Prayer surrounding West Coast pro-life walk seen as critical part of event
SAN FRANCISCO (CS) -- While the city of San Francisco was abuzz late Jan. 21 with weekends beginning, groups of young Catholics and Walk for Life West Coast pilgrims joyfully headed to the city's North Beach neighborhood to pray that Friday evening.
Entering into a dimly lit Sts. Peter and Paul Church, the pews were filled with the faithful, a majority of which were young people, for all-night "Adoration for Life."
Across the city at St. Dominic's Catholic Church, attendees of a Walk for Life vigil also were spending their evening adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, preparing for the next day's events to mark the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
Jan. 22 also is the National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children in the Catholic Church.
While the Walk for Life West Coast is the public witness through the streets of San Francisco, the prayer surrounding the walk is just as critical to the event.
The vigil Mass and eucharistic adoration in churches across the city provide an opportunity for an encounter with Christ's love and mercy, so adorers can then go out and be the face of Christ to others.
Brother Nikolas Simon, a Chaldean Catholic monk from the Sons of the Covenant Monastery, traveled by bus with his parish and local high school students from El Cajon in San Diego County for the walk.
"We can't have a proper active life without a proper contemplative life," Brother Nikolas said, speaking on the importance of prayer and adoration.
"And with the most holy Eucharist being exposed and having that intimate heart to heart friendship with Jesus Christ, who is our Savior, we can be a radiating Christ for other people," he said. "In reality, we are fighting for the change and conversion of hearts.
"And that requires a lot of grace and for people to encounter Christ. ... If we can be that radiating Christ for them, that encounter of healing, I think that can transform lives."
Earlier in the evening, Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California, celebrated the Walk for Life vigil Mass at St. Dominic's Church in San Francisco. "Speak the truth in love" was his message. He shared his hope that we will "build a culture of compassion."
He also spoke on the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned in the decision the U.S. Supreme Court Case will hand down in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. If Roe is overturned, he said, "our response will be love, mercy and kindness."
Dobbs, which involves a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, is a case seen by many as a direct challenge to the court's 1973 Roe decision. The Dobbs ruling is expected within months.
Daisy Crae, an expectant mother, attended the vigil at St. Dominic's. Being in her third trimester, she decided to attend the vigil and adoration instead of the walk, joining the community in prayer.
"Prayer is a powerful, essential part of the pro-life movement and an agent of change to bring truth, hope, compassion and love," she said.
"Never underestimate the power of prayer," said Kathy Folan, a St. Dominic's parishioner, birthmother and Walk for Life board member.
"St. Dominic founded an order of nuns before he founded the Order of Preachers. He knew no mission or new order would succeed without the powerful prayerful intercession of a group of religious women," she said.
"The Battle at Lepanto was won against all odds by the devout recitation of the rosary and Our Lady interceded. ... God can change hearts, and we can change hearts with His help and through our prayers and witness."
The Christian victory over the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto Oct. 7, 1571, is credited with saving Western Europe.
"Ultimately this (abortion) is a spiritual battle," said Father Mark Mary, a Franciscan Missionary of the Eternal Word, who is the host of "Life on the Rock" on EWTN. "I think the praying church is just hard to quantify. It gets overlooked. ... The faith gets us out here and it makes it matter to us. It fosters charity in us to care what's going on.
"This is really the greatest loss of human life going on in the world. (Abortion) is the leading cause of death. And faith makes us care about it. It makes it an issue. Otherwise we just stay in our comfort zone and don't come out."
The 18th annual Walk for Life West Coast Jan. 22 drew an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 pro-lifers from as far away as Oregon, Idaho and San Diego.
Before the crowd walked through the city streets, they gathered in Civic Center Plaza to hear a number of speakers, including the Rev. Clenard H. Childress Jr., who said, "We are the civil rights movement of this day."
Even if Roe is overturned, "our work is not done," Eva Muntean, the walk's co-chair, exhorted the crowd.
California's "pro-abortion" legislative supermajority and Gov. Gavin Newsom have vowed to turn California -- which already has no restrictions on abortion -- into an "abortion sanctuary" for the nation if Roe is overturned.
Newsom told AP about making the state such a sanctuary in a December interview about his endorsement of a report titled "Recommendations to Protect, Strengthen and Expand Abortion Care in California," which was released by a group made up of more than 40 abortion providers and advocacy groups, led by Planned Parenthood and convened by the governor.
The groups' 45 recommendations include using taxpayer money to help pay for travel expenses, lodging, child care and abortion procedures for women who come from out of state seeking an abortion in California.
From its very beginning in 2005, the Walk for Life West Coast focused on outreach and support for pregnant women and compassion for those who have had an abortion. The event always includes an "info fair" with booths offering information and support, particularly for women in crisis pregnancies.
Silent No More activist Irene Zamorano-Archacki, who had an abortion when she was six months pregnant, appealed directly to President Joe Biden. "I have a message for President Biden. You are a baptized Catholic. He healed me and he can heal you."
Earlier in the day, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone offered the Mass ahead of the Walk for Life with fellow California Bishops Robert F. Vasa of Santa Rosa, Oscar Cantú of San Jose and Jaime Soto of Sacramento.
In his homily, Archbishop Cordileone said we will always need to live the beatitudes. "The solution to building a culture of life is us living as true Christians," he said.
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Powers is assistant director of communications and media relations for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.