Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles founded OneLife LA a decade ago with a mission of promoting "the beauty and dignity of every human life from conception to natural death." On Jan. 20, the annual gathering commences its 10th anniversary of celebrating life with the energy, prayer and particularly joyful sense of fellowship for which it has become known. The enthusiastic archbishop took time to chat with me about the event's impact and significance.
Charlie Camosy: For readers unfamiliar with OneLife LA, can you give us a quick overview of what it is and how it came about?
Archbishop José H. Gomez: OneLife LA is a peaceful, joyful procession and family festival that we hold each year in celebration of the beauty and glory of human life.
It's always a great day -- a lot of fun for families and very inspiring. We hold a mile-long march where we are just praying and celebrating life and we listen to speakers who bring powerful stories of hope and courage, of love and self-sacrifice.
We also feature live music and there are food trucks; we have service projects and participation from our community's most innovative workers for justice and human development.
Life is beautiful and life is sacred! That’s what we celebrate in OneLife LA!
OneLife LA is timed to mark one of the saddest days in our country's history -- January 22, 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion legal. And of course our prayers are to put an end to abortion and to make a city and a country where children are welcome and mothers and families are supported.
But what makes OneLife LA unique is that we also call attention to the beauty and dignity of every human life -- from conception to natural death.
We want to build a Los Angeles, and an America, where life is loved and protected -- especially those who are the most weak and vulnerable: the sick and the elderly; the lonely and the mentally ill; the disabled and the poor; the prisoner, the migrant and the refugee. And the most vulnerable of all, the child in the womb. That's what OneLife LA is all about. That’s our vision.
Camosy: What does it mean that OneLife LA is celebrating its 10th anniversary? Does it signal something about the trajectory of the pro-life movement in Southern California, and beyond?
Archbishop Gomez: OneLife LA has always been more than just a beautiful day. OneLife LA, from the beginning, was a vision for a new way of life. It is a vision for a pro-life nation, a nation where every life is sacred and protected -- every life, at every stage and in every condition.
And 10 years on, I think we are making progress in doing what we set out to do. We are building a pro-life nation, from heart to heart and from coast to coast! Slowly it is growing, this movement of love. And I think more and more people are seeing that each of us has a part to play in building this beautiful culture of life.
OneLife LA is not a political idea so much as it is a spiritual movement, a movement of the heart. We are convinced that if we all really believed that every life is precious and has a purpose in God's loving plan, then that belief would change the world overnight.
Camosy: It seems significant that your Office of Life, Justice and Peace sees pro-life movements and racial justice movements together, coming out of the same Catholic vision. Can you say something more about that?
Archbishop Gomez: God is our Father, we are his children and that means that we are all brothers and sisters. And Jesus came to live and die to redeem every person. There is that beautiful line in the Catechism: "There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer."
So very simply, that means that every human life is sacred and precious to our Creator.
And we have a duty to love others as God loves them as Jesus loves them. That means loving every man, woman and child -- born and not yet born. No matter the color of their skin or where they came from or the language that they speak. No matter what their "condition" or their "status" in society.
OneLife is a vision of a society of solidarity, love and service. It's a vision of a society where we do not see "others" but see only brothers and sisters, children of God who share our common human nature and are deserving of our love and care and everything we can do to promote their freedom and dignity.
It is our vision of the "beloved community" that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about and gave his life for. And I find it fitting that each year our celebration falls in the same week as our national day of remembrance for Rev. King.
Camosy: Finally, especially since the great victory of Dobbs, it must be said that pro-lifers have had a string of bad political losses. Is there something about the culture fostered by OneLife LA that can speak into our post-Dobbs moment?
Archbishop Gomez: It is important to remember that America was founded on the truth that all men and women are created equal, with God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That truth was denied by the Roe v. Wade ruling. So it was long overdue for the Supreme Court to reverse that decision.
And that change was the fruit of years of prayers, sacrifices and advocacy by countless ordinary Americans from every walk of life. The pro-life movement really does deserve to be numbered among the great movements for nonviolent social change and civil rights in our nation's history.
And as the pro-life movement has been a beautiful force for love during these past 50 years, in the years to come we need to continue this work of creating a society where children are cherished and families are supported.
That means reaching out in love to support the mother who carries the unborn child in her womb. That means working for alternatives to abortion, including adoption, foster care and a whole range of public policies that are more friendly and encouraging for families.
Our goal is still an America where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love.