This year, thousands of students from Catholic colleges and universities across the United States will join the throngs of pro-life people attending the 41st annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, January 22.
As anyone who has been at the March for Life can attest, Catholic students are one of the best-represented groups in attendance. And thanks to many of the Catholic colleges and universities recommended in The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College for their faithful education, young Catholics will continue to be a strong presence at the event in 2014.
Reaching the March for Life is no small feat for many college students. Some are travelling more than one thousand miles to reach Washington, D.C. Others have overcome financial obstacles to attend the March, thanks to creative student fundraisers and generous benefactors. And at least one college cancels all classes for the day to enable the entire student body to attend.
Students from Catholic colleges often carry the lead banner in the procession, a fact underscoring the key role these institutions play in the March for Life. For instance, students from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., are leading the March this year. Catholic colleges unable to travel to the nation’s Capital from distant locations find other ways to participate. Notably, the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, Calif., has been led by students from Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula on several occasions.
In order to shine a light on the faithful Catholic college activities surrounding the March for Life, The Cardinal Newman Society researched and contacted the institutions recommended in The Newman Guide to learn what each institution has planned this week.
Aquinas College in Nashville, Tenn., has traditionally sent a strong contingent of students to the March in past years and is doing so again in 2014. Last semester, the College offered students an “Anniversary Special” discount to attend the March, according to the Aquinas website.
Belmont Abbey Collegein Belmont, N.C., is sending more than 100 students to the March, a significant increase over past years, the College told The Cardinal Newman Society. Patrick Ford, director of Catholic student leadership and formation at Belmont, said that the increase is due “in part because of continued emphasis on the importance of the witness to life, but also largely due to a special fundraising initiative meant to reduce costs for students.” Ford said that the successful fundraising drive has enabled students to attend for a cost of $15 per person.
“The March for Life provides hope that I am not alone in what I believe and I am not the only one trying to change the culture,” Belmont Abbey student Mary-Kate Reid said. “The presence of so many pro-life activists at the March reminds me in a very tangible way that it's not just me against the culture of death: it's us. Isolated, I feel powerless, but together there is hope and there is power, especially when there is prayer.”
Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., will lead the March for Life this year, carrying the banner at the head of the procession. The College is transporting a quarter of the student population—via eight buses—more than 1,000 miles to reach the March, according to a press release. This will be the 29th year in which Benedictine has participated in the March.
Benedictine’s Gregorian Blog reports that there are many signs of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s involvement with the College’s March for Life participation. At the behest of the World Apostolate of Fatima, students from Benedictine will be carrying a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which Pope Francis blessed shortly after he consecrated the world to Mary last October. Also, the College sees the special honor of carrying the March for Life banner as appropriate during this academic year due to the fact that Benedictine College was consecrated to Mary last September 8, the birthday of the Blessed Virgin.
Five hundred students from The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C., are expected to attend the March for life this year, according to a press release from the University. In addition to sending students to the March, CUA will host more than 1,200 teen pilgrims from around the country in its athletic center on the night before the March. Many CUA students have volunteered to serve the guests by helping out with registrations, serving meals, chaperoning and setting up the sleeping area. The University will lead a Rosary for Life, hold Eucharistic Adoration and provide confession opportunities for students and visitors.
Fr. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv., the director of campus ministry at CUA, said in the press release: “It is a privilege to be in the nation’s capital and host young pilgrims from all over the country for the annual March for Life. Our University community takes great pride in providing housing and meals for our many friends.”
Following an annual tradition, classes will be cancelled at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., and the entire student body will attend the March for Life via buses chartered by the Student Activities Council, according to a press release. The College has received the honor of carrying the lead banner in the March on four separate occasions—in 1984, 1998, 2009 and 2012.
Christendom students participate in pro-life work throughout the year with the student clubs Shield of Roses, Students for Life and Outreach. The Shield of Roses club sends a group of students to pray and offer sidewalk counseling outside the Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood every Saturday morning during the academic year.
Students from the College of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More (Fisher More) in Fort Worth, Tex., are also attending the March for Life, according to Fisher More Chronicles. In December, students provided crafts and booths at Fisher More’s first annual Christmas Fest to raise funds to attend the March.
DeSales University in Center Valley, Penn., told The Cardinal Newman Society that 35 students will be travelling to the March this year from DeSales. The University is renting a 12-passenger van and sharing a bus with students from another local university who are also attending the March.
Franciscan Universityof Steubenville in Ohio reported in a press release that roughly 800 members of the University community, led by President Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, will be attending the March for Life this year. The pilgrimage to the March is organized by the University’s Students for Life club. Before boarding the buses, students have the opportunity to attend a Holy Hour on campus.
“Franciscan University is a pro-life institution that fosters the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death,” Fr. Sheridan said in the press release. “I have participated in the annual March for Life for several years, and it is my honor to walk again this year with the students of Franciscan University as public witnesses for life and the need for men and women of all faiths to protect life at all stages. Faith must be lived in our daily lives and in the public square. And we must object to any attempt to infringe upon our constitutional right to do so.”
John Paul the Great Catholic University (JP Catholic) in Escondido, Calif., will be sending approximately 75 students and five faculty members to the San Diego March for Life. JP Catholic President Derry Connolly will be joining the group at the March. Dr.Connolly told The Cardinal Newman Society that it is important for JP Catholic to participate in the March, because “our mission is to ‘Impact the Culture for Christ’ and standing for life is a powerful witness of mission to our community. Further, other youth are influenced by seeing young students making a stand for Jesus Christ and the Gospel in public.”
Dr. Connolly said that the University is willing to expend its energies to support the March since “it teaches students how critical it is to be active in the public square. Catholics must influence policy.”
Students and seminarians from Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., will also be in attendance at the March. The University informed The Cardinal Newman Society that 250 students and undergraduates will be in attendance. Student Meghan Sprankle, speaking of the March, said, “It’s important not only to believe in the dignity of every person, but to act on it, to not just sit on the sidelines and watch.”
University President Thomas H. Powell told the Newman Society, “Participating in the March for Life is an important opportunity for our campus to join with thousands of people in our nation to protect the most vulnerable persons and to reassert the dignity of life for all. The Mount's strong presence at the March speaks volumes to the dedication of our students, seminarians and community in supporting life.”
Thomas AquinasCollege in Santa Paula, Calif., reports that more than 200 students will assist in leading the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco. According to the College: “The students will pray, sing, and peacefully bear witness to the Culture of Life, joining more than 50,000 fellow walkers. Roughly two-thirds of Thomas Aquinas students have chosen to attend the Walk every year since its founding in 2005, and over the years, they have increasingly taken on leadership roles within the event.”
Students in the Celts for Life club at the University of St. Thomas (UST) in Houston, Tex., have been fundraising since spring 2013 to be able to travel to the March by plane, The Cardinal Newman Society learned. At more than 1,200 miles, the distance the UST group is travelling to the March for Life may be the furthest of all the colleges recommended by The Newman Guide.
“We are proud that our Celts for Life at the University of St Thomas are sending the largest group in our history to the March for Life,” Dr. Robert Ivany, president of UST, told the Newman Society. “Our Celts gain a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the Right to Life movement while they inspire and are inspired by the multitude of young men and women who pray and march for the unborn and for their mothers.”
[Update: read about the activities of other Newman Guide colleges and view our March for Life social media photo journal here.]
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