Walking 1500km to save lives

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Crossroads walkers
This year’s groups of Crossroads walkers taking a pro-life message to the streets and parishes from Brisbane to Melbourne during January. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

A group of young Australian Catholics are turning heads as they make a 1500km trek from Brisbane to Melbourne.

Walking 15-25kms by day and sheltering in homes, church halls and presbyteries by night, the group led by 25-year-old Benedict Slee is a human billboard for a pro-life message that is gaining traction among their generation.

“It is definitely growing, especially in terms of young people really being passionate about making a stand and doing something about these issues,” Benedict, who is also a member of local youth initiative The Culture Project, told The Catholic Weekly.

See related story: The Culture Project taking real love to Schoolies

“They have seen either in their own families or their own friendship groups, people who have been hurt by abortion, [even] youth suicides and other tragedies so there’s a real drive to do something about it and to be really present to others as a voice for life in a variety of different ways.”

One way is to walk the highways and byways of the country in bright yellow t-shirts with the words ‘Pro-life’ in bold black print —the emblem of the Crossroads pro-life initiative begun in the US in 1995.

This year’s Crossroads walk is the seventh in Australia and the 25th in the US. It was founded in 1995 in response to St John Paul II’s call to youth at World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado, to build and publicly proclaim a culture of life.

Archbishop Fisher
The pro-life initiative in Australia coincided with Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP’s address at the 20th Annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference On Life in Georgetown University, Washington, on 19 January 2019. PHOTO: Gelina Montierro

The Aussie group this year began walking and praying for all those affected by abortion on 7 January in Brisbane and will finish on 1 February in Melbourne, speaking at parishes in major cities along the way and updating their progress on the Crossroads Australia Facebook page.

In Sydney on Gloucester St alongside St Patrick’s in Church Hill a woman in business dress briskly passed the group, and after a few steps, took another look at them and shook her head.

“We usually get really positive reactions from people when we speak at churches, and as we’re out walking plenty of people give us a thumbs up or high fives or cheer us on,” said Alice Magner, a primary teacher who travelled from Casino in northern NSW to Brisbane to embark on the walk.

March for Life
Sydney Catholics at the March for Life 18 January in Washingon DC. PHOTO: Gelina Montierro

“Obviously you get negative reactions as well but the positive outweighs the negative.”
Alice’s mother, a nurse, “worked with premie babies and was always into the pro-life movement”.

“I know a lot of people who have had abortions,” she said.

“This is my second year on the walk. Last year I really wanted to sort of take a stand, which I’d never done in my whole life before. It was such an incredible experience and I grew so much in my own faith so I thought why not come again?”

See related story: Youth Catholics at the Crossroads of life in Sydney

Elizabeth Phillips, a first year Campion College student said she has “never been shy” about being pro-life.

“I heard about Crossroads at Campion and thought I have the time and the energy and don’t want to just go and have a holiday, I want to do something productive with it, something I’m passionate about.

“I may never have the opportunity to take a month off to do something like this again.
“As difficult a topic as abortion is, I feel confident talking about it because I’ve spoken to so many people who have had abortions, people who have regretted it, and people from all sides of the issue.”