The group hopes their prayer pilgrimage will help save lives through their peaceful witness.

You know how somethings just happen and then turn out to be something wonderful? It’s called serendipity. Well, on Wednesday morning, June 27, Chris Heiderscheidt picked up a phone call in her St. Mary’s Parish office and it certainly was serendipitous.

On the phone was Cristina Gonzalez of Crossroads, Pro-Life Walks Across America. She was in charge of finding a place to stay overnight, for a group of nine young people who were walking across the county to provide peaceful witness to their pro-life convictions. The group had hoped to stay at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center, but the facility was full with a girls camp that night.

“I never answer the outside line,” said Heiderscheidt. “This time I picked it up and I’m so glad I did.” While certainly there would have been other options to offer, Heiderschedit said, “Come stay at my house. I’ll make you spaghetti for supper.”

And that is what happened.

Wednesday night the Crossroads group enjoyed the hospitality of Chris and Lamonte Heiderscheidt and then attended morning Mass at St. Mary’s Church on Thursday, before setting out along Highway 14 for New Ulm. A few members of the group took some time that morning to meet with this writer at the parish office, and tell the story of Crossroads and their walk, before catching up with the rest of the group.

According to its website, “Crossroads was founded in 1995 by Steve Sanborn, a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. The mission of Crossroads is to respond to Pope St. John Paul II’s call to the youth of the world to take an active role in the pro-life movement in order to establish a Culture of Life. An integral part of Crossroads is our yearly pro-life pilgrimages across the United States. Each summer, young adults walk on three simultaneous pro-life walks across America from Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.”

The walkers who stopped in Sleepy Eye last week were on the northern walk. They said they make 40 miles “on a good day.” They break into groups of two or three and walk in shifts—their bright “Pro-Life” t-shirts drawing attention of drivers, who sometimes pull over to have a conversation. The walk itself is not a strict goal, they ride in their RV to pass through road construction sites, or if the weather conditions are dangerous. But, mostly they walk.

They walk, and it can be hard. As explained on their website, any difficulty is accepted as a small sacrifice, which along with their prayers, is joined with the sufferings of Christ, who they point out was crucified for the sake of all, born and unborn.

Cristina, Matthew and Brandon all agreed with that philosophy, and explained more, during our talk Thursday.

“I walk to provide peaceful witness to the sanctity and dignity of life, from conception to the the end of life,” said Matthew. He shared that both his mother and sister had lost babies to miscarriages, and through that experience—including getting to see his baby brother and his sister’s baby, he became committed to the life represented by babies in the womb.

Brandon said the group hopes their prayer pilgrimage will help save lives through their peaceful witness. He and Cristina explained that on those rare occasions when people want to argue with them or get agitated, they choose not to engage in that way, but continue with their quiet and peaceful witness.

As the group walks across the country, they stop at abortion clinics to pray and offer their visible witness. They start each day with Mass and have arranged in advance to speak at weekend Masses along their route. “At those churches we ask the congregation for their prayers and for their generosity—to help with our ministry,” said Cristina. “We also offer prayers for them.”

As they walk the country, they also spend time in prayer—praying for the cause they are walking for and also praying for the intentions of people they’ve met along the way.

“I ask everyone I speak with if there is something they would like me to pray about on my walk,” said Matthew.

This group of walkers will continue their trek across the country and will meet with the other two groups, one traversing the country’s mid-section and the other across the south, in Washington. D.C. at a Pro-Life Rally on Aug. 11.

Then the young people, who just met this summer and plunged in to 24/7 togetherness, will scatter back to their every day lives of college, work and a devotion to life.

At the end of the interview, Matthew asked, “What do you ask that I pray for as I walk?” “The immigrant children and parents that are separated,” I answered.