This week I will leave work and home behind and head to Washington, D.C., to take part in a public demonstration against the greatest human rights abuse of our times.
As I have every year since I became president of Franciscan University of Steubenville, I will attend the March for Life with 500 of our students. Some of them have been participating in the March every year since they were infants themselves; others will attend for their first time. For all of us, it will be the chance to walk and pray together with Franciscan faculty, staff, and alumni and hundreds of thousands of others for an end to abortion and, indeed, for an end to what Pope St. John Paul II called “the conspiracy against life.”
In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II wrote, “. . . we are in fact faced by an objective ‘conspiracy against life,’ involving even international institutions, engaged in encouraging and carrying out actual campaigns to make contraception, sterilization, and abortion widely available. Nor can it be denied that the mass media are often implicated in this conspiracy . . . depicting as enemies of freedom and progress those positions that are unreservedly pro-life.”
This conspiracy against life is why we march. To raise our voices and shine a light into a darkness so dark that it lauds the horrible death of tiny human beings. But Franciscan University has always played a part in the opposite—a network for life!
On the day of the March, Franciscan University cancels classes so students who wish to show the country that there are countless voices calling for the rights of the unborn can do so.
The Franciscan University contingent at the March for Life is student-organized and student-led, raising up a new generation of pro-life leaders every year.
The University offers a unique Human Life Studies minor, forming students intellectually as defenders of human life from conception to natural death.
Our Tomb of the Unborn Child with its eternal flame stands as a place of prayer for the end of abortion and for healing for those who have participated in abortion.
So passionate are our students to defend the dignity of human life that many of them work directly for the pro-life cause after graduating. They’ve founded and served in crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes, adoption agencies, and post-abortion healing ministries; they work within the political sphere and media, trying to change laws and minds; some even make the service of life their vocation as religious sisters and priests, doctors and nurses. And countless alumni generously welcome child after child into their families.
These efforts may seem small in the face of so much evil, but I am proud of our Franciscan University family for engaging this difficult issue in so many ways. I am particularly inspired by those who have fought the good fight over the decades and have not given in to battle fatigue. And we must not give in!
As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us, the right to life is a fundamental right and, in fact, is “. . . the presumption of every other right.” He has said, “Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life . . . the path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.”
When the Supreme Court of the United States legalized abortion nationwide in the Roe v. Wade decision, they brought scandal upon a generation. This week, at the 46th annual March for Life, we will see a new generation, through the power of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the intercession of Our Blessed Mother Mary, redeem that scandal through demanding that our government officials correct the wrong. All human life is precious; we are made Imago Dei –“in the image of God.”
As we march under the big green Franciscan University pro-life banner, I will pray for all those attending the March for Life. But I will especially pray for the students of Franciscan University—and for the tens of thousands of other young people there—since they will carry this burden forward until the evil of abortion is undone. May we all have the strength, courage, hope, and love we need to do our part in the network for life, giving voices to the voiceless and defending the defenseless.
Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, has served as president of Franciscan University of Steubenville since 2013.
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