Jennifer Brinker is a reporter for the St. Louis Review and Catholic St. Louis.
Beats: Life issues, Young adult and youth ministries, liturgies and devotions
Geographic areas covered: Parishes and schools in the North City, North County, West County and St. Charles Deaneries.
They came by foot and they came by bicycle. And all of them came with a life-affirming message that women facing an unplanned pregnancy don’t have to go it alone.
Crossroads and Biking for Babies, two national nonprofit organizations that take to the roads to share their support for a culture of life, converged in St. Louis last weekend — perhaps by what might be described by some as a “God-cidence.”
Biking for Babies had 17 cyclists and eight support crew members along routes that started in Holly, Colo., Tylertown, Miss., Green Bay, Wis., and Columbus, Ohio. They logged more than 2,600 miles, making the shape of a cross across the United States. The four groups met up in St. Louis for a Celebration of Life July 14 at Tower Grove Park in south St. Louis. A severe thunderstorm that rolled through the area that afternoon forced the celebration to nearby St. Margaret of Scotland Parish.
Crossroads had three teams of walkers leaving from Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The three parallel routes are expected to log a total of about 8,500 miles over the course of 12 weeks. The groups’ final destination is Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally planned Aug. 11 at the U.S. Capitol.
“I see this as a good way to use my God-given talents,” said Andrew Luetkenhaus, a first-time cyclist with Biking for Babies. “I thought it would be great to sacrifice for these mothers and show how we care beyond them having the baby.” A member of St. Joseph Parish in Josephville, Luetkenhaus learned about the organization through Students for Life at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Two students from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale started Biking for Babies in 2009. Michael Schaefer and Jimmy Becker wanted to raise funds and awareness for women facing unplanned pregnancies and the work taking place at pregnancy resource centers. The two cycled across Illinois and raised $14,000 the first year.
Cyclist Jonathan Simpson of Ripon, Wis., remembered seeing a poster for the organization several years ago and was intrigued. He cycled for Clarity Clinic in Plattsville, Wis. Oftentimes, people will stop the cyclists in their matching yellow and blue jerseys and ask what they’re doing. He described it as a different way of spreading the pro-life message.
He also said the physical exertion is a reminder of the suffering that mothers experiencing an unplanned pregnancy might go through. “When our legs are burning going up a hill, our leader yells, ‘It’s for the babies!’ At the end of the route, I can’t differentiate the days, and my brain hurts. Have you ever sat on a bicycle seat for an extended period of time? It’s not exactly the most comfortable. But even if we can help save one child’s life, how amazing is that?”
Nine walkers on Crossroads’ central route departed from San Francisco May 19, and stopped in St. Louis the weekend of July 14 and 15, where they spoke at several Catholic parishes about the organization’s mission.
Crossroads began in 1995 as a response to St. John Paul II’s challenge to young people to “be not afraid to take the Gospel of life to the streets like the first Apostles.” Students from colleges and universities from across the United States have participated in the annual summer event, sharing a pro-life message with all whom they meet.
The group starts its day around 5 a.m., and drives to the location where they will walk for the day. Walkers split into morning and afternoon shifts, and stay overnight either in RV parks or with host families along the route.
This was Micah Braunsroth’s first time participating with Crossroads. “For me, the drive is that you wake up and realize, ‘I want to do something great and challenging,’” he said. “When you’re hitting the road, it’s for a good purpose.”
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