By Catherine Fournier
The Interim

On Friday April 28, at 7:30 in the morning, Andrew called his sister Faustina from Parliament Hill in Ottawa. He had walked extraordinary distances in the last three weeks, pushing himself nearly a week ahead of schedule, for this moment.

“Andrew, where are you?,” she mumbled, still half asleep. As far as she (and the rest of the family) knew, he was somewhere outside of Montréal.

“I’m sitting on Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s statue!” he said happily, “Come pick me up!”

After a joyful reunion – our oldest two are very close – and a big breakfast, Faustina drove Andrew home to Arnprior. In a delightful God-incidence, my husband Peter happened to be home that day, and was completely shocked to see Andrew walk into the house. Laughing and crying at the same time, we all hugged and talked at once.

Then we took stock of our son. We expected that he’d be more muscled than when he’d left nearly two months before, but we were surprised to see how thin he is. Now weighing approximately 185 pounds (he’s six foot six inches tall), he has no “padding” anywhere. There were chaffed sores on his hip bones and shoulders from the straps of his backpack, and red cracked callouses on his feet. (A visit to a sports clinic doctor told us that his shoes were about 1,000 kilometers past their limit.)

There was a look of both contentment and exhaustion in his eyes. He’s doing what he wants to do, what God’s asking him to do, but it’s harder than he expected. He’s either extremely lonely or overwhelmed with people. He’s hungry all the time. He’s more tired and sore, even after several weeks of walking, than he anticipated. And at the end of the long hard days there are so many details – his next billet, who he’s meeting for an interview, recharging his phone, calling his organizers, taking pictures, remembering all his belongings – that he often feels like he’s leaving a trail of disappointed and annoyed people behind him. These thoughts worry and plague him as he walks. It took my husband and me a long time to realize how Andrew was feeling – actually we didn’t figure some of it out until after he’d left, and Peter drove after him for one last talk. When all he wanted to do was rest and forget about the Pilgrimage for Life for awhile, we focused on “helping him” arrange details like replacing his shoes, visiting doctors, and responding to all the people who wanted to meet him.

Instead of truly stepping back and letting our adult son take care of himself, we were interfering and driving him nuts. It’s something that every parent of a newly adult child does, and something that every parent needs to learn not to do. Hard as it for him, he has to handle this on his own.

Then we saw how well he can handle it. Andrew spoke at both the March for Life banquet on Wednesday, 10 May and the March for Life gathering on Parliament Hill on Thursday, 11 May in Ottawa. Both times, he was poised and confident , delivering a strong and clear message to his audience. Peter and I were impressed with how well he spoke, and how he greeted the enthusiastic supporters asking for his autograph, a photograph, or just a chance to shake his hand that surrounded him after each appearance, something that is more difficult than it appears.

We’ve all learned a lot in the last two and half months, things that may be difficult to put into words, but good lessons none the less. Andrew is learning how to pace himself, and how to balance the demands of the walking with the demands of the Pilgrimage. Peter and I are learning to let go of our son, while still holding him close to our hearts and our prayers. We hope to do better at it; it’s what he needs more than advise.

Andrew left Parliament Hill on Saturday, 13 May walking towards Toronto by way of Brockville and Kingston. In the months to come, he’ll continue to walk for what believes is worth the sacrifice he’s making: “the most important issue facing our society today – respect and protection of all life.”

Again, we thank all those who have helped him along the way, especially the staff at Campaign Life Coalition, the pro-life groups in each province and especially his generous and hospitable billeters.