Michael Shirley, Associate Director of Restorative Justice

A Morning Walk to Support Pregnant Mothers

At 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday in May, I pulled into Los Gatos’s Oak Meadow Park and was greeted with an unexpected sight: one of the play structures is a to-scale model jet, the same one that my father had flown in the Air Force. I recalled my siblings and I playing at Oak Meadow as kids. Encountering a feature of my childhood I had not seen in decades made my first moments there a bit surreal. But childhood, in general, would become a highly relevant theme as the day progressed since I was there that morning primarily to join and lead prayer at a fundraising event to support pregnant mothers.

Two tables had been set up next to the paved path where participants would walk their prayer laps. We all donned the same blue T-shirt with the silhouette of a pregnant woman and the phrase "Love them Both" printed on it. I found that to be an incredibly positive message. Around half a dozen young adults, another sight that surprised me, were helping set up for registration, and to sell more of the blue t-shirts. There were prize tables for walkers, and I had to smile, especially when I saw they also were providing energy food in the form of donuts! 

"I was struck by the importance of reciting the rosary prayer at Mary’s Walk for Babies because of its link to Mary's 'yes.'"

I was the first rosary leader at the aptly named “Mary’s Walk for Babies” hosted by the Guadalupe Hope Society. At the start of our rosary, we were only around ten people strong, but more joined along the way, as they arrived. Incredible energy surrounded us as we did our laps, and the group quickly settled into a natural walking pace set to the rhythm of the rosary. One incentive that Mary’s Walk for Babies participants shamelessly enjoyed, even those in the older crowd like me, was receiving a small gold star on the back of their hand for each completed lap, which we could ‘cash out’ for those table prizes. I felt like a kid again and it was great.

Some park bystanders who watched us seemed to understand what we were doing, while others were a bit wide-eyed, but all remained cordial and friendly. What impressed me the most was the presence of the young adults, who outnumbered the people my age, and they knew the rosary very well, sometimes better than me! Seeing their enthusiasm and passion for God's gift of life was indeed a delight. I often hear many conversations of concern for the future of the Church from the older generations. Still, I left the park feeling encouraged that if those young adults are any indication of the Church’s future, then they are already injecting a fresh new energy that will continue in the years to come. 

I was struck by the importance of reciting the rosary prayer at Mary’s Walk for Babies because of its link to Mary's "yes." There was no way that Mary, though graced, could have fully comprehended the magnitude of her “yes.” Similarly, parents can never fully understand the importance of their “yes” to God's gift of life, in giving their child the chance to have a childhood like I remember enjoying at places like Oak Meadow Park when I was a young child. Families need to know that God, and the Church will accompany them at every step and in many ways, the rosary itself is God’s promise of that gift of accompaniment to us through our Blessed Mother. As an associate director in the diocesan Office of Life, Justice, and Peace, I hope that attendance at such local, respect life events continues to grow.

Michael is a graduate of the Diocese of San Jose’s Institute for Leadership in Ministry program, class of 2020, and he has a masters degree in Pastoral Ministry from Santa Clara University, emphasizing liturgy and spirituality. His hobbies include motorcycles and airplanes, mountain biking, and hiking.

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