SALT LAKE CITY —“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 2270
Every summer young adults from all over the United States participate in up to three simultaneous pro-life walks across the United States.
This year the Crossroads pro-life walkers will take routes through the north, south and central U.S., totaling about 10,000 miles through 36 states. All should reach Washington, D.C. by Aug. 12 for the concluding celebration.
Crossroads was founded in 1995 by Steve Sanborn, a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville. According to the organization’s website, the mission of Crossroads is to respond to Pope St. John Paul II’s call to the youth of the world to take an active role in the pro-life movement in order to establish a Culture of Life.
The Crossroads walkers walk in pairs, Monday through Friday in two shifts, from sunrise to sunset. They are accompanied by a support van. The organization adheres to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, but participants from all faiths are welcome. Most of the participants are either in college or have graduated recently.
As part of the 2019 Central Walk 11 young adults started their journey on May 18 in San Francisco. On June 8 they arrived in Utah, where they attended Masses and prayed in front of an abortion clinic in Salt Lake City. As they made their way toward Colorado, they visited Heber, Duchesne and Vernal. Along the way they were welcomed by local Catholics.
“One of the key charisms of our diocese is hospitality,” said Veola Burchett, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family, who along with representatives of other pro-life ministries in the diocese, welcomed the Crossroads walkers after the Saturday morning Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine.
“I think welcoming these Crossroads walkers is keeping the tradition of our hospitality,” she added. “We are very lucky in this diocese because we value all the pro-life efforts,” and “it was a blessing to have the witness of the walkers as they promoted a culture of life and defended the right to life.”
Among the Crossroads walkers to come through Utah were siblings Tom Borchert and Catherine Borchert, from Godfrey, Ill. They both recently converted from Protestantism to Catholicism.
“For me the culture of life is very important,” Tom said. “… Everyone’s life is a miracle. No one chooses to be alive, so it’s a gift given by God.”
His motivation for the walk is to pray for the nation and for the world, he said.
“This pilgrimage draws us closer to God … through Masses, prayer, sacrifice and being visible witnesses of the sanctity and dignity of every human life. … In every person that I speak to, they show me the face of God in them,” said Tom, who plans to enter a religious order.
Doing the walk was part of his personal discernment, he said.
Likewise, his sister Catherine is discerning a call to religious life.
“Walking for God and with God by our side is humbling,” she said.
Doing the walk side by side has made them grow in their faith, they said.
Seeing all the young adults being witnesses means a lot, said one of the group’s leaders, Micahel Dujekovich, from Wahoo, Neb.
“[To see] how young people can approach something as awful and evil as abortion, and they have the courage to defend life – it’s just beautiful,” Dujekovich said. “It shows that we all can be witnesses of what it means to be pro-life.”
Public perception of abortion has changed, he said, noting that in the 1990s abortion was considered wrong and something to cry about, but now if someone gets an abortion, they are applauded.
“It just shows that we are getting worse and worse and worse, so having people to stand up and show courage – it’s just a beautiful thing,” he said.
Dujekovich added that occasionally people think they don’t have any choice other than abortion, “with all the propaganda and media they feel cornered … and we want them to know that there are choices and we are here to help them be pro-life.”
He told the story of how at a church in San Francisco, a person yelled at him, “I am pro-human.”
“At the moment my reaction was to say I am pro-human, too, because we don’t walk just for the babies, we walk for all life, from conception to natural death. This is not just a religious issue, it’s a basic truth and basic philosophy,” he said.