October 3, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On August 15, 2012, the heat of freshly lit candles warmed the already humid air in Naples, Florida as visitors, students, and faculty gathered together in front of the library at Ave Maria School of Law. With a storm looming in the distance, 3,700 candles were ignited in memory of the average number of children aborted each day in the United States.

Led by the law school’s chaplain, Rev. Michael P. Orsi, and several other local priests, nearly 100 students watched in reverent silence as each candle was lit.

The event was organized by Michael Acquilano, current president of the Lex Vitae Society of Ave Maria School of Law, Managing Editor of the International Law Journal, Board Member of the Naples Pro-Life Council, and fellow at the Wilberforce Institute and Students for Life of America. The Lex Vitae Society is a student organization focused on educating and engaging the next generation of pro-life attorneys in the hope that through their practice of law, their leadership in their communities and their peaceful protest they will be able to further the cause of life.

The event was also used to memorialize the life of one of the greatest fighters in the pro-life movement, Nellie Gray.


Nellie, who recently passed away, was the founder and organizer of the largest annual peaceful protest in the United States, the March for Life. Every year hundreds of thousands of people gather together in Washington D.C. under the banner of Nellie’s vision to express their support for the pro-life movement and their disagreement with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Nellie passed away Sunday, August 12th, 2012, a few days before the candlelight vigil. She was 88 years old. It was only fitting to honor her name alongside the many candles lit for the lives of the unborn children she spent her life attempting to save.

In recent years, Nellie Gray recognized the potential of Ave Maria Law students who receive a well-rounded legal education but also feel called to positions of leadership in the pro-life movement. Graduates of the school who are actively engaged in the work of defending life include Kellie Fiedorek, Legal Counsel at Americans United for Life, Lauren Muzyka, Campaign Strategist at 40 Days for Life, and Matthew Bowman, Legal Counsel with The Alliance Defending Freedom.

Recently, Nellie had taken Royce Hood, Class of 2012, under her wing, appointing him to the board of The March for Life Education and Defense Fund. Royce distinguished himself as an energetic pro-life activist while in law school, serving as president of the Lex Vitae Society, and organizing two “Law of Life Summits” this past year which gathered the leaders of the pro-life movement in the USA together to share ideas and find ways to collaborate.

On that warm August evening, candles were lit, words of encouragement to continue the pro-life work Nellie began were shared, prayers were offered and a gentle peace fell over the assembled students. The fire of those 3,700 candles was there as a witness, “the light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). So it is with the pro-life movement today.

Though we may lose a bright light from within our ranks, there are many young leaders who are willing and courageous, ready to continue the good work of those who have gone before, resolved not to forget the children who have not been given a chance at life. The clouds and storms are no longer in the distance. We are in the midst of the storm and the darkness. But no darkness has the strength to extinguish the fervor of our commitment to this cause.

As Michael Acquilano said when he spoke to the crowd, “We are the pro-life generation. With God’s grace, we will restore a culture of life.”


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