Note: This is part two of a three-part description of my first journalism assignment, covering the Walk for Life in San Francisco. You can read part one here, where I show how God answered my prayer to guide me in the right direction.
Lead me to the people I need to speak with
Instead of staying at a hotel, I was able to lodge with other members of Sister Paula’s religious community. Sister Anne showed me to my room for the night where I unloaded my stuff. Friday night’s agenda meant attending an interfaith prayer service followed by a trip to a different church offering all-night adoration. My goal was to talk to a few participants. Since the rally and Walk for Life weren’t until Saturday morning, I left behind my interview notes and questions for those speakers. No sense in bringing everything with me.
Sister Anne went with me to the prayer service. She planned to attend anyhow, but at least this way I could follow her to the church. It was a beautiful service, but I was torn between being present and furiously taking notes. I wasn’t sure what details I would need, so I recorded as much as possible.
The opening procession was particularly powerful as members of different pro-life groups carried up a rose. I believe each rose represented a million abortions since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. There were more than 30 individuals carrying roses.
Afterward, everyone was invited to go down in the basement for a reception, to talk to fellow participants. I was ready to join in, but first I realized that I was standing a few feet away from Father Frank Pavone. He’s the national director for Priests for Life. He was among the speakers I intended to interview Saturday, and I told this to Sister Anne, but she insisted that waiting for that interview was absurd. He’s right there.
So she got his attention and introduced herself to him, then introduced me and asked if I could interview him for The Tidings. I was so taken by surprise when he agreed. But what do I do? My notes are at the house. What am I supposed to say?
We stepped away from the lingering crowd and sat down in a pew. Thankfully I did have a tape recorder with me, so I used that. And I began the interview by apologizing for being a newbie. It was one of those out-of-body experiences for sure. I couldn’t believe I was having a conversation with someone I admired so much. But I stumbled my way through it.
Downstairs, I found Sister Anne talking to different people, keeping an eye out for someone worth interviewing. She really helped me out. I was so nervous trying to approach strangers.
I spotted a guy about my age. He took part in the opening ceremonies, representing a group from Washington state. He was someone I wanted to speak to. Before leaving Los Angeles, I learned that one of my brother’s friends from Washington would be at the rally and we planned to meet up for a little bit. So I wondered if this guy happened to know her as well. As we talked, I learned that he did know her; they traveled down in the same group.
He then introduced me to his friend. I talked with this guy for quite a while. He shared about how he loves going to big events like this because it makes the world seem a bit smaller; there’s a chance to meet so many people from different places who share your same values and passion.
I told him that I was from South Carolina and volunteering in Los Angeles for a year, mostly because I didn’t know what I was supposed to pursue. And he mentioned that he had been in the seminary for a little bit but decided that wasn’t his calling. Excited about some common ground, I told him my brother was preparing for ordination that summer.
He looked at me and asked what my brother’s name was. I didn’t understand why that would be relevant, but I told him. And his eyes got so big. No way. “How do you know my brother?!” Apparently they had met the previous summer in Pennsylvania for a conference and ended up being roommates for the week. He’s from Washington. I’m from South Carolina but spending a year in Los Angeles. And somehow we met in San Francisco.
Small world indeed.
By the time I made it to the church hosting adoration, it was at least 10 pm. I was exhausted. Just as I was about to pull open the church door, some of my Los Angeles friends walked out. We had been trying to get in touch all evening but kept missing phone calls. I wasn’t expecting to see them here.
They invited me to join them after the rally for a side trip to Mount Carmel on Sunday, a detour on the way back to Los Angeles. That would mean only spending one night with the sisters instead of the two I planned. I agreed. We settled on a place to meet up the next morning before the rally and then parted ways.
I went inside, and knelt down for a little bit. I couldn’t really focus on anything more than just offering up a few thank you’s for the journey so far.
I got up to leave and made it to the vestibule area of the church when I stopped. I felt frozen in place. I really wanted to get back to the sisters’ house so I could crawl into bed, and yet there was a nagging feeling that I needed to interview another person. Like a deer caught in headlights, I couldn’t move. Two women were sitting nearby, manning a table for some reason. They saw me and one asked if I needed help. I explained my situation. “Well I guess you could talk to us. We’re on the Walk for Life planning committee.”
So I sat down with them. They shared about some of the background to the event, how it got started. And as we talked, I noticed there were carloads of students walking in. They were armed with pillows and sleeping bags. I asked what was going on, and they said that a big group of students from Thomas Aquinas College were camping out in the church basement.
Well, I was hoping to get some information on how younger people were involved in the advocacy. I sure didn’t expect this angle, though. So one of the women’s sons guided me to the basement and pointed out two of the student leaders. I pulled them aside for a few minutes to hear their story. They said a caravan of nearly two hundred students, more than half of the student body for the small school, had made the six-hour drive up after classes.
These interviews would turn out to be very important, but I didn’t learn why until the next day.
Satisfied with what seemed like small efforts, I finished things up for the day. I was even more grateful to return to the sisters’ house without any travel problems.
Stay tuned! Part three is coming tomorrow. (Edit: Read part three here.)