Over 400 Franciscan University students rallied for life in Washington, D.C. on Friday at the 50th Annual March for Life, the first since the overturning of “Roe v. Wade.”
The March for Life is the largest human rights demonstration in the world. Attendance this year was special due to the landmark overturning of “Roe v. Wade,” the 1973 case which formerly established the constitutional right to abortion.
“Roe v. Wade” was overturned on June 24, 2022, by “Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.”
Organized events for the University’s trip to the March began on Thursday evening with a Eucharistic holy hour, presided over by the Rev. Shawn Roberson, TOR, at 10:30 p.m.
Following the holy hour, Franciscan’s March attendees boarded eight buses that embarked at midnight. The group of attendees included students, four religious sisters, three TOR priests and four international priests.
The buses arrived at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at 6 a.m. on Friday. There, Franciscan students and religious attended the closing Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life, celebrated by Bishop Joseph L. Coffey, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, U.S.A.
The Rev. Jonathan McElhone, TOR, who attended the March with Franciscan, said the closing Mass “felt like — though probably not the reality — half the people at Mass were from Franciscan. What a gift for Franciscan to be so well represented.”
Students then used the Washington Metro to travel to the March for Life rally at the National Mall. Bishop Michael Francis Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington led the rally’s opening prayer.
Prominent speakers at the rally included Reps. Steve Scalise, R-La., and Treneé McGee, D-Conn. Jonathan Roumie, who portrays Jesus in the television series “The Chosen” also spoke, warning listeners about demonic imagery in media.
Sister Mary Casey O’Connor, a member of the Sisters of Life in New York, and her twin sister Casey Gunning spoke together. Gunning, who has Down Syndrome, said to parents of Down Syndrome children, “your child will be a blessing to you and to the world,”
Another speaker was Gianna Emanuela Molla, the daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla. The former acknowledged in her speech that she would not be alive had her mother not made the conscious and firm decision to risk her own life by not aborting her baby in spite of medical complications.
“The gift of life is truly the greatest, the most precious and the most sacred gift we always ought to honor, respect and defend,” said Gianna Emanuela Molla.
The March itself saw participation from various Catholic institutions, including universities, parishes and religious orders, in addition to secular groups and groups from other religions.
The Franciscan University group marched to the Supreme Court Building, then departed from Union Station, finally arriving back on campus at midnight on Saturday.
Junior Jeremy Kleb, coordinator for the Students for Life club, was responsible for planning the D.C. trip. Responsibilities included finalizing the budget, advertising registration and outlining the itinerary.
Kleb said the last two weeks leading up to the March “were very busy doing everything from meeting with people for interviews, talking to security about the buses on campus … and finalizing a number of things.”
“All in all, (it was a) very successful trip and an amazing event to help support the sanctity of life in this country.”
Freshman Isabel Egan, a sidewalk counselor for Students for Life, served as a bus captain for the event, making sure the passengers on her bus were accounted for and taken care of. Egan said she was pleased with the March and its turnout this year.
“It’s so easy to be influenced by our pro-abortion society to believe that our witness to the pro-life cause is unnecessary and fruitless,” Egan said.
“Through the March, we’re inspired to strengthen our beliefs and double our efforts for the pro-life movement.”
Reflecting on the March, McElhone said, “Our culture is desperately in need of a positive witness to life. The March is equally prayerful and joyful, both of which witness powerfully and undeniably to our country’s elected officials.
“I also appreciated that this year we marched both in front of and behind the Capitol Building, a symbolic way of surrounding those who create our laws in prayer.”