WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Crossroads members stopped for three days in Edmonton before they continued their pro-life walk across Canada.
EDMONTON — Eleven college students, aged 18 to 24, are taking the pro-life message to the highways and byways of Canada.
Embarking on a cross-country walk for life, eight Canadians and three Americans started their journey May 23 in Vancouver.
They said prayers, dipped their feet in the Pacific Ocean, and started walking. Their arduous trek will take them as far east as Montreal and Quebec City, before they backtrack into Ontario, ending their walk Aug. 13 in Ottawa with a rally on Parliament Hill.
Crossroads is a pro-life organization that sponsors walks across North America. It was founded in 1995 by Steve Sanborn, a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, as a response to the pope's call to establish a culture of life.
This is its third year in Canada and the number of walkers who have given up their summer for the project is up to 11 from six last year. College students and seminarians, they give prayerful and peaceful witness, and at times do sidewalk counselling.
The young pilgrims walk five days of the week, 24 hours a day. With a day and night team, the group covers about 100 km a day.
"We pray five rosaries every day, attend daily Mass, have morning and evening prayer," said Michael Hayden.
Surprisingly, nearly everyone makes it through the summer wearing the same pair of sneakers.
The walkers don T-shirts with the words "Pro-Life" in large letters across the front. Every day, passersby ask what they are doing and why they are wearing those shirts. It enables them to tell people about their mission to spread the Gospel of life.
Just as a religious habit signifies a commitment to Christ, the walkers realized that wearing pro-life shirts brings with it a responsibility to live according to the message that they are spreading.
Walking Monday to Friday, they stop in towns and cities on the weekends to speak in parishes, pray outside abortion clinics, have spiritual conversations and witness in any way they can. They carry a book filled with thousands of prayer requests from people they have met along the way in churches and on roadsides.
They raise money for their walk, but any extra donations go to pro-life causes and pregnancy outreach centres.
Last year's contingent got little response in Quebec, as few people there know about the pro-life movement. Mainstream newspapers tend to ignore them too.
This year has been a mix of positive and negative responses. Sometimes people buy them meals at restaurants. Others are curious to hear their message, while a few holler at them.
"The majority of reactions we get are positive," said Hayden. "People stop and talk to us as we walk along the side of the highways. We hear stories of pain and suffering, healing and hope."
Hayden says they saved the lives of at least two babies last year, and that makes the walk worthwhile.
"We're all Catholic students, so we believe in the dignity and sanctity of life," he said.
The Edmonton Archdiocese has been supportive of their cause. They prayed for two hours at the local abortuary, Women's Health Options, and also visited the Back Porch, an 11th hour ministry to women and men reconsidering their decision to have an abortion.
"But I consider the majority of Canadians pro-life, whether they say so politically or not."
Most of the walkers sleep between two and six hours per day. After their June 11-13 Edmonton stop, they headed towards Kindersley, Sask. The rest of the week was to be spent walking to Saskatoon, then on to Regina and Winnipeg.
Next year they hope to extend the walk into the Maritimes.