|Crossroads Walk 2012|
Five provinces, five thousand kilometres, thousands of cities and towns, tens of thousands of faces, and hundreds of thousands of whizzing cars later, eleven walkers took the last steps in Ottawa to finish the Crossroads walk across Canada. With six members of the team being students or alumni of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, the 2012 walk marked the third straight year that OLSWA members have laced up the shoes to cross the country with Crossroads.
There is no coincidence in this generous representation from OLSWA, as this is no ordinary walk. The mission of the walk from Vancouver to Ottawa is to witness to the sanctity of human life, from conception to natural death, with the emphasis on the pro-life cause to defend the unborn. It is a peaceful witness, in which we wear bright white t-shirts with the words "PRO-LIFE" on the front, and walk alongside the highway to witness to the thousands of cars that pass every day. While we walk on the weekdays, our weekend mission involves praying outside abortion clinics, and visiting parishes in major cities to share our witness. This year’s walk represented the sixth year the walk has taken place in Canada, though the walk has a nearly twenty year history in the United States, where there are four separate walks every year. With the Canadian walk, we march in solidarity with the four walks in the US, as well as two walks in Ireland and Spain.
While all the walkers are strongly committed to the pro-life cause, the choice to join this walk is never an easy one to make. For myself, since I was asked to lead this walk, I was reluctant to take on such a huge responsibility without even having participated in the walk before. However, one day I came across an abortion statistic that stated the number of abortions in Canada yearly is nearly 100,000. This statistic had a profound influence on me, for if I truly believe the unborn to be human, then this yearly domestic slaughter is nothing less than a genocide on our most vulnerable members of society. Upon this realization, I found it difficult to turn down such an opportunity to do what little I can to help end the greatest genocide Canada has ever seen.
During our walk, we stopped off in Barry’s Bay, where the smaller summer OLSWA community was there to greet us with a barbeque and housing. It is amazing how, even after covering the entire country, the team concluded that there is nothing quite like the small “oasis” of the Bay, which is truly a beautiful place, both naturally and spiritually.
Our Canadian walk this year was blessed to have been safe and accident-free, which truly is a miracle considering the fact that we face thousands of cars whizzing past us each day. While there are many struggles along the way, with the physical, mental, and emotional tolls of walking across the nation in a large group, one of the most difficult things to deal with is not being able to directly see the good one is achieving with the walk. For example, there would be occasions where we would walk into a store, and an employee would read our shirts and say, “Pro-life…so what does that mean?” This was slightly discouraging, as it made me wonder how many passersby simply did not understand our message!
However, these moments when our faith was tested were often met by moments which greatly affirmed our mission. One powerful moment occurred when I and a few team members were driving through downtown Winnipeg, MB. We had encountered a lot of opposition that day, and my personal motivation for the walk was getting quite low; I began to wonder if our mission was really effective. We had pulled up to a stop light, right alongside a scruffy looking man in an old restored Ford Mustang. Being the car fanatic that I am, I complimented the man on his car, and began talking with him a bit about the model and make. Right when we were about to pull away, he asked what our walk across Canada was for, as we had the words written on the side of our minivan. I was expecting a violent reaction from this hardened looking man. However, he proceeded to tell me that he was adopted, and if it were not for causes like ours, he probably wouldn’t be alive. It was moments like these, that came at the hardest times during our walk, that reassured us of the importance and positive impact of our walk, even if it was difficult to see at times.
While our walk neared Ottawa, the most surprising thing our team noticed was a positive one: the tide of public opinion on abortion seems to be turning in Canada, in an increasingly pro-life direction. While we passed by many middle-fingers, and angry shouts and curses outside abortion clinics in cities, there were just as many passersby who gave us a thumbs-up, or a friendly honk. This seems to be a nice departure from previous walks, from which we have heard many more stories of angry passersby. While the apathy of many people we passed is just as upsetting as those who are vehemently pro-choice, to see the positive support from strangers was extremely encouraging. I can safely say, on behalf of our team, that the pro-life movement is winning in Canada. With increasing coverage in the news (our walk was even covered by CBC), a push to open the debate in Parliament, and the government’s refusal to disclose abortion statistics in Canada, it seems that the abortion issue is not the closed debate that many would have us think. Now is the time to keep that tide growing in the right direction. Our team concluded that, even if our walk helped to save only one child, or change the hearts of merely a few, or inspired someone to take up the call to protect the unborn, it was well worth every step – literally.
Article by Crossroads Team Leader Patrick Wilson of Pickering, ON. Patrick attended OLSWA from 2008-2011, and graduated with a B.A. from Tyndale University this May 2012.
See the short reflections from three other walkers and OLSWA students, Bethany Atkinson ('13), Eleanor Van den Enden ('13), and Lindsay Richey ('15):
While in my second year at the Academy, I felt God was calling me to do something great in the pro-life movement. Originally, I had told so many that there was no way I would ever do Crossroads. But something changed inside me and I came to the conclusion that I had no reason not to do it; I am so glad that I did. Crossroads was difficult: living in close quarters with so many people, giving up sleep, explaining my mission countless times, etc. But the thing that always reassured me was meeting Catholics at the Churches on Sunday. So many would come up to me and give me a hug, not even knowing my name. They treated me like I was some kind of hero; of course, I did not feel like one. I felt like I still wasn't doing enough for the pro-life movement. However, I know that God works in mysterious ways and I pray that walking across Canada this summer changed at least one heart or saved at least one life.
I was drawn to Crossroads’ prayerful witness to the sacredness of all human life. We began our journey in Vancouver at St. Clare of Assisi parish, and were informed that we were to end on her feast day, August 11th. She is the Patroness of media, television, and good weather. We also lived somewhat like Franciscans on this journey, which fit perfectly with St. Clare. As the pro-life battle is very much a spiritual one, we often experienced minor set-backs. One time a flying object hit our van’s rear windshield and completely shattered the glass. We often had trouble with the RV and van’s mechanics. It was, however, wonderful meeting people across the country, and experiencing the beautiful scenery. Walking through Alberta on night shift, I happened to look at the water in the field on our left. I thought the stars were reflecting in the water, when the other walker noted that they were twinkling too much for stars. Neither of us had ever seen so many fireflies in one place! One eerie experience was to hear the coyotes barking and yipping at night. Seeing so much of southern Canada gave me perspective on the falsity of overpopulation. Canada is so vast, and mainly under-populated. I will never regret sacrificing one summer for the unborn, and I encourage everyone to become more involved in the pro-life movement.
-Eleanor Van den Enden
Crossroads Pro-Life walk across Canada is an experience like no other; it is incredibly challenging but also very rewarding. I couldn’t help but feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of such a significant and unique mission. I had always wanted to go on pilgrimage, and to be able to do it for a cause I feel so passionately about kept me focused (more or less) through the challenges of blistered feet, community life and occasional animosity from strangers. Although I found myself exhausted and irritated at times, I look back at the summer and can freely say that I would do it again in a heart-beat. The witness of young people giving up their summer vacations to walk across the nation for the unborn is a powerful thing; something that I hope will be able to continue far into the future.