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Friday January 29, 2010


Footsore for the Unborn: Over 800 Steubenville Students in March for Life

STEUBENVILLE, OH, January 29, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) — It has been a long-standing tradition for the president of Franciscan University to cancel classes on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade since so many students regularly attended the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

This year, Franciscan’s contingent of students, faculty, staff, and alumni numbered well over 800.

Students for Life (SFL), the pro-life club on campus, organized the trip. Shaun Richter and Olivia Dvorjak, SFL members and coordinators for the trip, handled last-minute cancellations.

“It’s about five times as smooth as last year,” said Richter. “The best part of the process is just getting to go to the march, seeing all the planning come to fruition — when the buses pull out and we know we’ve done our part to make that happen.”

For Dvorjak, the march is familiar territory. She says she’s attended “about six or seven — I can’t remember exactly.”

“Every year something more significant happens at the march than the year before,” she said.

At 10:00 p.m. the night before the march, Father Dan Pattee, TOR, chair of Franciscan University’s Theology Department, led a prayer vigil in Christ the King Chapel. The students participated in Eucharistic adoration and read portions of the encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” followed by a short reflection from Father Pattee.

The vigil ended with the Divine Mercy Chaplet and a closing benediction from Father Pattee.

The buses departed at close to midnight for the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and a morning Mass before the march. During the six-hour ride, bus captains led everyone in the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for a successful march, for the unborn, and for families, followed by the prayer for Christian unity. Some students began a quiet rendition of Salve Regina, which quickly trailed off into silence and sleep.

The students awoke to D.C. and a dusky dawn. The basilica loomed up out of the night, towering above the surrounding Catholic University of America campus. As the Franciscan contingent filed in one man could be heard saying, “You hear that, Andy? These guys are from Franciscan University. Their university sent seven buses of kids, seven buses. Wow. That’s a high percentage of kids!”

In his homily at the morning mass, Archbishop Timothy Broglio said, “Our faith urges us to respond to any situation of suffering, injustice, poverty, and a host of other contemporary ills. That faith convoked us last night to gather in prayer, vigil, and preparation for our annual witness to the importance and dignity of every human life.”

He emphasized that Catholics cannot just stand by while injustice occurs, but must speak for the voiceless. “We believe that the right to life is inscribed in the conscience of humanity. It is not merely a Catholic issue.”

After the Mass, students used their free time before the noon rally and march to tour the city and explore the glories of the basilica.

The metro lines between the campus and the National Mall were full of eager high school and college students. The earlier rain had cleared up, leaving gray skies and a muddy mall. The Franciscan University banner stood out in the gathering crowd, carried proudly by students, emblazoned with the Scripture verse, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

Gradually, the National Mall filled up with marchers converging from all quarters of D.C. — with attendance later estimated between 250,000-400,000, the biggest March for Life ever.

After the speeches, the March for Life commenced. The number of pro-lifers in attendance was so massive that progress occurred in fits and starts. Father Dan Pattee led Franciscan students in a Rosary as the banner inched slowly forward.

Though each group had gathered at the rally around their respective banners, people dispersed into the crowds fairly soon after the march began. Franciscan students marched side by side with Anglicans for Life, Lutherans for Life, high school students from across the country, and men and women bearing testimony to the children they’d lost through abortion.

Several hours after the rally, the Supreme Court came into view, signaling that the end of the march had come. Franciscan University students met their buses by the National Museum of the American Indian, footsore but happy. Some would stay for the Students for Life of America Conference on Saturday at Catholic University of America’s campus.

On the ride home, students slept, watched movies, and discussed the march. “I like that the University has such an emphasis on the March for Life — enough to cancel a day of classes.” said Olivia Smithmier-Bohn, a freshman philosophy and theology major from Madison, Wisconsin.

She gave several reasons for her involvement. “The pro-life cause has been very near and dear to my heart, both for its intrinsic value and because recently someone referred to me and another parishioner as two pro-life warriors. I said to myself, ‘I don’t deserve that compliment. I’ve done nothing.’ But that challenged me to do more, and so I’ve become progressively more involved.

“Another motivation for me to get involved — if the pro-abortionists had their way, I would not exist,” she said, holding her white cane. “I am a primary candidate for someone who should have been aborted for basically every reason you can think of.”

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