Notes from the 15th Annual Walk for Life West Coast
Tens of thousands pro-lifers filled San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza for the 15th Annual Walk for Life West Coast. It is the second largest gathering of its kind in the U.S., after the March for Life in Washington, DC, which attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year in January, near the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in all fifty states. Walkers came from all over the western United States, as far away as Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and even the island of Fiji, as well as hundreds of young Students for Life groups from area colleges. Before the rally got under way, the Orthodox Christians for Life gathered at the southeast corner of the plaza for a molieben, under the expansive banner featuring an icon of Christ and Holy Innocents designed especially for this event. Veronica Ruby (née Alva) helped to organize the faithful from around the Bay Area. More than one hundred Orthodox, including several members of our parish, and numerous clergy convened for a service officiated by Archpriest Sergei Kotar from the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco. Father Stefan Meholik from St. Nicholas Church in San Anselmo led the faithful in singing. The special molieben included petitions to St. John the Baptist, the Holy Innocents (slaughtered under King Herod), and the Theotokos. Father Josiah Trenham of St. Andrew’s Orthodox Church in Riverside, California, with the assistance of Emily Wilkinson, organized a large contingent of youth from Southern California; and Father Aris Metrakos of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church SF and the staff at the Christopher Center hosted the young pilgrims. This year’s theme was the inspiring slogan, “Christ is Risen, and Life Reigns!”
At the main rally, the opening prayer was given by the Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordelione, and speakers that followed included Father Shenan Bouquet (R.C.), head of Human Life International. Two speakers at the rally were former Planned Parenthood employees Abby Johnson and Patricia Sandoval, who years ago walked away from their jobs at Planned Parenthood and are now among the most articulate pro-life advocates in the country. Mrs. Chastidy Ronan, former executive director of San Francisco’s Alpha Pregnancy Center, where she had come as a troubled young mother herself, received the St. Gianna Molla award for pro-life heroism. The Reverend Walter Hoye of Oakland recounted the words that earned him a thirty-day jail sentence: “God loves you and your baby. Let us help you!” Seven pregnant women, including Johnson and Sandoval, took to the stage, placed microphones to their bellies, and filled Civic Center Plaza with the sounds of tiny heartbeats. The heartbeats were a repudiation of the Culture of Death, exemplified by the state of New York’s recent legalization of abortion up to the moment of birth.
Once the group made its way down the two-mile stretch of Market St., as is their custom, the Orthodox group began singing various Orthodox hymns in English, including “To Thee, the Champion Leader,”
St. Nectarios’s “Rejoice O Unwedded Bride,” “Holy God,” “The Angel Cried,” “Awed by the Beauty,” and the Troparion to the Cross “Save, O God, Thy People.” The group from Southern California would be spending the weekend in pilgrimage, continuing on to the Holy Virgin Cathedral for Vigil, confessions, and English Liturgy in the morning followed by a symposium given by Students for Life.
It was inspiring to see so many Orthodox faithful and youth turn out for this year’s walk, which hopefully will be a springboard for further pro-life activities and witness. To see all the photos and videos and to find out about upcoming events, visit the Facebook page for “Orthodox Christians for Life San Francisco Bay Area” and their website, www.oclife.com. You can download a copy of the Molieben for an End to Abortion at www.dowoca.com.
Some information for this article courtesy of California Catholic Daily (Cal-Catholic.com); and photos by Aidan Garza.