More than 400 Catholic University students paused for a moment of prayer the morning of Friday, Jan. 27, before a day that would be spent speaking out against abortion.
“Dear God, thank you so much for bringing us all here today, the hundreds of Catholic University students and the hundreds of thousands of other people who are going to be on the Mall to stand up for the sanctity of life,” said senior Stephanie Schmitt, president of Cardinals for Life from Saylorsburg, Pa. “And thank you so much for this amazing gift you have given us all: life. We hope to do you proud in standing up for it today.”
Dressed in winter coats and knit caps, students sat on the floor in Caldwell Auditorium before departing en masse to attend the 44th annual March for Life demonstration against Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.
The students were joined by University President John Garvey, who spoke about the estimated 57 million abortions that have taken place in the United States since that court decision 44 years ago.
“The culture of death that we see in the United States is something that spreads like a virus,” Garvey said, also referencing the five states that have passed laws allowing assisted suicide within recent years. A similar bill was passed in Washington, D.C., in December.
By marching in solidarity with other pro-life supporters, Garvey said students can gain experience defending their own beliefs about the sanctity of life. Later, they can use these experiences to speak up for life with their words and behaviors.
“We need to speak up, we need to show with our actions that we care about each other,” he said. “You show by what you do that we are all God’s children and that we care about each other and that we are all equal in the eyes of God.”
While speaking to the crowd of students in Caldwell, Schmitt said the march was “a day of unity for the pro-life movement” and a moment to “restore a belief that strikes at the very core of our human rights: the right to be alive.”
Sophomore Mary Kate Masterson from Broomall, Pa., said she was excited to attend this year’s March for Life because she enjoyed “seeing so many people come together for something so important.”
“I think this affects a lot of young people our age,” she said. “We’re the most susceptible to abortion advocates because a lot of people don’t know what abortion really is and if they become pregnant, they might think abortion is their best option. It’s important to see other young people getting involved to show there are better ways to deal with an unplanned pregnancy.”
Friday morning’s rally, which also included a prayer led by University Chaplain Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M., was just one of several events held on campus to support the pro-life movement leading up to the march. On Jan. 24, Cardinals for Life held a pro-life pep rally featuring Christian activist Rev. Pat Mahoney and speakers from World Youth Alliance and Students for Life of America.
On the night before the march, Catholic University students served as ushers at the National Prayer Vigil for Life, a Mass held every year in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. That Mass was organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Basilica, and the University.
As is tradition, the University also provided overnight lodgings for teen marchers visiting from out of town. More than 200 students volunteered to serve as hosts the night before the march, helping to register visitors, serve meals, and lay out sleeping bags.
Among the student hospitality volunteers this year was senior Juan Aznaran from Derwood, Md., who served as a student supervisor.
“We want to make sure we can help (the visitors) with any needs they have and do whatever we can to help. We see that as one small way to contribute to the march,” he said. “A huge part of Catholic teaching is to be able to use whatever methods we have to help the cause of finding respect for everyone who needs it. That’s a big part of our faith, believing that everyone has dignity and that it comes down to love.”