By Lynne De La Torre
LOS ANGELES—On the morning of Janury 20th, the crowds of people began to gather around the train station in Fontana holding Pro Life banners and OneLife LA gear. Friendly smiles and warm welcomes were shared amongst parishioners from St. Mary’s Church in Fontana and other neighboring parishes of the Diocese as they prepared to board the train.
Neither the icy breeze nor the crowded space deterred the joyful faces and devoted prayers said that morning as they made their way to the Fourth Annual OneLife LA.
The Diocese of San Bernardino encourages local Catholics to attend this regional march for life, a more convenient event to attend than the West Coast Walk for Life in San Francisco or the March for Life in Washington D.C. These events are held each January to mark the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion.
Joining the multitude gathered at La Placita Olvera in downtown Los Angeles, the diocesan participants walked in solidarity, marching together, supporting the dignity of every human life as they held “Made for Greater” signs high over their heads. Every beating heart that walked for life that day carried with them their faith, their families, and their communities. Every footstep was another prayer for the world, so that the dignity of every human life may be respected. Every face reflected the universal Church of Christ as they marched together in one single direction, with a single mission; to love God with all their hearts and their neighbor as themselves (Mk 12: 30-31).
“It is a beautiful thing to experience, to have the same feeling, the same purpose, which is to defend life,” said Aurora Corella, parishioner of St. Mary’s Church in Fontana.
Among the crowds were parishioners from St. Mary, Fontana; Sacred Heart, Rancho Cucamonga; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Ontario; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Rancho Cucamonga; St. Anthony, Upland; St. Joseph, Upland; Queen of Angels, Riverside; St. John the Evangelist, Riverside; Our Lady of Hope, San Bernardino, members from the Catholic Newman Club from Cal State, San Bernardino, Diocesan Office of Ministry with Young Catholics, and Diocesan seminarians from St. Junipero Serra House of Formation.
“It was like a family reunion, surrounded by Catholics and everyone is saying hello, and working on the same issue, the fight for life,” Father Manuel Cardoza, Administrator at Our Lady of Hope Parish, San Bernardino, shared.
Karen Gaffney, worldwide pro-life speaker and the first person with Down syndrome to ever swim the 21-mile stretch of the English Channel, was the keynote speaker at the event. She decried the abortion industry’s effort to target babies with Down syndrome, saying, “They want to screen us out.”
However, she also expressed gratitude for the steps taken by schools, businesses, and individuals to work toward greater inclusion for people with Down syndrome.
Gaffney encouraged the crowd to take the time to learn more about Down Syndrome.
Also in attendance was Bishop W.C. Martin, pastor at Bennet Chapel Baptist Church, who has helped members of his parish adopt 76 children; Jose Arellano who aids Homeboy Ministries, which helps teens escape gang violence; and Patricia Heaton, pro-life advocate and star of the ABC situation comedy “The Middle.”
Around 4 p.m., the crowds began to disperse and the people made their way towards the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels to conclude the day with the celebration of the Requiem Mass. The atmosphere had not changed. The parishioners from St. Mary’s in Fontana waited excitedly for the “best part of the day,” as Osbelia O’Leary described the Requiem Mass.
“We are called to care for one another. We are called to treat others with the same mercy and compassion that we want for ourselves. If we want life for ourselves, then we need to defend life in all its stages,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez in his homily.
Before closing the Mass, 180 candles were lit and brought to the altar, representing the estimated 180 abortions that occur each day in Southern California. After all the candles surrounded the altar, the lights turned off, and all that could be seen was their flickering light in the darkness. In the 180 seconds of silence that took place that night, quiet cries were followed by gasps that could be heard from all directions. There was a sudden realization of the lives that could have been born.
The candles were then placed on the windows of the Cathedral facing the streets of Los Angeles. They remained there for a week after to provide a reminder for continued prayer for life.
Participants came away inspired and motivated.
“Our God is an active God and he asks us to be active. To lift our voices in defense of those who cannot. Don’t get stuck in the church or in an office, go out there,” Fr. Cardoza implored.