“We went to the Students for Life Conference, and they were talking about how to battle pro-choice people on your campus, which we don't have to deal with,” Jordan Dunnaway, a senior at the liberal arts college in Lander, Wyo., told CNA.
“Since we don't have pro-choice people, we'll be working mainly with the local Indian reservation – it's about 20 miles outside of our school town – and it's extremely impoverished...so that will be our main mission, working with the women out on the reservation there.”
As the Wyoming Catholic College students traveled on a charter bus back to Lander from San Francisco following the first ever Students for Life of America West Coast Conference on Jan. 26, they held a meeting to found their campus' chapter during which officers were elected.
Dunnaway, who was chosen as inaugural president of the group, said that her campus is “100 percent pro-life,” which calls for the students to look beyond ministry within their walls and out to nearby communities that contend with crisis pregnancies among other challenges.
The chapter will reach out to residents of the Wind River Indian Reservation, home to some 12,000 members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes of Native Americans, which borders the town of Lander.
The formation of a Students for Life chapter at the Catholic, liberal arts college was initiated by the organization's conference which meant “to give high school and college students both a general context for why we're so involved in the pro-life movement, but also some specific training sessions on how to get some pro-life activities in their particular communities,” Wyoming Catholic College president Kevin Roberts explained.
Roberts, along with the school's dean and chaplain all accompanied the students to the Walk for Life West Coast, for the campus' first organized trip to the pro-life event that drew 50,000 participants from across the country.
“I told the faculty last summer when I came on board with the whole community, that I thought it was important that we take students out of Wyoming occasionally as a group, because they're so joyful, and it will do a very good job of forming them as leaders, and give them a taste of efforts they might be involved in once they graduate, or even before then,” Roberts told CNA.
“So we made an institutional commitment.” With the faculty on board, the students were given a four-day weekend so that those attending the Walk would not miss class time; and “so the students' financial burden wasn't great, we had a couple donors step up and subsidize the trip.”
“We just want to take the special folks, the students we have at Wyoming Catholic, and share them with the pro-life movement, because we think they have a certain zeal, a certain joy, that will offer a lot to the movement.”
He reflected that during the Walk, the young people were praying the rosary, and singing, “and of course with our choir program they sing well; it was a really nice way to counteract some of the protestors, rather than engaging them in some kind of hostile way.”
“The students I think kept a real positive spirit up,” Roberts reflected.
The contingent had come to San Francisco after a drive of “16 hours total,” Dunnaway said, most of it spent on a bus.
“It definitely is exhausting...but we're all so grateful for the opportunity to come out, because in Wyoming – you know your prayers make a difference from wherever you are – but there's no real opposition there, because it's a pretty conservative state. So it meant a lot to all of us to come out and show people, that we're here too.”
Dunnaway said she was “extremely impressed” by the number of people at the walk, as well as the vocal enthusiasm of the tens of thousands of pilgrims, hearing “the joy of everyone singing, praying, chanting,” as well as “seeing the unity of everyone who's Catholic, Anglican, and Christians in general, who were all there for the same purpose.”
She called the Walk a great opportunity “to spend time with those people who are a little bit more out in 'the real world' than we are, and to see that even if we disagree on other issues, abortion is one fundamental issue that everyone can say no to.”
Roughly a third of the college's students attended the San Francisco event, and Dunnaway said that since “the school made it very clear that they didn't want money to stop anybody” from coming – and that there were donors who gave for that express purpose – “it was very easy” to choose to attend.
“We had an overwhelming amount of people who wanted to come.”
“We also had the blessing of people coming up to us and being excited about us coming out, saying, 'Oh, you're from Wyoming (Catholic), we've heard about you, thank you so much for coming.' It was a blessing for us that people recognized us and thanked us specifically for coming.”
San Francisco's recent Walk for Life and Students for Life events inspired Wyoming Catholic College students to start an outreach to women in crisis pregnancies from nearby indigenous communities.