San Diego Walk for Life aims to ‘change hearts’


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SAN DIEGO — When the local pro-life community gathers on Saturday, Jan. 14, for the 11th annual San Diego Walk for Life, it will be in a much different political and cultural landscape than last year’s event.

The Walk for Life will take place from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Waterfront Park in downtown San Diego, where the event was first held as a COVID-friendly “car caravan” in 2021 and then in its traditional format in 2022.

This year’s event comes about seven months after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned the controversial 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which created a right to abortion nationwide, once again returning the issue of abortion’s legality to individual states.

By the date of the walk, more than two months also will have passed since an election in which California doubled-down on its support for abortion, with almost 67 percent of the state’s voters backing Proposition 1, which enshrined a right to abortion in the state constitution.

“Overturning Roe v. Wade was a huge victory for our country. However, California is a different story, right?” said Maria Valencia, who oversees culture of life ministry in the diocesan Office for Life, Peace and Justice, and serves as coordinator of the San Diego Walk for Life.

“We know that we have to continue working together to change legislation and also to change the hearts and minds of our people,” she said.

This year’s theme, “Changing Hearts, Saving Lives,” is an acknowledgement that key to saving the lives of unborn children in California is persuading women in crisis pregnancies that they are not alone and that life-affirming resources are readily available.

Through her office, Valencia has been promoting “We Were Born Ready,” a campaign launched by the Catholic bishops of California to encourage the state’s Catholics to do more for pregnant mothers and their children.

As in past years, the centerpiece of the Walk for Life will be a half-mile walk with pro-life signs and banners along city sidewalks, including heavily traveled Harbor Drive.

The keynote speaker will be the nationally known pro-life advocate Star Parker. There will also be remarks by Cardinal Robert W. McElroy and Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano; testimonials from two women who chose life for their babies; live music; and about 50 exhibitor booths representing pro-life and pro-family organizations, such as Culture of Life Family Services, Rachel’s Hope, and Lamb of God Maternity Home.

Reflecting on this year’s keynote speaker, Valencia said that Parker is “very pro-life, and we hope that she is going to provide a great example of how to change hearts and save lives.” She expressed hope that Parker’s involvement also might draw more Protestants into “the effort to educate, inspire, unify, and engage the community on the sanctity of life.”

In a letter last November, Cardinal McElroy sought to console culture of life coordinators and pro-life advocates who were disappointed that Proposition 1 had been approved by voters.

“The most important parable in the Gospels, in my view, is the parable of the sower and the seeds,” the cardinal wrote. “It is a parable given as a consolation to the Apostles. Most of what the sower plants in the soil fails to take root.”

“California is incredibly rocky and thorny soil regarding the moral reality of abortion; we knew that before a single vote had been cast in this election,” he said. “But through your proclamation of the Gospel of life in these days, you have planted seeds that will grow abundantly in the future – seeds illuminating for our people the sacredness of life, seeds cementing the relationship of our commitment to human life with our commitment to pregnant women in need, seeds which will grow in God’s time, not ours.”

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