By Patrick B. Craine
August 3, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - French Catholic journalist Anne-Marie Michel is making a 5,000 km. walk for life across North America, a pilgrimage that will bring her, after many gruelling months alone on the road, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
“I deeply believe that offering this pilgrimage to God can help ladies who suffer so much before and after an abortion,” she explained. “I also want to give my little contribution, through this way for respect of life, for building the ‘civilisation of love’ and the ‘culture of life’ John-Paul II and Benedict XVI asked us to build.”
She began her long trek on May 27th in Quebec City and crossed into the U.S. on June 10th. She aims to reach the shrine in January or shortly thereafter.
A reporter for the Catholic radio station Radio Esperance in Saint-Etienne, France, Michel has already traveled more than 1,200 km. She wrote to LifeSiteNews from Ohio.
She says she has dreamed since she was a teenager of setting out on a backpacking adventure – to “leave my country, my family, my friends and travel walking with my backpack.” But first and foremost, she says, her pilgrimage is aimed at promoting both respect for life and evangelization.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is depicted in the miraculous image of Our Lady that appeared on the cloak of St. Juan Diego in 1531, is revered by Catholics as patroness of the unborn and of the Americas.
Michel chose to begin in Quebec City because of its historical significance as a launch-point for the evangelization of North America. She says, further, that she fell in love with “La belle province” when she visited the city for the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in 2008.
The idea for the pilgrimage struck her in the fall of 2008 on a flight back after reporting in the Holy Land. With the support of her spiritual director, she began preparing, saving money and raising funds.
She began with a rough route and is planning the trip as she goes, using a GPS and talking to locals. She walks about 20 km. per day and is trying as much as possible to stay on smaller roads and paths. For the most part she uses a tent, set up in someone’s yard after asking permission, but will stay in hotels a couple times a week, and is frequently invited into people’s homes.
Michel related that through her journey she is learning to live and discover more deeply the communion of saints. “When it's hard to walk, to ask for hospitality, to be alone, I always find in my faith and in the prayers and friendship of my friends the strength to continue my way,” she said.
She said she has already had numerous opportunities to witness along the way. “There are wonderful encounters each day!!” she said.
She described, for example, looking for a motel in Smethport, Pennsylvania a couple weeks ago. She asked the manager of a local café, who called the motel for her, and discovered all the rooms were taken. Persistently, the woman called the owners of a local high-end bed and breakfast, who gave her a deal on a room.
She says she was treated her like a special guest and others were invited for a dinner in her honor. “Around a glass of Chilean wine and a meal prepared with vegetables from the garden, all asked me about my trip,” she said. “I told them about the Virgin of Guadalupe. They were so happy.” The next morning she did an interview with a local reporter.
“I am always happy by the welcome I receive from people I meet,” she said. “It is really wonderful for me.”
Michel is maintaining a blog about her experiences along the way, which can be found here.