By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
The Crossroads walkers finish their cross-country journey outside the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.
Twelve Crossroads walkers who hiked through Canada for the past three months wearing t-shirts saying “Pro Life” ended their trek in Ottawa Aug. 11, convinced the public opinion is turning against abortion.
“We have such a great country,” said Patrick Wilson, 21, the leader of the Canadian Crossroads group. “We had a lot of positive support. I think the tide’s turning.”
“There was so much encouragement in the most unexpected places,” said Lindsay Richey, 20, who comes from Armstrong, B.C. and will attend Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy (OLSWA) in Barry’s Bay, Ontario in the fall. “People that we expected would be angry or aggressive ended up being pro-life!”
Richey said at one point a man driving his car past them on the highway turned around to come alongside them again to tell us “how proud he was to see people of his generation standing up for pro-life.”
“It inspired him and made him happy,” she said.
In Winnipeg, a man driving a souped-up sports car, pulled up near them at a stoplight and asked Wilson what the group was doing. “Why are you pro-life and not pro-choice?” he asked.
“He looked like a complete dude,” Wilson said. “I just liked his car.”
But then the man stunned him by saying, “I’m adopted and if it wasn’t for people like you I wouldn’t be there today.”
“He was just so touched,” Wilson said. “This came at a time when we were encountering a lot of opposition.”
Wilson said these hopeful signs would happen just when the walkers were feeling a little discouraged and wondering if they were doing any good.
A story like that when they were most low in terms of motivation helped bring them right up to the top, he said.
The opposition they encountered included “a lot of middle fingers flashed at us, long glances and people yelling at us to go home,” but what Wilson said bothered him the most was apathy.
“That really challenged us to put our trust in God, know we are making a difference whether we can see it or not,” he said.
Wilson noted those in the New Abortion Caravan who traveled across Canada displaying graphic images of abortion experienced worse opposition, including having chocolate milk tossed at them, he sometimes wondered whether the simple “Pro Life” message on his t-shirt was enough to wake people up.
He found apathy disconcerting. “I’d almost prefer people take a stand, stand for something instead of living in la la land, with no sense of morality, and have no reaction at all.”
For Richey, her most discouraging moment came inside a Catholic Church in Toronto when a parishioner told her he was pro-choice and didn’t like what she was doing.
She asked how he could be pro-choice and Catholic at the same time. “I’m a realist,” he told her.
All of the Crossroads walkers in Canada were Catholic, and six from OLSWA, including Wilson, who now has a B.A. in history and hopes to work for the pro-life movement in Toronto in the fall. Crossroads had made a presentation at the Catholic academy a few years ago, Wilson said, and though he did not go right away the peaceful message, walking, witnessing with the pro-life shirts, and the prayer aspect appealed to him. Seeing the country was an added bonus.
“It was very challenging, but at the same time so fulfilling,” Richey said. “I could offer up all the hardship and difficulties for the cause of pro-life.”
Richey found out about the walk through a friend who had gone and it is through the walk that she decided to attend OLSWA. She eventually hopes to gain a Master’s Degree in psychology.
“The beginning was very tough, you’re not used to walk so many kilometers a day,” said Wilson, though he did not suffer from as many blisters as the others.
About half way through, the physical aspect was less challenging than the spiritual battles and questioning whether it’s doing any good. “That was huge for me.”
The Ottawa pro-life community welcomed the walkers on Parliament Hill. “We’re proud of you,” said Campaign Life Coalition communications coordinator Wanda Hartlin. “You wore your pro-life shirts across the country. It was hot; it was cold. It was wet. I’m sure your feet were aching.”
Pro-life activist Frank Barrett presented each of the walkers with a certificate of appreciation from Conservative MP Pierre Lemieux (Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, Ont.) a pro-life MP who was unable to attend in person.
Crossroads groups began their walks in the mid-1990s. The Canadian group was one of five that began their walks on May 13. It originated in Vancouver, while other groups began in Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles, arriving in Washington, D.C.
Wilson said it was a miracle all of them were able to end the walk together in good health considering the traffic that whizzed by. One Crossroads walker died near Stilesville, Indiana this year. Andrew Moore, 20, was praying the rosary on the grassy median of a U.S. divided highway when he was hit from behind in the early morning. He died on the scene.