SAN DIEGO – San Diegans are being invited to “Live, Serve & Embrace Life.”
That’s the theme for the annual San Diego Walk for Life, which is now in its eighth year and is expected to draw about 5,000 people on Saturday, Jan. 18, in Balboa Park.
Attendees will gather from 8:30 a.m.-noon, near the corner of Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street, where they will hear from a line-up of inspiring speakers, carry banners and pray as they walk along a half-mile loop, and visit about 50 exhibitor booths representing a variety of pro-life, pro-family and religious organizations.
Maria Valencia, associate director for culture of life in the diocesan Office for Life, Peace and Justice, said this year’s theme is a response to recent events. These include the abortion legislation in various states that dominated national headlines over the past year and the release of “Unplanned,” the 2019 film about a former Planned Parenthood director’s conversion to the pro-life cause, which exposed the gruesome reality of abortion.
“People, now more than ever, are thinking about … the importance of life, the importance of defending the unborn, the sick and dying, and people with disabilities,” said Valencia, who explained that an increasing number now feel ready to take the next step and become more actively involved in the pro-life cause.
She said that many of this year’s exhibitors, which will include pregnancy care centers and adoption agencies, are staffed by volunteers who demonstrate what this year’s theme looks like in practice.
The walk is held in January, near the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade that declared abortion to be a constitutional right. However, Valencia said, the event is not only about abortion.
“The walk honors the sanctity of life in every stage and under any circumstances,” she said.
San Diego Walk for Life speakers will include Bishop Robert W. McElroy, Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan, and Pastor Mike Van Meter from Foothills Christian Church in El Cajon, as well as a former abortion clinic nurse who now directs a pro-life pregnancy resource center and a birth mother who placed her child for adoption.
Entertainment will be provided by the band Voz de Amor, Catholic singer Rachael Praise, and identical twin brothers Tommy and Jimmy Kuebler. The brothers, who have Down syndrome, performed a dance routine at the 2018 Walk for Life; last year’s event focused in a unique way on those with Down syndrome, a demographic that is disproportionately targeted for abortion.
Valencia said the San Diego Walk for Life’s planning committee, which includes both Catholics and non-Catholics, has worked to make the ecumenical event bilingual and has made young adult outreach a priority.
The organizers are inviting classes, clubs, and youth and young adult groups to sign up for the walk as teams. Those with a minimum of 10 entrants can register at SanDiegoWalkForLife.org to enter a drawing for a “super pizza party and taco fiesta.” All are encouraged to show their team spirit with T-shirts and posters.
Young adults will also be well-represented in the speaking line-up.
Ruvianne Mercado, a 19-year-old student at John Paul the Great Catholic University, is a social media intern for the San Diego Walk for Life. Events like the upcoming walk give her hope for the future of the pro-life cause.
“It shows that there’s still a light in the world fighting for the justice of the unborn and for life in general,” she said. “People are changing their minds about being pro-abortion and, as events like this continue, the pro-life community will continue to shout its message to the world in this generation and for generations to come.”
Rocio Fuentes, also a social media intern and John Paul the Great Catholic University student, said that while the walk takes a stand for the “tiny little humans … being torn into pieces at this very second,” the event’s organizers are “not indifferent to” the difficulties that lead women to consider abortion.
“Nobody has to walk through this life alone,” said Fuentes, 20. “The Walk for Life is a great reminder that we are here for each other and that we can figure it out together. We want to walk with those who feel afraid and bring them a little hope.”
Lynda MacFarland, who joined the San Diego Walk for Life Committee this past July, echoes that sentiment.
“There are places [that parents] can go for support and love,” she said. “That’s what is most important about the walk. We don’t just say, ‘Abortion is wrong,’ but, ‘We love you and your baby, and we are here for you.’”
Christine Avella, associate director of admissions and recruitment for the Franciscan School of Theology, has had an exhibitor booth at the Walk for Life for the past three years. She describes it as “an event rooted in love.”
“All too often, a public rally can attract individuals who are angry and project that anger across the airways. With the SD Walk for Life, this is not the case,” said Avella, who noted that several current students were introduced to the Franciscan School of Theology courtesy of the event.
“This public rally is positive and uplifting, hopeful and filled with love and compassion,” she said. “I always leave at the end of the day feeling blessed for having played a part in an event with monumental consequence.”
For more information, visit www.SanDiegoWalkForLife.org, call (858) 490-8221 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Southern Cross