The numbers were few but spirits were high as participants in the Hike for Life set out through the Monday morning rush in lower Manhattan, spreading an anti-abortion message not often heard in the financial district. Catching the attention of the commuter crowds Aug. 2 was a four-wheeled four-seat cycle fitted with a large sign which offered information on free counseling and referrals and a hotline telephone number, 1-888-PRO-MOMS.
"I don't see much of this kind of advertising. It's a great idea, very innovative," Thomas Lloyd., who heads his own financial trading company. told CNY. "The message should get a good reception. A lot of Catholics work on Wall Street."
The cycle was pedaled by Christopher T. Slattery, the hike organizer and director of Expectant Mother Care, which runs three crisis pregnancy centers in the city and is looking to open a fourth with money raised from the event. About 35 persons, with dollar amounts pledged for each mile, were scheduled to join the walk at some point along the five-borough route.
The hike began Sunday just after sunrise in the Tottenville section of Staten Island and covered 22 miles to Immaculate Conception Church near the ferry terminal. More than a dozen people finished the course, which included some hilly stretches through wooded areas. Among them were five members of the youth group at Immaculate Conception parish and their pastor, Father Peter J. Byrne, who caught the last 11 miles after finishing his Sunday Mass obligations.
After reaching the Inwood section of Manhattan late Monday, the hike continued Tuesday through the Bronx and was scheduled to cover Queens on Wednesday and end Thursday evening in the Fort Hamilton section of Brooklyn. The route covers about 112 miles through the city-to call attention to the estimated 112,000 abortions performed last year in New York City-and is mapped to pass a number of clinics, where participants pray a decade of the Rosary. They also hand out pro-life literature to passers-by.
"We are doing this in atonement for the sin of abortion in New York City, for a greater awareness of the scope of abortion in the city and to drum up more support for abortion alternatives," Slattery said.
Expectant Mother Care also is sponsoring a Bike for Life across the state, from Niagara Falls to Brooklyn, Monday, Aug. 9, through Wednesday, Aug. 18.
Among the early Manhattan walkers were Father Peter West of Staten Island-based Priests for Life, Kathleen Brusstar and her 3-year-old son and Louis Menchaca.
Menchaca walked the Staten Island route, took the ferry the next morning and planned to complete all 112 miles on foot. He has been arrested many times for blocking clinic entrances but said that he supports any other peaceful activities against abortion. Many women have turned around from abortion through the efforts of sidewalk counselors, he noted.
"Whatever saves the babies," he said. "A lot of people see that sign (on the cycle). They get the information and where to go for help.
"I think this shows the people in the street that we're not the enemy, no matter how the media or the government tries to tell them that we're all violent. Pro-lifers are peaceful people who are out to help these women and their babies. We want to save both from abortion."
The Staten Island route passed through heavily wooded areas which provided welcomed shade on a hot and humid day. The group prayed at the Tomb of the Unborn at Resurrection Cemetery, near Mount Loretto, and at Staten Island University Hospital, where abortions are performed.
"Some people cheered us on, but there were a few negative comments," Father Byrne said. Members of the Immaculate Conception youth group who took part were Diana Espinal, Lissy Lopez, Giovanni Rojas, Laila Taverez and the adult coordinator. Rosanna Jimenez.
They enjoyed it ." Father Byrne Said. "They thought they had accomplished something special not just in completing the walk but in doing something good for the pro-life cause."