Busloads of participants from the Modesto and Mother Lode regions will converge with thousands of others on Saturday in San Francisco for the 11th Walk for Life West Coast.
The annual interfaith protest – which drew 50,000 participants last year, according to the organization – is held on the Saturday closest to the Jan. 22 date of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision 42 years ago that legalized abortion.
Eleven regional Catholic churches will be among 21 within the Diocese of Stockton to send participants. Bishop Stephen Blaire also will attend.
Additionally, individuals from the region, including members of other faiths, traditionally make the drive to the Bay Area to participate.
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“It’s a very inspiring and moving experience,” said Tammy Menezes, parish director of operations at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Modesto.
While there are counterprotesters annually at the San Francisco event, the Stanislaus County Commission for Women, which supports pro-choice efforts, was unaware of any organized groups going from the Modesto area. No one from the local Planned Parenthood organization was planning to counterprotest, according to public affairs director Pedro Elias.
Walk for Life participants are expected to follow a peaceful code of conduct and are to refrain from carrying signs with graphic images of abortion, according to the group’s website.
Five buses will leave at 9:30 a.m. Saturday from the St. Joseph’s parking lot on Oakdale Road in Modesto. Menezes said the church is sending about 270 people, along with several tall vertical banners, to take part. Many repeatedly make the trek each year.
“This is an opportunity for them to say that it’s important enough to witness, to show the world how they value life,” Menezes said of Walk for Life participants. “Every year, it’s still as important as it was last year.”
About 54 people will be bused from St. Francis of Rome Church in Riverbank, according to parish secretary Viridiana Morales. This will be the second year that her church has sent a bus to Walk for Life.
Morales said so many gather annually at the event because “we know women deserve better than abortion.”
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Angels Camp also will send a busload of protesters, according to the pastor, the Rev. Rolando Petronio.
“It’s an exercise of our faith, putting our faith really in action,” he said of the walk.
Founded in 2005 by a group of Bay Area residents, Walk for Life West Coast gathers people from throughout that region and across the United States and Canada, according to its website.
This year’s event includes an information fair at 11 a.m. before a rally and speakers at 12:30 p.m. is held at the city’s Civic Center Plaza. Among those attending will be Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, papal Ambassador to the United States.
Following the rally, walkers will march on Market Street from the Civic Center to Justin Herman Plaza, beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Scene editor Pat Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.