OneLife LA attendees say day's steady rain a challenge that only 'makes us stronger'

Pro-life activists carry a banner during the 10th annual OneLife LA event in Los Angeles Jan. 20, 2024. Nearly 7,000 people attended the event titled "10 Years Together as ONE." The day's steady rain did not dampen the resolve of participants to speak out for and celebrate the dignity of life. (OSV News photo/Victor Aleman, Angelus News)

LOS ANGELES (OSV News) ─ There was no escaping the rain.

It permeated everything: clothes, jackets, socks, shoes. It soaked everything trying to prevent it, from umbrellas to hats to ponchos to covered baby strollers.

Signs were drenched, whether it was the sturdy ones handed out for the event, or the handmade variety that people brought from home. Water-logged signs that said things like "Pregnancy is not a disease, abortion is not a cure" or "Protect all children, even if they're not yours."

But there was one thing the rain couldn't dampen: The resolve of nearly 7,000 to speak out for and celebrate the dignity of life at the 10th annual OneLife LA event Jan. 20, titled "10 Years Together as ONE."

As in past years, it started with a rally at La Placita Olvera in downtown LA and made its way to Los Angeles State Historic Park, where music, activities for families, and a lineup of pro-life speakers awaited. Later, the day was capped by the annual Requiem for the Unborn Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Hundreds of miles to the north, tens of thousands gathered for a sometimes-rainy 20th annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, while a day earlier across the country in Washington, demonstrators braved frigid temperatures and snowfall for the 51st annual March for Life.

"This is how dedicated we are to our faith," said Cecilia Hernandez, 14, who attended OneLife LA with her mom, Rosario. "The fact that we're out here in the pouring rain, it's below 60 degrees. It just shows how much we care."

"God gives us all challenges, only to make us stronger," said Buzz Wallick, who walked with his pregnant wife, Mary. "It's just a little wet. Who cares? And as you can see, everyone rose to the occasion and rose to the challenge."

"As long as we can keep the baby dry, I'm going to go," joked Allan Herrera, their friend from Holy Family Church in Glendale who was pushing his young son, Dominic, in a stroller.

Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez kicked off the event at the state park by reminding people that celebrating life meant treating people, no matter their color, class, or condition, with tenderness.

"We face many big 'issues' in our society," said Archbishop Gomez, joined at the park by several other local bishops, including Bishop Joseph V. Brennan of Fresno. "But behind every one of these 'issues' are real people, with their own stories, their own dreams, their own struggles. Every one of them is a child of God, and every one of them is our brother or our sister.

"And we are called to love them. As Jesus loves them. Without exception, without judgment, with no conditions."

That sentiment was backed up by several of the guest speakers, who spoke of the importance of meeting people where they're at rather than trying to impose their will.

Catholic speaker and author Katie Prejean McGrady was prevented by weather from making it to LA from the East Coast, but sent a video message inviting participants to celebrate life by making it better for others, including "the perfect stranger that we see in the grocery store, the man begging on the side of the road, the woman who's been unjustly accused, the immigrant who has been unwelcomed, the unborn child that has been cast aside."

"We're able to give witness to the value and dignity and goodness of human life, long past an event's end," she said.

Another popular pro-life speaker, Father Josh Johnson of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, spoke about the lessons that could be learned from his prison ministry, where an inmate confided about his initial reluctance to evangelize to violent prisoners, having been spit on, cursed at and worse.

"We have so many people in our schools, in our workplace environments, in our neighborhoods, even in our family, who are opposed to the gospel of life," Father Johnson said. "Even then, we must be willing to go to them again and again and again. And if they spit on us, or curse us out, or reject our message, or resist this invitation we have for them, we must go to them over and over again.

"We must not live as if we can have heaven without them. God wants them. But he wants to send us to get them."

While the event promoted the dignity of all life, the fight over abortion remained high on the priority list for many in the crowd.

Despite Roe v. Wade being overturned by the Supreme Court in 2022, several in attendance expressed concern over pro-abortion state policies being enacted all over the country, and especially in California, where several recent laws have protected the right to an abortion in the state.

Frida Plata, 19, a parishioner at St. Peter Chanel Church in Hawaiian Gardens, held her head high as she marched with a homemade anti-abortion sign. As someone who works with Vox Vitae, a pro-life nonprofit that works with teens and young adults, she was adamant that abortion was hurting our way of life.

"In today's society, we can see there's a lot of wrong things going on," Plata said. "Abortion. Human trafficking. Our babies are being affected. My goal has always been to help women and save those children."

Elizabeth Macias, a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in El Monte and one of the coordinators of a church group called "Prevention and Rescue," was listening to speakers as she held her youngest daughter and several of her other kids ran around. As someone who got pregnant at age 18 and who recently had her fifth child 10 years later, she believes there needs to be a rethinking of how pregnancy and abortion are framed.

"My thought is now what do I have to sacrifice more to be able to feed my fourth, fifth kid versus I'm going to go abort so I don't have to sacrifice," Macias told Angelus, the archdiocesan online news outlet. "If you think more about sacrificing versus getting rid of, God blesses you. God doesn't fail. He's not human."

Others simply basked in the joy of the life that was brought into the world.
Ruben and Maggie Cardenas -- parishioners at St. Peter & St. Paul Church in Rancho Cucamonga -- were taking photos of their daughter, Emily, holding a OneLife LA sign. Emily held a special place in their heart, being their first child after having spent their first 10 years of marriage childless. Emily is now 19 and the couple has four other children.

"We prayed and asked God for a child and Emily is an answer," Ruben Cardenas said. "So we've been in that space of wanting to have children and yet being around a society where so many people were aborting children."

"It's easy to get caught up in the culture where anything goes, euthanasia and abortion," Maggie Cardenas said. "For us, it's important to make sure our kids know that no matter how popular the culture of death is, it's wrong."

For Carolina Jara, who attends Sacred Heart Church in Jurupa Valley, there's a reason why she's been to OneLife LA for all 10 years, bringing her husband and five kids with her: She herself was almost aborted. Her mother was 38, her family was poor, and her parents were already struggling with five kids.

"My mom always mentions the story of when she was pregnant with me, the doctor told her to have an abortion," Jara said. "I think that always stuck with me. So I've always been pro-life."

For those who argue as pro-choice and who see nothing wrong with abortion, Jara has a simple message to try and change their minds.

"I think the first thing I mention is, hey, I wouldn't be here if my mom would've aborted me," Jara said. "My kids wouldn't be here. It's a huge deal to think about missing a person in your life.

"Imagine if you didn't exist, all the things you do in your life, all the people you share your life with. We're all important members of society. Without that one person, there's something missing."

As the rain welcomed the event, it also had the final say. As Francis Cabildo and friends took the stage for the final performance, the downpour came down heavily again and the concert was cut short for safety reasons.

"God's mercy is pouring on us," Cabildo said.

It was at that point the date for next year's OneLife LA was announced: Saturday, Jan. 18, 2025.

The rain is TBD.

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Mike Cisneros is the associate editor of Angelus, the online news outlet of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.


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