By Ryan Everson
The Catholic Sun
SAN FRANCISCO — “Do not be ashamed to bear your testimony to our Lord, but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. The remarks came at the Walk for Life Mass Jan. 26 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, where Pope Francis granted a plenary indulgence to all Catholics.
The day of pro-life activities began with the special Mass celebrated by Archbishop Cordileone alongside nine other bishops from the region. In his homily, the archbishop addressed how secularized moral values, including the rise of abortion and contraception, have harmed the sanctity of the family and human life. The bishop told the faithful they will encounter adversity when defending their Catholic values, just as the Apostles did when Jesus sent them out “as lambs among wolves.”
“The world will hate us for it and attack us for it. That’s what happened to Pope Paul after ‘Humanae Vitae,’” the bishop said, referring to Pope St. Paul VI’s 1968 papal encyclical that reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on the use of artificial contraceptives.
After Mass, the Catholic faithful joined in the Walk for Life West Coast Rally in Civic Center Plaza. Renowned pro-life activists including former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson spoke at the rally, while other Catholic personalities including Catherine Hadro and Patrick Coffin streamed live on EWTN at the back of the plaza as thousands of pro-lifers continued to make their way downtown.
The Walk for Life West Coast officially began as an estimated 50,000 pro-lifers marched down Market Street for more than two miles down to the bay. While pro-lifers from various faith traditions attended, there was a particularly strong Catholic presence, including many groups of clergy and religious sisters.
“To be able to gather as a whole shows us the unity of [Catholic] people all across the country,” said Fr. Kurt Perera, chaplain of Notre Dame Preparatory High School in Scottsdale, adding that it was “very inspiring” to see a predominately Catholic presence at the walk. “It was just a great witness.”
Fr. Perera attended the Walk for Life West Coast with a group of nine youth core team members from Our Lady of Joy Parish in Carefree, where he also serves as a priest in residence. The priest also led a group of 30 students and chaperones from Notre Dame to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., which took place the previous weekend.
“These walks give us hope,” Fr. Perera said. “I see throughout the country a lot of laws that are supporting life … and I think it’s even more pertinent and important right now for the people to rise up and give witness to this very cause.”
Katie Forbes was among 11 members of Arizona State University’s Students for Life who joined the walk. Forbes, a pregnant student, expressed how being pro-life has taken on a whole new meaning for her.
“Being pregnant, especially while young and unmarried, makes pro-life issues very relevant and personal,” Forbes said. “For the first time in my life, I feel able to truly understand the feelings of fear most abortion-minded women experience, since I am literally walking in their shoes. This puts me in a very unique position to be able to relate to them and share the value of the life they carry. I can say ‘I know this is scary, but you are strong and can choose life for your baby,’ because I am doing it too.”
“As a Catholic, I strongly believe it is my responsibility to stand up for the most vulnerable,” she added. “The Walk for Life is such a motivator to go home and keep the ball rolling … events like this give me the energy to keep being a voice for the voiceless.”
Fr. Perera echoed these thoughts and said Phoenix Catholics should use the walk as a motivator to get more involved in pro-life ministry back home.
“We can’t just go back and not do anything,” Fr. Perera said. “These events inspire us to really pray … which gives us the strength to effect real change in the hearts of other people.”
Fr. Perera encouraged Catholics to help spark this change by contacting their legislators and providing a charitable Christian witness in personal conversations to explain why they are pro-life.
“We need to address it personally, one-on-one in the joyful witness of our lives,” Fr. Perera said. “That is going to make a big difference.”