By David Cooley.
It was a beautiful, breezy day as thousands of people donning purple shirts gathered at the Newport Festival Park June 3 for the 13th annual Cross the Bridge for Life.
Bishop Roger Foys and Archbishop of Cincinnati Dennis M. Schnurr offered encouraging words, prayers and blessings before joining participants in walking across the “Purple People Bridge” over the Ohio River and back. As is the tradition, the crowd was led across the bridge by bagpipers from the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Knights of Columbus, followed by Bishop Foys, accompanied by many diocesan priests and seminarians praying a rosary for life.
The annual event is a celebration of life for families to attend together and featured food trucks, music by band Easter Rising, free balloon creations and face painting, and a variety of information booths from some of the more than 20 life-affirming organizations that sponsor the day. Organizers said the attendance, and the donations collected for the participating non-profits, were up from last year.
Prior to the walk there was a short ceremony emceed by Sacred Heart Radio’s Anna Mitchell, host of the Sonrise Morning Show. The American Heritage Girls color guard presented the American Flag and led the Pledge of Allegiance and vocalist Allison Riegler sang “God Bless America.”
During the ceremony Bobby Schindler, founder of the Terry Schiavo Life & Hope Network, was presented with the Defender of Life Award. Mr. Schiavo spoke about his family’s losing fight to save his sister’s life in a 2005 court battle that became international news when her estranged husband petitioned to have her feeding and nutrition stopped, although she was not dying and her extended family wanted to continue her care. Terry Schiavo said that he and his family “became, simultaneously, the face of the Right to Life movement — and of the ‘Right to Die’ movement.”
Mr. Schindler urged the Cross the Bridge participants to live as witnesses to the fact that all life has worth and meaning.
“Human dignity must be rooted in something deeper than law,” he said. “If we think it depends on our vote, then it is just a comforting lie we tell ourselves. We need to heroically witness a culture of life and love in our families and neighborhoods.”
Also during of the ceremony it was announced that Paula Westwood, executive director, Greater Cincinnati Right to Life, would be retiring at the end of the June. For her leadership over the past 15 years she was presented with a special Champion of Life Award.
Following their trek across the bridge, participants continued to enjoy the nice day on the festival grounds with more food, music and celebrating. Cross the Bridge for Life is a commemoration of the gift of human life at every age and every stage and is held on the first Sunday in June every year.
“Once again my spirits were lifted when I saw how many people came to walk the bridge for life this year,” said Bishop Foys. “Their dedication to the cause of the sacredness of life at all its stages and their enthusiasm for this cause is nothing short of inspirational. May God bless every person who marched with us and may the pro-life movement continue to flourish in our Diocese and in our nation.”