Carrying banners and signs to celebrate the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, thousands of Catholics and Christians of different denominations joined together as they walked through the streets of downtown Los Angeles Jan. 23 in support of OneLife LA.
Hosted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the second annual march focused on all aspects of life, reaffirming the Church’s mission to love and help every person.
“OneLife LA is our vision for a new way of life,” Archbishop José H. Gomez told a crowd of 20,000 gathered after the march in Grand Park. “A vision for society as God wants it to be.”
Archbishop Gomez stressed the need to care for the lives of the unborn, for unwed mothers, for refugees and for the sick, disabled and elderly. He asked those in attendance to reach out “into the darkest corners of our society, where there is so much suffering and pain.”
He added that no one should feel excluded. “No one should go unnoticed or unloved in our society.”
The event showcased many celebrity speakers, including Christian evangelist and motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs.
“God has a plan for you,” Vujicic told the crowd during his keynote address. “Don’t give up on God, because he is not going to give up on you. He knows what you are going through: money, drugs, sex, alcohol, pornography.”
The Australian-born father of two spoke of the despair he felt before accepting his disability with the help of God’s grace. He once attempted suicide, he said, before he realized that he could inspire other people to live life to the fullest despite their disabilities. He began speaking publicly about his life and founded the nonprofit Life Without Limbs when he was 17.
Recently while preaching in Ventura, he met a young boy with his same condition. Vujicic has since become his “uncle,” going to the boy’s school and speaking to the students to ensure that his “nephew” wouldn’t be bullied. “And now he’s not only respected, he’s accepted,” Vujicic said.
He added, “God is better than any drug. God is better than any pleasure on this planet. And that’s what I’m living for — for him, to love God, and then the second commandment: ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’”
He told the crowd to look to heaven in their struggles. “We are citizens of heaven passing through [this world],” he said, noting that while on earth we have to manifest God’s love to each person we meet.
“We are to be that love of God to all,” he added. “No matter who they are, we need to show that love.”
At the close of his address, he thanked the Catholic Church for its commitment to the pro-life movement and for championing generosity throughout the world. Not without humor, Vujicic said before leaving, “Before they handcuff me, I’m going to get off [the stage].”
Ryan and Mary Mincer attended OneLife LA to hear Vujicic speak, but they also had a more personal reason. “For me, it’s very important to support life,” Ryan said, explaining that he suffers from cystic fibrosis, a terminal genetic disease.
If Ryan’s mother had access to today’s pre-natal screenings when she was expecting, she could have been encouraged to abort the pregnancy. “My mom could have aborted me if she wanted to,” he said.
Ryan found it encouraging to hear Vujicic speak. “I really liked how he brought in the faith perspective.” He also appreciated that Vujicic keeps a pair of running shoes in his closet “just in case God works a miracle and gives him a pair of legs.”
Ryan and his wife are also hoping for a miracle. The median predicted survival age for people with his condition is around 40, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Research is ongoing to find drugs that successfully add decades to the lives of those suffering from illness.
Mary values whatever time she has left with her husband, and said she would rather have the best for as long as she can rather than run away in fear. “We don’t know how long we are going to have together, so every day is special.”
The Mincers, both non-denominational Christians, added that they were also encouraged by the event’s positive message. “We’ve been to other pro-life events and seen terrible posters from people who claim to be Christian,” Ryan said.
“It’s been very positive, very loving, very hopeful,” Mary said of the event. “It shows the hope life brings.”
David Silva, a district marshal for the Knights of Columbus in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was one of the many knights to escort Archbishop Gomez during the march.
The event means a lot to him since his daughter was encouraged by two doctors to have an abortion. Eleven years later, Silva is grandfather to a healthy little girl. “She is the most beautiful girl,” he says. “She calls me every morning. What would I have done if she wasn’t born?”
Rebecca Magdaleno, 19, said she came to the event because “I am expecting a baby and I’m pro-life.”
She was touched by Vujicic’s story, especially when he said that he had attempted suicide at a young age. “It just shows that you can overcome anything when you believe in God,” Magdaleno said.