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Pro-life gatherings online, in person draw thousands of people in California

COVID-19 concerns forced some changes to Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO — Organizers of the 17th Annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco Jan. 23 expected hundreds of attendees this year, figuring concerns about COVID-19 and political unrest would keep pro-lifers away.

But like past years, thousands showed up.

“I guess by now I should know better than to sell the commitment of pro-lifers short. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong!” said the walk’s co-chair Eva Muntean.

The day began with the annual Walk for Life West Coast Mass, celebrated that morning by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and 12 priests at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

After the Mass, walkers gathered at Civic Center Plaza. Coronavirus restrictions prevented a rally, but Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio and the Rev. Clenard Childress Jr. spoke from the bed of walk co-chair Dolores Meehan’s pickup truck.

Father Fessio gave a moving tribute to Joe Scheidler, the founder of the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago, who died Jan. 18 at age 93. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” Father Fessio said, his voice breaking.

“You are the remnant,” Rev. Childress said to participants. The African-American Baptist minister has been a stalwart of the walk since 2005.

“Remnant” is a biblical reference to what is left of a community after it undergoes a catastrophe.

“There has never been a more important Walk for Life West Coast! This is a time of faith,” he said. “That is why you are here right now. You did not come here because of circumstances. You are here because of justice!”

Meehan told the crowd, “You are a beautiful remnant. You’re all standing in the breech for women who have been hurt by abortion, for all the kids who have died by abortion and for all those who need our help today!”

She credited Our Lady and the San Francisco Police Department “for giving us such a safe event!” For the first time in 17 years, the walk encountered no protesters.

“When we started the walk, George W. Bush was president,” Muntean recalled. “We have walked through four years of the Bush administration, eight years of the Obama administration, four years of the Trump administration, and we will walk through the Biden administration … and whoever comes after.”

“We have walked under three popes and three archbishops” of San Francisco, she added. “Whoever is in the White House, whoever is in the Statehouse, whoever is in the doghouse, we will not falter or fail. We will lovingly and peacefully embrace our responsibilities to the littlest among us and to the women hurt by abortion. If this is what pro-lifers can do in this strange year, all I can say is wait till next year!”

Other pro-life gatherings were scheduled, including the March for Life in Washington, D.C., which is a virtual event this year that was scheduled for Jan. 29.

In Southern California Jan. 23, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez delivered the keynote at the seventh annual OneLife LA, held virtually and livestreamed on OneLifeLA.org and facebook.com/lacatholics.

“I think all of us in this time, have come to understand, in a beautiful way, that human life is precious. Also, that life is fragile and brief,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“How we live, how we love, how we care for one another — this is what truly matters. This is what we celebrate each year at OneLife LA. he said. “The sanctity and the dignity of every human life, especially the weak and vulnerable.”

Organizers said OneLife seeks to promote a culture of life, where every human life is dignified, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized. This year’s theme “The Joy of Life” aimed to “unite communities and inspire positive action that promotes the beauty and dignity of every human life from conception to natural death.”

In his keynote, Archbishop Gomez reminded participants of Pope Francis’ words in his latest book that they must not “stay silent when over 30 to 40 million unborn lives are cast aside every year through abortion.”

“The Holy Father is wise. We cannot be silent. We cannot draw limits to our circle of love. We need to speak for every person in our society who cannot defend themselves. And prenatal human life is truly the most innocent, and the most vulnerable in our society,” said the archbishop, who also is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“So we try to live with joy, with simplicity. We try to widen the circle of love around us — beginning with the way we love and treat one another in our families and homes,” Archbishop Gomez continued. “But our circle of love must always be growing. Real love means always moving beyond our narrow concerns and opening ourselves to the needs of others.”

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