Virginia Students Prepare for 28th Year of Student-Initiated Sidewalk Counseling/Prayer

By John Jalsevac

FRONT ROYAL, Virginia, August 8, 2007 ( - College students are not exactly renowned for their ability to wake up at the crack of dawn, especially on Saturday mornings, when they typically catch up on a week’s lost sleep and recover from a hard night of partying the night before.

Yet, at one small college in Virginia, for almost three decades now, students have woken up as early as 6:30am every single Saturday morning when school is in session, to attend 7:00 Mass and then travel the hour and fifteen minutes to the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Washington D.C.  Rain, shine, snow, sleet, or hail, dozens of students from Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia are found at the Clinic by 9:00 Saturday morning, praying and counseling women who have appointments to abort their unborn children. Only in the most extreme weather, when it has been absolutely impossible to make the trip into D.C., have the students canceled this weekly love effort.

The group calls itself Shield of Roses, and has done so for some 28 years now, according to the estimate of current Shield members. Although the present leadership of the group says that some of the details of its history have been lost, including the exact year when the group began, what is known for certain is that it has always been entirely student-initiated, with the graduating-president of the group passing the torch on to a younger member.

  Andy Bodoh, the outgoing president of Shield of Roses, says that the group was begun as a way to personally engage individual men and women. "[Shield] focuses not so much on ending legal abortion as helping men and women in need," Bodoh told

To that end, Shield of Roses has long encouraged students to step forward and take on the particularly challenging role of sidewalk counseling. Kathryn Kujawski, the current Director of Sidewalk Counseling, said that presently there are at least 5 students who are trained to counsel men and women who are going into the clinic to obtain abortions, although Shield expects that more will volunteer at the beginning of this upcoming semester.

Sidewalk counseling at the clinic in D.C. can be extremely intimidating, said Kujawski. The students who are willing to make the sacrifice to attend Shield every Saturday tend to be acutely aware of just how high the stakes are, which is intimidating enough. In addition, for years now the clinic has ensured the presence of some half dozen clinic "escorts," who are trained to thwart the efforts of pro-life counselors. "They’ll try to block you and stop you from getting anywhere near or talking to the women who are coming in. You have to jump in front of them, but at the same time you don’t want to scare people going into the clinic," she said.

Those who do take on the challenge of counseling, said Kujawski, have to quickly learn to detach themselves from the result of their efforts. "You have to go in with the mindset that, you can really do nothing. It’s all in God’s power." In addition, she said, it is necessary to realize, and to trust that often the successes of one’s efforts are hidden but there.

All of this can be very trying on young students, who are already struggling under the normal trials of college life. In one article printed in Christendom’s student journal, The Rambler, student sidewalk counselor Cassidy Bugos described in detail the struggles she faces as a counselor. "As soon as I began counseling, going to Shield was different. In fact, I dreaded each Saturday morning," she writes.

"Nothing makes you feel more insignificant or more worthless than sidewalk counseling.  Everything you say sounds stupid. Immediately, and all day, and all week long you think of a thousand things you ought to have said…"

"But," she concludes, "you know, it’s not fair for us to hide from abortion, and to leave the victims exposed and helpless. If God has set Shield of Roses and the counselors in a position to save even one life, or to save one soul, then we have only to remain faithful, to remain in position, waiting for that life and that soul to come along that sidewalk."

And indeed, said Kujawski, Shield of Roses has, by all accounts, saved more than a few lives. In the last several years alone, due to the direct efforts of the group’s counselors, at least several women have turned away from Planned Parenthood, and decided not to have abortions. And while the students may never know the unseen successes of their efforts, they are confident that they are there, their hidden victories.

Longtime members of Shield have a host of stories about "saves," and about some of the more dramatic moments in the lives of Shield members, including a trip that many of the members took to Florida to the hospice where Terri Schiavo was living. The students made the 16-hour trip, each way, in a single weekend, to join other Terri supporters in the weeks leading up to her court-ordered execution. "That was an incredible weekend," says Bodoh. "We had to skip classes and push back midterms to go, but just the chance to be there and to do something, even if it was only praying, was something that we could not pass up."

  Bodoh also remembers one time when Planned Parenthood came up with the clever idea of making money off the pro-life protestors. PP drummed up donors willing to donate $5 to the abortion mill for every pro-life protestor who came to the clinic one particular Saturday morning.

"We decided to bring out a massive group and find benefactors who would give money to a Crisis Pregnancy Center for each one of us that came out," relates Bodoh. "In the end we raised more money than Planned Parenthood! Shortly after that several students launched a major push to get people out to Shield.  It was funny to see the escorts’ surprise when we went from thirty people attending to a hundred and thirty."

"I think that everyone who has been involved with Shield regularly has come away from it touched in one way or another," concludes Bodoh. "For me personally, the greatest people I know my age are people that I have met through Shield and other pro-life work.  Their courage and willingness to sacrifice their time and to sacrifice themselves emotionally and physically for something that promises so little return and such a narrow chance of success is a real inspiration."

But, despite all the trials, after some 28 years Shield of Roses is still going strong. And with a whole new group of young members stepping forward, willing to make the sacrifice of their Saturday mornings, it seems that the concluding cry of Shield or Roses will still ring out in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion mill every Saturday for years to come, no matter what the weather - "Viva Christo Rey!" Long live Christ the King!

  Read the rest of Cassidy’s article, Thoughts of a Sidewalk Counselor, at:

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