California Catholic Daily Exclusive:

On January 21, 2017, tens of thousands of Catholics and members of other faiths will gather in San Francisco at the 13th Annual Walk for Life West Coast. The event is the second largest pro-life event in America, and draws participants from all over the west coast as well as a number of western states.

Making the trip to San Francisco from far away is a serious commitment of time. Most of the visitors, in keeping with the Walk’s character, are young people, high school and college students. Upon arrival they need a place to stay, some just for the night before the Walk, some for two nights. That requires a responsive commitment on the part of San Francisco’s parishes and other Catholic or pro-life institutions.  Many hundreds of people will be hosted at St. Peter’s Saints Peter and Paul, Star of the Sea, St. Cecilia’s, St. Mary’s Cathedral, and the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Star of the Sea (pastor Fr. Joseph Illo) has been housing young pro-life pilgrims for the last three years. The parish housing coordinator, Lorna Feria, who also serves as a parish catechist, spoke with CalCatholic.

“This is the third year we’ve been doing it. What we really try to do is make an environment that is welcoming for high school students. Our catechists help with this, which is important, because we’ve all had child protection training. We’ve got a couple of high schools from Arizona: St. Mary’s in Phoenix and St. Timothy’s from Mesa. And we’ve got three high schools from California:  Paraclete, from Lancaster, St. Augustine from Ventura, and Cathedral Catholic Academy from San Diego. We’re also hosting Wyoming Catholic College.

I’m a mother myself, and I think ‘What would I want for my kids? What would make it welcoming to come back over and over?’ On the morning of the Walk we all have breakfast together, and then we set up a sandwich bar and encourage the kids to prepare a sack lunch, because there are not that many place along the Walk for that many people to get fed. After that we all head over to the Cathedral for the Walk for Life Mass, and then down to the Civic Center for the Walk. After the Walk, when they come back to the parish, we host a barbecue with hamburgers and hot dogs. This year we expect about 600 people at the barbecue!”

Saints Peter and Paul Church (pastor Fr. John Itzaina) has hosted youth groups for ten years. The coordinator is Gibbons Cooney, the parish secretary. “This year we will host around 250-300 visitors. That’s about our usual number. We’ll host Thomas Aquinas College, who’ve been staying with us almost since the very first Walk. So far, we’ve also got St. Patrick’s from Sonora, and a group from New Mexico. They’ve been with us before, and know what to expect, which makes it a little smoother. The kids, especially the high schoolers, are always so excited. Ours is a pretty spectacular church, and the kids love it. We always have all night Adoration the night before the Walk and it’s wonderful to see these young people before the Blessed Sacrament at about 3AM. Our parishioners come all night long too.

“One of the things I love is when our parishioners who attend the daily 7:30am Mass come on the Saturday of the Walk for Life and they see all these devout young people at Mass, it just brings great joy to their hearts.  Hosting the visitors is a lot of work but it’s a wonderful feeling—and when I see how young these faithful are, some in their teens, it gives me great hope for our future! It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year.”

This year’s Walk for Life West Coast speakers include pro-life activist Pam Tebow (mother of Heisman Award winner Tim Tebow); Reggie Littlejohn, founder of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers; abortion survivor Melissa Ohden; and the Reverend Clenard Childress, founder of

Groups planning to attend the Walk and looking for lodging should visit the Walk for Life West Coast “Housing Registration” page.