John Moore’s cross is inset with 61 beads in the shape of tiny feet, in reference to (nearly) 61 million children lost to abortion in the United States. Moore is carrying the cross – one of two, custom-made – on a cross-country walk from San Francisco to Washington, D.C.
“It’s from the site of the March for Life West Coast in San Francisco to the National Mall in Washington DC,” said Moore in late March, only a few days prior to the start of his journey. “I’ll end on January 18th of 2019 – that’s the March for Life there in Washington DC.”
Moore is a retired teacher and coach who now runs a family business in Gallup, NM, renting space to RVS and campers. He bought a camper of his own for this trip, which has also become a family affair. His daughter, Laura, is accompanying him the whole way. While John walks, Laura scouts ahead, making periodic stops to give her dad food and water, and then picks him up at the end of each day.
“The trail will go through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming – it’s about eight or nine states, I believe, that I’ll be going through,” said John. “One long part – I’ll be walking along the Mormon Emigrant Trail for quite awhile. That’s good because it’s easier on your legs than having to walk the road the whole time.”
He said the plan is to start each day’s walking early in the morning for the summer season, and walk later in the day as the year gets colder.
Currently, the Moores are working their way through Nevada.
“My dad after today will have walked 450 miles from San Francisco,” Laura said, adding that John currently averages about 12 miles per day. “Usually if we’re close to the town we’re staying in, we settle in to a hotel and then [I] pick him up at the end of his walk, but today he’s going down a dirt road that doesn’t show up very clearly on maps, so every 20 minutes I’m driving up.”
Despite a rough start, she said the majority of people they’ve encountered have been supportive.
“In San Francisco there were a lot of people who got in my dad’s face and were screaming at him pretty vulgarly. And then the further away we get from San Francisco the more support he gets. Not that he didn’t expect the bad stuff. He just kept his mouth shut and kept walking.”
The Moores have found that even people who don’t share their beliefs have been helpful.
“It actually surprises me how many non-religious people are intrigued by what he does. We’ve had a couple people stop to talk to us and they’re not religious at all. They don’t know anything about the March for Life,” said Laura. “People will stop and give my dad water, some people will walk with him for as long as they can, some people will give him money. A lot of people tell him how cool they think it is.”
John plans to donate any money he receives as a result of the walk to the Knights of Columbus. As a 4th-degree (high-ranking) member of the organization, he wants the funds to go towards the purchase of a new sonogram machine for a pro-life pregnancy center.
But fundamentally, the journey – the drive to walk, day after day – is John’s passion, developed after he he first moved to New Mexico. His made his first pilgrimage to Chimayo, NM, a walk undertaken by thousands each year.
“I went out there and at the age of 55 I started walking,” he said. “I promised I would do it for 25 years, if the Lord would give me the health to do it for 25 years at least.” As of this 2018, he has made the pilgrimage to Chimayo for 13 years in a row.
One day, a customer at John’s RV park told him about an annual 60-mile pilgrimage done every year in Kansas in honor of Fr. Emil Kapaun, a Kansas priest and military chaplain who died as a prisoner of war in Korea. After making that pilgrimage, John spent several years mulling over a new, huge idea – a coast-to-coast pro-life walk.
“My taxpayer dollars pay for abortions,” he said. (Editor’s note: NM is one of 17 states that can fund abortions under Medicaid). “What I’d like to do – if that money’s gonna go to them, we need to be able to match it, we need to be able to counteract it.”
So he returned to his passion once again.
“I’m good at two things: I can walk all day and I can work all day,” he said. “Well, if I can walk, I’m gonna make it worth it, so I can go from the West Coast to the East Coast, the two sites of the March for Life.”
And now that his idea has become a reality, John alternates each day of the journey carrying one of two wooden crosses.
The first displays an image of a chaplain’s cross and barbed wire in tribute to Fr. Kapaun, to whom John has a special devotion. Each is 47 inches long by 28 inches wide – the same size as the cross carried out of the Korean POW camp by Fr. Kapaun’s fellow officers. “Plus it’s a good size to carry,” John noted. “When you carry, it’s a perfect fit.”
The second cross was crafted in part by Roberto Gonzales, a New Mexico Santero.
“This is turquoise and coral, [Our] Lady of Guadalupe – she’s the patroness of the unborn.”
Before starting, John met with Bishop James Wall and several local pastors and asked for a blessing.
“Bishop blessed the cross and blessed me,” he said. “But I always give them the choice of which [cross] they want to hold – every one of them wants to hold this one.” He pointed to the cross with Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Rosary. “I have the Sacred Heart on top cause that’s [the Diocese’s] patron, and I always want Christ to be on the cross.”
He knows there will be good days and bad days on the road.
“People say ‘oh you get to go on an adventure!’ I know what it’s gonna be – it’s gonna be a daily grind. The daily discipline of just having to do it,” he said. “I love walking, but – if anyone ever ran track or cross country or football – there’s days when you just love being out there, and days where you just don’t want to do it, but you still do it.”
While John is adapting to daily walks with a cross, Laura has a lot of time to work on spiritual development. Her parish priest suggested that she develop a habit of praying a daily rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet combined with reading the Bible, starting with the letters of St. Paul.
“I think that God’s been preparing me to learn how to be alone, and I feel like that’s what this road trip is – gonna help me ultimately be alone with myself and be friends with myself and get closer to God in that aspect,” Laura said. “I feel like I’m really blessed with this opportunity to spend all day focusing on it instead of having to make time for it.”
And although she’s spent time with her dad while working at the family business, she also hopes this pilgrimage will bring them closer together.
“That’s one of the things I’ve been praying for, is to get to know my Dad a little better,” she said. “I mean, we’re already really close, but I’m just really grateful for this time with him.”
With nearly seven months and thousands of miles to go, John just keeps shouldering his cross, placing one foot in front of another.
“Hopefully God will take care of me,” he said. “I’ll put my trust in God and he’ll take care of me.”
If you’d like to follow the Moores’ journey across the United States, they regularly post updates here.