On Dec. 12, 2021, in his weekly Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis said: “Faith is not an abstract theory, a generalized theory; no! Faith touches us personally and transforms each of our lives. Let us think about the concreteness of our faith….Brothers and sisters, let’s find something concrete and do it!”
The pope’s recent Advent message particularly resonates with Greg Walgenbach, director of Life, Justice and Peace at the Diocese of Orange, as he prepares for the annual OneLife LA event in downtown Los Angeles, a daylong celebration of the beauty and dignity of every human life.
The event, to be held Saturday, Jan. 22, serves as a great opportunity to learn about how to get involved with many Southern California-based service organizations, Walgenbach said, such as ones that provide life-affirming support to pregnant women, assist immigrants and refugees, the homeless, survivors of human trafficking, the elderly, the disabled and the dying and help foster children find permanent homes. O.C. Bishop Kevin Vann contributed funds to help get the daylong OneLife LA off the ground in 2015, and the event since has grown into a gathering of 10,000-plus Catholics throughout Southern California that echoes annual “March for Life” events in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.
While those two gatherings tend to concentrate on the pro-life movement and the rights of the unborn, OneLife LA aims to mobilize thousands of people to do good work every day to help those in need, Walgenbach said.
“The event is very much about the whole Catholic teaching and Christian understanding of life from conception to natural death and everything in between, for life to be protected and human dignity to be upheld and uplifted,” he said. “And it does that in a very celebratory way.”
MARCHERS ASSEMBLE FOR THE ONELIFE LA EVENT IN JANUARY 2020. PHOTO COURTESY OF ONELIFE LA
A WALK THROUGH DOWNTOWN L.A.
The free, family-friendly event – held outdoors – begins at 11 a.m. with a 1-mile solidarity-building walk through downtown L.A. and ends with a festival, live music, food trucks, entertainment, inspiring speakers, and a 5 p.m. Requiem Mass for the Unborn at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral.
“Forward in Hope” is the theme of this year’s OneLife LA, which last year was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Event officials are closely monitoring the exploding Omicron variant of the coronavirus but are hopeful necessary protocols such as wearing face coverings and being vaccinated will make for a safe event this year.
“If you’re going to attend something, then this is probably a safe event to attend – it’s very spread out and there is no single point of entry,” said Isaac Cuevas, director of Immigration and Public Affairs in the office of Life, Justice & Peace at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
OneLife LA not only has grown in size but also in terms of its ability to help people recognize the importance of what the pro-life movement really is, Cuevas added.
“It’s not just about the unborn, but all stages of life,” he said. “It’s one thing to be pro-life, but another to recognize human dignity in all its facets. This event provides an opportunity for all of us to live out our own best lives in serving others.”
ARCHBISHOP, OTHERS TO SPEAK
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez is among seven scheduled speakers at this year’s event.
Others include Sister Bethany Madonna, who entered the Sisters of Life in 2007. While attending the University of Central Florida, she had a profound encounter with the Lord, which drew her heart toward the vulnerable unborn and their mothers. After her graduation in 2006, she worked for the Respect Life Office for the Diocese of Orlando before joining her religious community.
Another speaker, Deacon Ed Shoener, serves at St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Diocese of Scranton, Penn. Shoener is a founding member of the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers and the Catholic Institute of Mental Health Ministry at the University of San Diego. He serves on the Council on Mental Illness of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability and on the Board of Pathways to Promise, an interfaith cooperative that facilitates the faith community’s work in reaching out to those with mental illnesses and their families.
Deacon Shoener, along with family and friends, founded “The Katie Foundation” after his daughter, Kathleen, died by suicide in 2016. Katie’s obituary went viral because it spoke to the needs and concerns of people who live with mental illness.
Walgenbach urged parishioners to attend the event together to take back to their churches ideas about how to best serve their communities.
“We want to be a hopeful presence to those most in need,” he said.
Added Cuevas: “This is not just a one-day event for us. It’s an opportunity for people to come and learn about some organizations and get involved in their community.”