Sunday, January 27, 2013

AUSTRALIA : CROSSROADS PRO-LIFE WALK EXPERIENCE

ARCHDIOCESE OF MELBOURNE RELEASE
Friday 25 January 2013

By Fiona Basile

WHILE many of us may have been relaxing at home with family and friends over the Christmas and New Year holiday period, a group of young people from around Australia, including two from the United States, were making a pilgrimage on foot along the east coast of Australia (from Brisbane to Melbourne) bearing witness to the Gospel message of love and life.

A core group of ten volunteers, aged between 18-30 years, participated in the inaugural ‘Crossroads Australia’ walk to promote and raise awareness for the pro-life cause. They came from Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Gold Coast, rural NSW and two from the United States.

The Crossroads walk initiative began in the United States in 1995. It was a direct response to Blessed John Paul II’s speech at World Youth Day in 1993, Colorado, where he challenged all young men and women to break free from their routine modes of living and to go out into the streets and preach the gospel of life.

Since then, every year a group of volunteers have walked from the west coast to the east coast of the United States to raise the profile of the pro-life cause. The walks in the USA usually take three months—they walk every step and wear T-shirts that clearly read Pro-Life across them. The walk has now spread to Canada, Ireland, Spain, and for the first time, it came to Australia.

Having recovered from their recent walk, two local Crossroads participants, Daniel Mount and Angela Schumann share their inspirational journey.


Daniel Mount from Essendon, Group Leader for Crossroads Australia

On Saturday 15 December 2012, we embarked on our 1,500km pilgrimage from Brisbane to Melbourne. We were a group of strangers brought together by a love of life. As Catholics, we all believe in the dignity and sanctity of life from the moment of conception to natural death. We had all given up a month of our time over Christmas to bear witness to life and to speak out against the culture of death that has crept into this world and has now become so widespread and accepted.

The pilgrimage works differently in each country and in order for it to have been a success in Australia we had to alter the template of the walk. In the USA they walk every step, day and night to complete the 4,700km journey in three months. In Australia, the biggest hurdle we faced was finding places to walk legally and safely. Due to the strict regulations in Australia and because safety was paramount, we decided to only walk during the day and only on footpaths.

Each day we would travel approximately 100km down the coast of Australia towards Melbourne. We walked through towns and drove where there were only highways. Individually we would walk 25-30km each day and because we restricted ourselves to the footpath we gained a lot more exposure because we were able to bear witness in many more rural and coastal towns than previously planned.

The average week day would begin with Mass at a local church followed by Morning Prayer. We’d then begin our walk. While we walked we prayed the Rosary, The Divine Mercy Chaplet and The Stations of the Cross. We were like a mobile prayer group and we humbly offered these prayers to God asking for His intercession to bring about a culture of life.

We ate lunch on the run and we would arrive at our destination between 6-7pm each night. There we were either hosted by families, parishes and on the rare occasion we stayed at caravan parks. On the weekends we would stop walking and speak at parishes to raise awareness and funds in the main cities of Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

The group was led by Allison Lattie, Director of Crossroads, Washington DC and John Smith, Assistant Group Leader, Albury. Personally, it was an amazing experience which would not have been so if we didn’t have such an amazing group of walkers. I cannot speak highly enough of these inspirational, loving, patient and devout young men and women. It makes your job very easy when all they want to do is pray, walk and love God. We experienced a lot of support along our way but also a lot of opposition. In these testing times it was always beautiful to see the soft touch of love and tenderness shown to those people who have obviously been gravely hurt by the evil of abortion.

The generosity shown to us by friends, families, parish priests and parishioners was overwhelming. At a drop of a hat they were willing to cancel their personal plans, open their doors, feed us and give us a place to sleep, and for this we are forever grateful.

We arrived in Melbourne on Thursday 10 January and walked from Broadmeadows, through Essendon, and onto St Francis’ Catholic Church in the city for 5:30pm Mass. The following day, Friday, was our last day of walking and by complete coincidence, that morning the group was honoured to have crossed paths with Cardinal George Pell in St Patrick’s Cathedral where he was in quiet prayer. We were all humbled to shake his hand and hear his strong words of support and encouragement before continuing our walk through Melbourne’s Flinders St, St Kilda Road, Chapel St, Fitzroy St and Beaconsfield Parade before heading back to St Mary’s in West Melbourne where we were kindly billeted.

Crossroads Australia concluded on Saturday 12 January with 8am prayer outside the Wellington St Abortion Mill, 10am Mass at St Augustine’s, followed by a peaceful parade to the steps of Parliament House where we sang songs and prayed the rosary. It was a fitting and symbolic end to the walk as it represented exactly what we had been doing each day for the last four weeks.

The experiences, contacts and connections made from this first Crossroads in Australia have paved a sure and sturdy path for Crossroads here in the future.


Angela Schumann from Ferntree Gully, Crossroads volunteer

I joined Crossroads because I was intrigued by the idea of a group of young people walking down the east coast of Australia wearing ‘Pro Life’ T-shirts—they didn't tell me about the fluoro yellow until later! I confess that at the outset I was a little bit sceptical—do they know that it gets hot in summer? I was also uneasy about the kind of impact we could make. But as the journey progressed, so did my belief that this is a truly worthwhile endeavour.

The core group consisted of about 10 walkers between the ages of 18 and 30, with many others within this age range joining us for a day or two as we walked through their local areas. Almost half of us came from Melbourne, me included, with others from Sydney, Canberra, rural NSW, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Crossroads also sent out two walkers from America, where they've been doing these walks for nearly 18 years.

The mission of the walk was to take the pro-life message and the joy of the Gospel of Life into the public sphere. These walks are inspired by the late Blessed John Paul II, who called out to youth to be bold, like the first apostles, and preach the Good News in the streets.

As I said, at first I was sceptical—we seemed like a bunch of little fluoro yellow flies, too insignificant to make an impact in the big wide world, like ‘lambs to the slaughter’. It took me four weeks of walking 20-30 km a day in the sun, slathered in sunscreen and deodorant, to realise that that's exactly what God wanted us to be. We were not big, but our message was, and it made itself loud enough to be heard.

We had countless conversations on the street with curious (and sometimes hostile) onlookers, and often people who carried wounds from experiences of abortion shared their stories with us, both on the streets and out the back of churches after we had spoken. We—or rather what we represented—gave validation to their grief. It allowed them to speak about pain which some of them had been harbouring for decades.

In the practical sphere, we handed out hundreds of fliers and ‘little feet and hands’ to people on the streets, received local and Christian media attention and met many incredible people. In the spiritual sphere, we spent hours each day praying for the unborn, for pregnant mothers and those touched by abortion in any way, and offering up any small sacrifices we made for the intentions of those we met.

We will never know the affect that we had on a person's heart, but if we saved one life through our efforts or changed one mind then I think that it was all worth it, and I would do it again.

One of the highlights was certainly the concluding Mass and rally in Melbourne. On the 12 January the group, accompanied by about 40 people, including several religious, processed down Bourke Street to the steps of Parliament, where we prayed a rosary for the pro-life cause. Crossroads hosts these walks every year from Brisbane to Melbourne. If you are aged 18-30 and passionate about the pro-life cause I urge you to consider joining. You will even grow to like the fluro yellow T-shirts. I guarantee it!

For more information about Crossroads, see http://crossroadsaustralia.org/2012-walk/

Photos courtesy John Smith.


SHARED FROM ARCHDIOCESE OF MELBOURNE

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