Continuing a decades-long trend, college students and young people from across the nation maintained a strong presence on Jan. 22 at the 41st annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.
“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,” said The Catholic University of America chaplain Fr. Jude DeAngelo.
Each year, the school – located in northeast D.C. – hosts droves of college students who have come from all over the country to take part in the March for Life.
Held each year on or near Jan. 22, the march marks the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decisions that resulted in legal abortion throughout the U.S. Since that time, some 55 million unborn babies have become victims of abortion.
The D.C. March for Life typically draws huge numbers of participants – primarily young people – from across the country. Last year, organizers estimated an attendance of around 650,000 people.
College students from both religious and secular schools are generally a large component of marchers. This year, more than 1,200 students camped out overnight in the athletic center at The Catholic University of America, and 500 university students participated in the march under the school's banner.
Students from Benedictine College in Atchinson, Kan., led the march this year, carrying the official March for Life banner. According to the school's blog, The Gregorian, one quarter of the student population traveled over 1,000 miles by bus to take part.
College President Stephen D. Minnis accompanied the students, saying, “They really see abortion as the civil rights issue of the day and just like the freedom riders of the ’60s, they board buses and travel across the country to fight injustice.”
Students at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., also braved the cold, bringing a strong representation of their student body thanks to donations that helped students participate at minimal cost.
“These babies are created in the image and likeness of God. We have a duty to love them. The march is one way of showing we believe there is something wrong that needs to change,” President Bill Thierfelder said in a statement on the school's website.
The entire student body of Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., attended the march this year, according to its website. Students, faculty and staff have participated in the event every year of the school's 36 years of existence, and the school customarily halts classes for the day so the entire college community has the opportunity to be present at the march.
More than 800 students, faculty, staff and affiliates from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio traveled through the night to make it to the march under the theme of John 1:5 – “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
“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,” President Fr. Sean Sheridan said.
The school's Students for Life president, Jenna Leighton, said sign-ups for buses to the event filled up within days.
Despite the below-freezing wind chill, Aquinas College of Nashville, Tenn., sent its largest group of students ever to the demonstration. Students who stayed behind were invited to a Holy Hour to intercede for their classmates, who would be traveling over 600 miles away.
Ave Maria University in Florida sent about 100 students to make the trek along Constitution Avenue as their president, Jim Towey, live-tweeted pictures and status updates.
Under the leadership of Jeanne Monahan, the March for Life has increased its social media presence and redesigned the website, making it sleeker and more user-friendly.
This year's march featured a hashtag campaign, #whywemarch, to spread awareness about the pro-life movement and encourage discussion on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.