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By Maria Valadez

On Jan. 22, the Office of Ministry with Young Catholics and the Office of Respect Life and Pastoral Care, with the blessing of Bishop Alberto Rojas, led a delegation of Catholics from the Diocese of San Bernardino to attend the OneLife LA Walk for Life in downtown LA.

Since 2015, OneLife LA has gathered thousands of people in the heart of Los Angeles to give witness to the beauty and dignity of every human life from conception to natural death. This event started as a vision of Archbishop Jose H. Gomez to unite communities and inspire positive action. Every year there is a different theme, and this year, it was “Forward in Hope”—a theme quite fitting for the year the pro-life movement has ahead.

The event began with a Youth and Young Adult rally with music by Francis Cabildo and special emcees Karen Luna and Tony Pimentel, Youth Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Oscar Romero parish in Eastvale. People from all over Southern California began to gather around the gazebo at Olvera Street to get ready for the walk. Signs representing the various groups joining the walk adorned the place and the joy was contagious at that point.

The Diocese of San Bernardino was represented by over 50 people from different parish communities, including The Holy Name of Jesus, Redlands; St. Joseph, Upland; St. Joseph, Fontana; St. Mary, Fontana; St. Theresa, Palm Springs and more. People then began to line up for the walk, to begin their visible testimony of a culture of life throughout the streets of Los Angeles.

The walk began at Olvera St. with people yelling pro-life chants, cheering and waving their Forward in Hope flags. People carried signs that said, “Love Life, Choose Life,” “Pray to End Abortion,” “Life is Life regardless of size,” “This Clump of Cells is Pro Life” and many others. The pro-life witnesses walked down Cesar Chavez Ave. and Broadway Blvd. while also praying a rosary for a greater respect for human life.

Archbishop Jose Gomez, the Knights of Columbus, the Carmelite Sisters and the Sisters for Life walked alongside them, representing a perfect picture of a Church in Mission. The chants continued down Alpine St. and Spring St. as people walking on the sidewalk or shopping at the nearby stores stopped to look at what all that noise was. The noise came from the pro-life generation, led by a great majority of young people, walking to give testimony that all human life is sacred and should be protected. The walk ended at the LA Historic Park on Spring St. where the celebration of life continued with live music, powerful speakers, food trucks and more.

“This year I am really hopeful,” Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said in his speech at the park. “I believe this year is going to mark a turning point in our long journey to build a culture of life.”

Sister Bethany Madonna of the Sisters for Life was the keynote speaker of the event and shared some of the stories of witness for life she has experienced. “Always be prepared to give a reason for your hope,” she said to the crowd. Sister Norma Pimentel reminded everyone that “Only by embracing life will we be able to transform a world of indifference.”

The celebration continued with the witness of speakers Gloria Purvis, Deacon Ed Shoener, Mari Pablo, Christopher Duffley and Karyme Lozano, each of them inspiring the pro-life generation to walk together forward in hope.

Following the celebration at the park, many returned to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for the Requiem Mass for the Unborn to remember all the lives lost to abortion. Towards the end of the mass, the altar was surrounded by a over two thousand candles that represented the babies lost to abortion that day.

The atmosphere was different than that of the morning, but the same spirit of hope remained. The Mass ended and the pro-Life pilgrims returned to wherever they came from, not to mark the end of the journey but to mark the beginning of a hopeful year ahead where every life from conception to natural death will be valued, cared for, respected and loved.

Maria Valadez is the Director of the Office of Respect Life and Pastoral Care.