Jacinta Fox took part in the 2011 Crossroads walk.

Jacinta Fox took part in the 2011 Crossroads walk.

Could you imagine giving up your entire summer to raise awareness of the abortion issue in Canada? What if that summer was spent walking across Canada, through cities and forests, rain or shine? Approximately ten young people on the Crossroads Canada team are doing just that. They began traveling from Vancouver on May 18, and will end in Ottawa on August 9, with a rally on Parliament Hill the following day.

The annual Crossroads walk began in Steubenville, Ohio, in 1995. Steve Sanborn, then a student at Franciscan University, was looking for a way to respond to Pope John Paul II’s call for youth to become active in promoting a culture of life. Four simultaneous walks take place in the United States, all ending in the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C. In 2007, six youth (including two Americans) became the first Crossroads walkers in Canada, with a 5,000 walk from the Pacific coast to the nation’s capital. Crossroads walks have now spread outside of North America. The first Australian team journeyed from Brisbane to Melbourne this past December and January. There was an Irish trek in 2011.

2011 Crossroads Canada participant Jacinta Fox, now 20 years old and a former student at our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, recently spoke to The Interim about her experience. That summer, she “wanted to get away” and go on some kind of “pilgrimage.” Then, 18-year-old Fox was inspired by previous walkers giving up their summer for the “noble and worthy cause” of life.

However, a worthy cause did not automatically make for an easy trip. “For the first two weeks, my feet killed me.” she said. “Living in an RV with 12 other people, half of them guys, meant you had no privacy. There were some nights when we went without showers, and we had to deal with mosquitoes and blackflies.”

Individual walkers cover half of a ten-hour shift, of which there are two per day. The groups rotate to keep energy levels up – when one is on the road, the other is resting. The missionaries attend daily Mass and speak to parishes about their journey every weekend, encouraging them to stand up for the preborn. They also give media interviews, and engage in other activism along the way, such as prayer and sidewalk counseling near abortion facilities. Typically, participants stay with host families on weekends and at campgrounds and church areas during the week.

Fox knew her efforts were paying off once she began visiting churches and seeing how supportive they were of the team’s mission. There was “constant support – from people on the streets, parishes, and their priests.” She witnessed “huge displays of generosity” when some people “gave up their homes” to let walkers stay for the weekend. “It was amazing,” she said.

Churchgoers were not the only ones whose eyes were opened throughout Crossroads. Fox, who is working as an intern at Campaign Life Coalition this summer, and her fellow walkers had many opportunities to speak to the public about the pro-life movement. For the most part, “people were curious, asking ‘what are you doing?’ or ‘what does pro-life mean’?” Many were “very supportive,” like those who opened their homes to the missionaries. Occasionally, there were “disagreeable people,” but the group’s prayerful demeanor and silent witness meant that those who opposed their work had “something to look at.” Fox said that abortion supporters “almost couldn’t get angry, because the violence (of abortion) wasn’t shown.”

Fox is following this year’s walk – one of her best friends is participating – and is very “proud and excited” for current attendees. She still keeps in contact with most of the people she traveled with, since a lot of them attended the same school. By the end of the walk, the 12 young people had become “very close. There was a lot of bonding.”

The experience helped her to look at pro-life activism “in a more peaceful way.” Fox became more aware of the “apathy” Canada has towards the pro-life movement, even in churches. The lack of attention was “sad” because “some people didn’t seem to care.” She remembered some of the reactions from cars passing by. Happy people would honk car horns and smile, but if the team couldn’t see that, “at least angry people are showing some emotion.”