what are essentially mobile pregnancy crisis centers. Save the Storks are this year’s beneficiaries of LIFE Runners fundraising efforts. Save the Storks representative Wesley Davis said that the group has vans accompanying each of the LIFE Runners West Coast and East Coast Arms. Each Save the Storks van contains a sonogram machine, pregnancy tests kits, etc., and can be seen as an extension of sidewalk counseling—depending on local zoning, they can even drive right next to an abortion business and offer their free services. Their mission statement says “Our mission is to empower abortion-minded mothers all over America to choose life. We’re accomplishing this by partnering with local pregnancy centers that will own and operate our vehicles outside of abortion clinics to reach women who feel like they only have one choice.”
Also present was one of the rising young stars of contemporary Catholic music, recording artist Tori Harris. Miss Harris, part of the new generation of Catholic musicians which includes Matt Maher and Ike Ndolo, has appeared on Catholic Radio in Boston and Louisiana and on the Catholic TV Shows “The Gist” and “This is the Day.” Miss Harris is working to raise awareness of the Save the Storks campaign and is following the route of LIFE Runners this week. On March 5 she will perform at the Napa Valley Baptist Church, on March 7 at First Baptist Church in Fair Oaks, and on March 8 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Auburn. After that, she’s off to a Catholic Underground event in Newburgh, NY and then to a taping session at EWTN. Miss Harris’ faith is anything but an afterthought. When she visited Cabrini High School in New Orleans in 2013 she not only shared her talent and testimony with the students, but led them in Eucharistic Adoration.
Before the LIFE Runners began the first leg of the long journey, those assembled prayed the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy: “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!” Following the Chaplet, the young people recited the LIFE Runners Creed, stressing Prayer, Endurance, Awareness, Charity, an End to abortion, and prayed for God’s peace on the born and unborn. They closed by chanting the LIFE Runners motto “All in Christ….for PRO-LIFE”
The first leg made its way through Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur, San Anselmo, before finishing in San Rafael for the noon Mass and the reception of Ashes at San Raphael’s Church. The route goes by abortion businesses across the United States, where runners will join in prayer with members of 40 Days for Life. On Palm Sunday the final groups of runners from the East Coast and West Coast Arms will meet at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, near St. Joseph Cathedral.
LIFE Runners are another manifestation of the joy-filled youth who are the new face of the pro-life movement. As Nancy Keenen, then-president of NARAL lamented in 2010 when she attended Washington DC’s March for Life “I just thought, my gosh, they are so young…There are so many of them, and they are so young.”
And there are more of them, and younger, and happier every day.
March 5, Ash Wednesday, also marks the beginning of one of the most amazing witnesses for Life that there is: 40 Days For Life. 40 Days, which began in 2004, is now in 251 locations in 11 countries around the world–and it is growing every day. But the importance of 40 Days is not in the number of vigils, although that is important, but in the number of people peacefully converted, of hearts changed, of women, and their babies, saved.
From the 40 Days for Life San Francisco website:
Take a Stand for Life!
From March 5 – April 13, 40 Days for Life … a peaceful, prayerful, effective, coordinated international mobilization … takes place in our community. We pray that, with God’s help, this will mark the beginning of the end of abortion in our city — and beyond.
Organizers hope to have a peaceful presence by Planned Parenthood from Ash Wednesday through Palm Sunday. For that to happen they need volunteers! In San Francisco, the vigil is held by Planned Parenthood at 1650 Valencia Street.
Sign up for our peaceful prayer vigil by clicking here: vigil schedule.
On March 5, Ash Wednesday, the LIFE Runners A-Cross America Relay begins. (LIFE Runners had a big presence at the Walk for Life West Coast!) The Facebook event page for the Western Arm of the relay is here. The Western Arm details are below the video, and you can sign-up to be a LIFE Runner here.
“San Francisco will kick off the West Arm of the LIFE Runners A-Cross America Relay on March 5th! The relay is 40 days of running/walking: 1,103 5K legs (4,089 miles), from NYC and San Fran to Sioux Falls, SD – to “REMEMBER The Unborn” – All In Christ for Pro-Life!
March 5th Team Kick-off: Ash Wednesday
* 7:00am – Photos and pray LIFE Runners Creed at view point on north side of the Golden Gate Bridge
* 7:15am – Leg #1 from Golden Gate Bridge, run/walk for Life!
* 8:20am – Prayer at Planned Parenthood (141 Camino Alto #1, Mill Valley)
* 8:37am – Leg #3 baton handoff at Planned Parenthood.”
God Bless them!
Nice. Check it out!
We at the Walk for Life West Coast are enormous fans of Fr. Joseph Illo, the Chaplain of Thomas Aquinas College, who led his students at the Walk (that’s him below) this year. So you know we are thrilled to hear this news! From Fr. Illo’s blog:
Appeal for the San Francisco Oratory of St. Philip Neri
I’ve been serving as chaplain to Thomas Aquinas College for the last two years and feel greatly privileged to work among such deeply Catholic educators and students. Recently, however, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has invited a priest-friend and me to establish an “Oratory of St. Philip Neri” in his city….
We would begin with two priests and two brothers in a downtown parish with a large rectory, which Archbishop Cordileone has offered us. One of us priests would serve as pastor; we would build up the parish through beautiful liturgy and the lay apostolate, but focus also on evangelizing young adult professionals. The Archbishop has mentioned possibly establishing a Catholic center in one of the larger office buildings with daily Mass and confessions.
A few months ago we were discussing the enormous potential of the Oratory in San Francisco with Archbishop Cordileone. At one point he paused and smiled: “I’m a diocesan bishop, and so I have to think about money, too. I would need you to secure financial commitments to fund part of your living expenses over three years.” I knew he was going to get around to that sooner or later! But as Mother Teresa used to say, “Don’t worry about money. God has lots of it.” If the Lord Jesus and his holy Mother want an Oratory in San Francisco, they will find the money. But of course we have to ask for it….”
Here’s a few of the many videos created by attendees at the Walk for Life West Coast:
This one is by the American TFP Society, which gives a good sense of how large the Walk was:
This one shows the students from Thomas Aquinas College as they set out:
Here’s a short one with nice music by chavezraul2:
And here’s a nice one by a young woman called The Catholic Rebel:
Thanks to all!
One of the great honors we have at the Walk for Life West Coast is the annual presentation of the St. Gianna Molla award. The St. Gianna award, named for the Italian doctor who, rather than abort her child when other doctors told her that giving birth would endanger her life, chose life. She chose to give birth, to give life to another, even at the cost of her own. The St. Gianna Molla award is given to persons who have shown through their deeds an unwavering devotion to the cause of life, who have gone above and beyond in pro-life heroism. We were delighted this year to have the opportunity to present the 2014 St. Gianna Molla Award for Pro-Life heroism to Georgette Forney.
Georgette has stood with us at the Walk for Life West Coast from the very beginning. She serves as President of Anglicans for Life, and she is the co-founder of the National Silent No More Awareness Campaign. Every year before the Walk begins, Silent No More holds a rally for post-abortive women. They share their pain and loss and through their sense of sisterhood, work toward healing. The Silent No More rally is an integral part of the Walk for Life West Coast, as is evidenced by our motto “Abortion Hurts Women.”
But, as anyone who has ever attended can testify, because the pain and loss is shared with other women of similar experience, a sisterhood of healing is created. That is perhaps Georgette’s greatest contribution. Silent No More, which began in the United States, now brings its message of love and life, of hope and healing, to women in many countries around the world.
We cannot imagine a more deserving recipient. You can learn more about Georgette, and about Silent No More here.
The students from Gonzaga were not the only pro-lifers from the great state of Washington to visit the Walk for Life West Coast! This week’s Northwest Catholic, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Seattle, has an article about parishioners from the beautiful Olympic Peninsula who attended:
Peninsula parishioners join Walk for Life West Coast
“Parishioners from Queen of Angels Parish in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim joined tens of thousands of pro-life supporters at the 10th annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco. (left: parishioners with Fr. Frank Pavone)
The 17 parishioners raised money to help pay for their Jan. 23-26 trip to the largest pro-life gathering on the West Coast. Queen of Angels parishioners attended the walk four years ago and were excited to be joined by St. Joseph this year, said Patty Haas, chair of the Queen of Angels Respect Life Committee, who organized the trip.
For Haas, one of the highlights was seeing how the experience affected the four teenage girls and the 27-year-old woman who were part of the group. ‘It was a lot to take in, but it enlightened them to really what’s involved when someone gets an abortion,’ Haas said.
Also among the group was Queen of Angels parishioner Kathy Gonzales, who spoke at a Silent No More gathering during the walk. Silent No More is a Christian support and advocacy group for those who have experienced or been involved in an abortion….”
On January 29 we had reported that Gonzaga University’s Students For Life had won the West Coast Group of the Year award at the Students for Life’s Be the Revolution conference, which was held at St. Mary’s Cathedral the day after the Walk for Life West Coast.
Today the Gonzaga University Bulletin reported:
“Gonzaga’s anti-abortion student group received the West Coast Group of the Year award during the first Students for Life of America West Coast Conference in San Francisco.
The conference on Sunday, Jan. 26, included more than 60 schools and 350 students. It followed a national conference in Washington, D.C., which GU Students for Life usually attends.
The conference website states the student group was selected as West Coast Group of the Year for hosting a life week, bringing anti-death penalty speakers like Sister Helen Prejean and Victoria Thorpe to campus and creating events and activities to ‘give a face to the pro-life movement.’ These events included a Mass, cupcakes and a photobooth to support the ‘pro-life’ movement.
‘It’s a really big honor for us,’ said Kristine Vaz, public relations manager for GU Students for Life. ‘We never won anything like that before. It means we’re being recognized for the work that we’ve been doing on campus and hopefully we’ll continue to do next year and in the coming years.’
‘It’s just really inspiring because it makes us realize we’re having an impact,’ Vaz said. ‘Other schools are learning from us and it makes us keep spreading the word about being pro-life and what that really means on college campuses.’
‘GU is a Jesuit catholic university and [it promotes] the sanctity and dignity of every human life,’ (MariaFernanda) Gomez said. ‘That’s really what our club stands for. We are GU’s mission.’”
God bless our young people, who truly understand the mission of a Catholic University. You know St. Aloysius Gonzaga is smiling!
More and more attendees at the Walk for Life West Coast continue to assert that on January 25 they took part in something really quite special. Here is the opening paragraph of an article at Catholic Exchange by Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg:
“The difference between the culture of life and the culture of death was brought into stark relief on Saturday January 25th, in the benighted city of San Francisco. The Walk for life was a pocket of sanity enveloped in an immense scheme of global madness! It was a ray of light in a massive moral void and the “dark did not comprehend it.” The fellowship, the properly ordered love, the moral stand to support life against a tsunami of death was truly a feast for the soul. It was a great turn out, perhaps 60,000 marchers, and a great show of goodness beginning to grow against the looming shadow in a darkening world.”
You can read the rest of Mr. Rummelsburg’s observations here.
Photo courtesy Happy Catholic.