Walk of Faith
A New Mexico Knight is walking coast to coast to support the cause for life
Readers of Columbia may remember John Moore, a Knight who carried a wooden cross more than 600 miles from his home state of New Mexico to Kansas in honor of Father Emil Kapaun, an acclaimed Korean war hero and chaplain, in late 2011. Moore had first learned about Father Kapaun’s cause for canonization from a brief Columbia article and was inspired by his example.
Last April, at age 67, the past grand knight of Fray Marcos Council 1783 in Gallup embarked on a more ambitious pilgrimage. Moore has been walking across the entire country (approximately 2,800 miles), from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., while his daughter Laura, one of his six children, is driving and providing assistance. He plans to finish at the annual March for Life, which will take place Jan. 18. In late November, he spoke with Columbia editor Alton Pelowski about the journey.
WHY I WALK
I went to the March for Life for the first time six years ago and I thought, “Well, what can I do?” It’s important that we stand up for the unborn and all human life. At the end of my life, I don’t want to say, “I should have done something, but didn’t.”
So, I thought this is something I could do. I enjoy walking pilgrimages and do more than a dozen every year. In New Mexico, I make the annual pilgrimage to the shrine in Chimayó on Good Friday, as well as to Mount Cristo Rey and to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta in Las Cruces. Most of them are from 10 to 30 miles and last about a day.
I walk pilgrimages to humble myself before God, to be a witness for Christ and to pray for others. I’m not walking across the country for myself or any recognition. It’s a walk of faith.
For this one, I trained for more than five years. My kids are now at the age that they can run the family business and pick up the slack while I’m away. That’s been their sacrifice. They and my wife know this is important to me, and they’ve been very supportive.
And I couldn’t do it without my daughter Laura, who has been to the March for Life and said she wanted to go on this pilgrimage with me before starting full-time work.
ON THE ROAD
We started on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 8, at the Civic Center Plaza Park in San Francisco, which is where the Walk for Life West Coast is held every year. From there we went to Sacramento, north through Nevada and across the top of Utah, because you can’t do a straight shot through the Rockies. We’ve since been through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois.
When I’m really moving and conditions are good, I easily walk more than 15 miles a day. Through the Sierra Nevadas, it sometimes took me five hours to go 10 miles because of the climbing — up 9,000 feet, down to 5,000 and then up again. Weather is also a factor, and on some roads, where there’s no shoulder, you have to keep getting off and into a ditch because of traffic.
We’ve stayed in hotels for up to a week at a time, especially in the West where towns are far apart. Each day, we drive to where I left off the day before. After dropping me off, my daughter meets me at stops along the way, and if lightning starts or I get in trouble, I jump in the car. She’s always there if I need help. She also sends our satellite coordinates to about 15 or 20 people each day.
CARRYING TWO CROSSES
For this pilgrimage, I’m carrying two different crosses. One, which has the Divine Mercy carved into it, I plan to leave with the March for Life. I plan to leave the other, which has Our Lady of Guadalupe on it, with the Knights of Columbus.
This is also the first time I built a rosary into a cross. In 2019, there will be 61 million abortions in the United States since Roe v. Wade. There are 61 parts to the rosary (including the beads, crucifix and centerpiece) — one for each million.
It is said that a pilgrim prays with his feet. A few weeks after I started, I realized that I walk about an average of about 2,200 steps each mile, and that comes out to 6.1 million steps across the country. So, every step I take represents 10 lives lost to abortion.
THE PEOPLE YOU’LL MEET
The greatest thing about doing this pilgrimage has been meeting people along the way. I thought I’d get a lot of negative pushback and criticism. Someone in San Francisco came up to me and said something incoherent, and a couple of weeks ago, someone yelled out the car window at me. Other than that, thousands of people have been very positive.
On the road, we go to Saturday evening Mass each week. This allows me to walk on Sunday. At each church, the priest gives me a blessing and blesses the crosses I’m carrying. The priests I’ve met have just been incredible.
Other people stop and talk and open up about their own experiences. They’re so encouraging. Whenever people have stopped and given me money, I let them know that it’s going to support the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative. Just today, someone we met yesterday saw me on the road and gave me a hundred dollars.
The Knights in my home council have been praying for me at their meetings. When my family has asked how I am friends with such good people, I tell them you have to find them. Being part of the Knights of Columbus and being around those men and their wives has made my faith stronger.
If I’m out in the middle of nowhere on a trail, I’ll pray the rosary. But when you’re walking a pilgrimage like this, it’s very dangerous. You can’t be listening to music. You always have to pay attention and stay focused.
I have a devotion to Father Kapaun because his faith was greater than his fears. I’ll tell you what: I’m kind of a big chicken. I hate heights and have to go over big bridges. And the farther east we go, all this traffic makes you anxious. My biggest goal every day is to not get hit by a car.
It’s a daily grind and sometimes I don’t want to walk, but you just have to go and not do anything stupid. It takes a lot of faith. Faith has to be greater than your fears.
This not a matter of me being successful. It’s a matter of keeping a promise — a promise I made to the Knights, to the people at the March for Life, to the unborn and to God.