Catholic Pro-Life Camp

On July 19 through 23, Vox Vitae hosted a week-long pro-life camp for almost 100 teenagers at St. Therese Church in Alhambra. The schedule included daily Mass, rosary, adoration, and the opportunity for confession. In addition to instructing the campers in the basics of pro-life apologetics and pro-life activism, speakers from around the country emphasized the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith and urged the campers to strive for virtue.

Tim Staples from Catholic Answers, Timmerie Geagea from Relevant Radio, and Pam Stenzel, the well-known chastity speaker, all taught multiple sessions throughout the week. Dr. Stacy Trasancos, executive director of Bishop Joseph Strickland’s recently founded St. Philip Institute of Catechesis and Evangelization, was also on the roster to talk about the abortion/breast cancer link, the scientific studies of and evidence for Eucharistic miracles and Marian apparitions, and how aborted babies are used in research.

Catherine Contreras, Vox Vitae’s president and founder, says that she hopes camp will deepen the faith of the campers and help them realize their own worth and dignity, which will in turn lead to them being persuasive voices for life.

The five days of the camp were themed Catholicism, Pro-Life 101, Your Life Matters, Your Voice Matters, and Action! On the last day, Astrid Bennett Gutierrez from Los Angeles Pregnancy Services and The VIDA Initiative explained to the campers how they can save lives through sidewalk counseling. In the afternoon, the whole camp headed out to Planned Parenthood to practice sidewalk counseling and then to a pedestrian overpass to hold banners for thousands of passing drivers to see.

Mission pilgrimage

Early in the morning on July 24, around 150 pilgrims left Mission Santa Barbara on a 35-mile, two-day walking pilgrimage in honor of St. Junipero Serra.

Greg Wood, the organizer of the event, said he was inspired to organize the event after walking pieces of the California mission trail with his wife. He wanted to share the joy he found in those short pilgrimages, as well as in walking a portion of the Camino de Compostela in Spain, which he describes as “one of the best weeks of my life.” The catalyst that led him to act, though, he says, was the “desecration” and “defamation” directed at St. Junipero Serra in 2020. “We need to do something to reclaim the public sphere for our Catholic faith and for St. Junipero Serra,” Wood said. “We have to be the ones evangelizing our culture in the way that he did.”

Inspired by the seashells that are the mark of the pilgrims on the Camino de Compostela, Wood distributed small bells to the California pilgrims, reminiscent of the California mission bells and replica bells that mark El Camino Real.

The pilgrims spent the night at the halfway point of their journey at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Carpinteria, most camping out on a grassy field. The priests made adoration and confession available to the pilgrims.

On Sunday afternoon, the pilgrims reached their destination of Mission Basilica San Buenaventura, with the mission bells ringing to greet them. Father Tom Elewaut, the mission pastor, celebrated a closing Mass for the pilgrims.

Around half the pilgrims were from Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, but the other half came from all over California and as far away as Ohio. Father Nathan Cromly, CSJ, from the Diocese of Denver, was the official pilgrimage chaplain. Other religious included a Franciscan from Mission Santa Barbara, two Franciscan Friars of the Renewal from the new San Junipero Serra friary in Oakland, and two sisters from other orders.

Next year’s pilgrimage is tentatively scheduled for the third weekend in July.

– A California Catholic exclusive by Mary Rose