January 24, 2013 (CNS) - Participation by several faithful Catholic colleges and universities in the Washington, D.C., March for Life is expected to reach an all-time high this year. Total student participation by schools featured in The Cardinal Newman Society’s Newman Guide will surpass 2,000 this year.
As in years past, the entire Christendom College student body, as well as faculty, staff members, and families will join the March. Christendom expects that more than 400 people affiliated with the College will attend. Christendom cancels classes at its Front Royal, Va., campus for the day to allow students to participate.
The College has attended the March for Life annually since its founding 35 years ago. Christendom students have been invited to carry the lead banner and flags in 1984, 1998, 2009, and 2012.
Senior Chris Roberts said he finds it “refreshing” that the College cancels classes.
“It really highlights Christendom’s dedication to the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life – even in a culture of death,” said Roberts. “We are able to reinvigorate ourselves for the fight.”
Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kan., is sending a record number of students to this year’s March. The College had to add a seventh bus so that interested students could take the 48-hour round-trip ride to attend. They’ll be attending with their President, Stephen D. Minnis, and the new Abbot of St. Benedict’s Abbey, Abbot James Albers, OSB. The College has been participating in the march for 28 years.
“I organized the trip my sophomore year; we usually went with Kansans for Life,” said Abbot Albers, who graduated from Benedictine College in 1994. “Back then, 15 to 20 students going was a good number.”
This year, more than 350 will be attending.
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“Benedictine College has the largest group attending from the greatest distance away,” said Minnis, who has attended the March since becoming president in 2004. “Now, about 20 percent of our student body is willing to take that long…trip…in support of life. I am constantly amazed and pleased by our students.”
Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS) also has seven busloads of students attending. Prior to the March, the students will be attending the Solemn Mass for Life at 7:30 a.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, followed by the Youth Rally and Mass for Life at the Verizon Center. FUS catechetics professor, Robert Rice, is hosting the Youth Rally.
As he has every year since becoming president in 2000, Father Terence Henry, T.O.R., will lead the Franciscan contingent, 800 strong, under the emerald Franciscan University banner that proclaims, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you… Before you were born, I dedicated you…” (Jer. 1:5).
“When you see thousands of pro-life youth flooding stadiums, churches, and streets of Washington, D.C., it gives you hope,” adds Grace Daigler, a junior social work major and vice president of Franciscan University’s Students for Life.
Given its location, The Catholic University of America is involved in the March in a variety of ways. While classes are not cancelled, organizers expect approximately 500 CUA students to attend. In addition, the university will continue its custom of hosting teen marchers from out-of-town. More than 1,200 teens will camp out in the Ramond A. DuFour Athletic Center the evening before the March. Approximately 200 CUA students have volunteered to serve as hosts for the visitors. They help with hospitality, register visitors, serve meals, chaperone, and lay out sleeping bags.
The National Prayer Vigil for Life and vigil Mass begins at the nearby Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception’s Great Upper Church at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 24. The student volunteers also lead teams in the DuFour Center in the Rosary for Life. Beginning at 10 p.m. on Jan. 24, Catholic University is hosting all-night Eucharistic adoration, as well as opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
More than 17% of the student body at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., plan to attend. Approximately 150 students, administrators, and staff are taking three buses to participate in the March. Many others are driving or flying independently.
“I’m proud of our over 150 Ave Maria students, faculty and staff members who will travel over 1,000 miles… to participate in the March for Life,” said President Jim Towey. “Our students know how important it is for them to march as witnesses to the sanctity of life from the moment of conception through natural death.”
Last year’s trip nearly didn’t happen. The chartered bus cancelled the trip. With only hours to go before their departure, students raised $20,000 to hire an Orlando-based bus to take them to the 2012 March.
Mount St. Mary’s University is bringing more than 280 people on five buses. That number includes at least 110 students, more than 170 seminarians, and several faculty members.
Mount St. Mary’s junior, Justin Wykowski said that attending the March gives him hope.
“It’s arguably one of the most powerful ways to further the cause against abortion. Some people drive 40-plus hours just to march; I can do one,” said Wykowski. “It gives me hope. To look down from the top of Capitol Hill and see tens of thousands of people waving signs in the blistering cold is simply breathtaking. We are not alone in this fight. Not even close.”
Aquinas College in Nashville, Tenn., is sending its largest contingent ever to Washington, D.C., for the March. The College allowed students to attend the March without counting it as an absence, and similarly, for faculty or staff without being forced to use a vacation day.
Aquinas students, faculty, and staff spent two afternoons earlier this week placing 3,000 crosses on the front lawn to memorialize the 3,000 children lost every day to abortion.
Approximately 30 students from DeSales University are attending in conjunction with the Catholic Newman Center at Lehigh University.
St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Ok., is sending 14 students along with Fr. Nicholas Ast, OSB, vice president for mission and identity and university chaplain.
“By participating in the March for Life, our students give a prophetic witness to the truth that all human life is sacred,” said Fr. Ast. “Indeed, the presence of so many young people at the march every year is a sign that a new generation has embraced the Gospel of Life.”
“Every year I make an effort to attend the March for Life, either in my hometown or in Washington D.C., as an exercise of my American right to peaceful protest and my duty as a citizen, and even just as a human being, to protect the rights and lives of others,” said Gabriela Weigel, a junior at St. Gregory’s University. “It is important for me to attend because action is what provokes change, and as a young person it is my place to be the new energy and vitality in the Pro-Life movement, and to display to our secular society a love for all its members, especially the unborn, elderly and disabled.”
Students from colleges far from Washington are participating in their own local demonstrations supporting life. One-third of the student body from Wyoming Catholic College braved that state’s winter weather to participate in the Wyoming March for Life in Cheyenne.
Students from John Paul the Great Catholic University helped plan and lead the inaugural Walk for Life San Diego on Jan. 19. Senior Timmerie Millington was a key organizer of the event. About 3,000 walkers participated.
Thomas Aquinas College, in Santa Paula, Ca., is sending two-thirds of the College’s student body to San Francisco for the Jan. 26 Walk for Life West Coast. The College has participated every year since the Walk first began in 2005. The more than 200 students, faculty, and staff attending make up one of the largest groups in the Walk.
Students will begin the 550-mile round-trip journey Friday after classes. Students are staying at Saints Peter and Paul Church in San Francisco’s Little Italy, where the Salesian fathers have offered them space to sleep in the parish’s two gymnasia. Students will participate in all-night Eucharistic adoration, culminating in a Holy Hour in honor of the Unborn Child Jesus from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Later that morning, the students will attend the Walk for Life Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, celebrated by Archdiocese of San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone. Following the Mass is the two-mile Walk, beginning in Justin Herman Plaza, through Fisherman’s Wharf, and concluding with a rally in Marina Green.
Numerous TAC students have been asked to take on leadership roles in the event, including directing walkers, assisting visiting dignitaries, and bolstering security along the route. A delegation of the College’s women have been given the honor of leading the marchers through the city, carrying an “Abortion Hurts Women” banner.
Reprinted with permission from the Cardinal Newman Society.