Archdiocese Local Ministries

Runners provide witness to pro-life cause

LIFE Runners members pray over Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann after receiving a blessing from him the day of the A-Cross America Relay.

by Moira Cullings

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Runners all over the country formed the shape of a cross as they covered 5,545 miles for the pro-life cause.

Starting March 1, participants walked and ran 5K legs both on the cross course and remotely for the annual A-Cross America Relay, which ended April 9 as all four arms of the cross met on Palm Sunday in Kansas City, Kansas.

The group is known as the LIFE Runners, and the relay’s purpose is simple.

“It is putting our faith into action, witnessing to the sanctity of all human life,” said Theresa Dorrell, LIFE Runners events coordinator.

“The relay is also a redemptive way of healing for those who have experienced abortion or in any way participated in abortion — whether it be a parent, significant other or abortion worker,” she said.

Relay runners completed over 12 million steps in total.

Sporting jerseys that read “REMEMBER The Unborn,” the group hoped to spread the message that all life is precious.

The relay here began with a Palm Sunday Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas.

After participants completed the relay, they held a peaceful prayer rally at Planned Parenthood in Leawood, then joined up with the 40 Days for Life participants for a closing rally at the Center for Women’s Health in Overland Park.

Dorrell and the LIFE Runners are grateful to have support from the archbishop, who is a member of the group, as well as their chaplain, Father Scott Wallisch.

“[Father Wallisch] understands the struggles and frustrations runners go through with injuries and illnesses, and also the elation of accomplishments and goals runners experience,” said Dorrell.

Although Father Wallisch was unable to make the Palm Sunday relay, he enjoys attending other group events and being part of the movement.

“The pro-life cause has always been very important to me,” said Father Wallisch.

“In many ways, the pro-life movement had a big influence on me to go into the priesthood,” he said.

Growing up in St. Louis, Father Wallisch was involved in the pro-life movement throughout his childhood and eventually during his time at the University of Kansas.

“The more I was involved, the more I saw the battle between the culture of life and culture of death,” he said.

“It helped me to very much see how much evil has influenced the world and enticed us to live in the midst of a throwaway culture, as Pope Francis would say,” he added.

Father Wallisch’s passion for the cause left him feeling unsatisfied.

He needed to do more.

“I kept having to ask myself, ‘What are you doing in this battle? How are you going to stand up for the dignity of life?’” he added.

“The more I prayed about it and thought about it, the more I came to understand that I was maybe called to be a priest, and that’s how I was supposed to get into that battle,” he continued.

LIFE Runners seems to be the perfect medium for Father Wallisch, as well as its members — people at all fitness levels — to put their pro-life beliefs into action through the sport they love.

“The only requirement [for membership] is to wear the jersey in public — to the grocery store, work, school — to create awareness for the unborn,” said Dorrell.

The group attends meetings and local pro-life events throughout the year and participates in a national race each fall.

By putting its message on the road, the group hopes to create awareness for the unborn and the dignity that’s inherent in each human life, said Dorrell.

For more information on LIFE Runners, go online to:

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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