WASHINGTON, D.C.—As white snowflakes glittered to the ground January 25 during the 40th annual March for Life in Washington D.C., nearly 1,000 Franciscan University students, faculty, and alumni found a new reason to hope for the end of abortion with every step they took.
At the front of the University’s emerald banner, Franciscan University President Father Terence Henry, TOR, said that it is the duty of the Church to be where the culture of death is pressing in: “It is possible that some people could be discouraged in light of recent events in our country,” Father Henry said. “Pro-lifers are never discouraged.”
Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas, Texas, echoed a similar message in his homily during the closing Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. On the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, Bishop Farrell urged pro-lifers, including eight bus loads of Franciscan students, to emulate St. Paul’s fearless zeal for the Lord, and to remember that even Moses never entered the Promised Land after leading the Israelites for 40 years.
“We must never, never, never give up,” Bishop Farrell said. “We will win.”
The ideal of never giving up resonates deeply with Courtney McHale, a Franciscan University junior studying theology and child development. A member of Students for Life, McHale spends many Saturday mornings praying outside an abortion clinic in Pittsburgh. She recently became a sidewalk counselor at the clinic, and speaks to mothers before and after abortions.
“When you talk to them…it just breaks your heart,” McHale said.
Her experiences in sidewalk counseling made abortion more personal for McHale. As she marched for life, she said she was thinking of the people she had met through sidewalk counseling, and she offered up sacrifices and the cold weather for their sake.
The face of abortion has also become very personal for Rick Santorum, former senator, 2012 presidential candidate, and recipient of the 2010 Franciscan University Poverello Medal. A hush came over the Franciscan University students at the March for Life Rally on the National Mall as Santorum described how he and his wife were encouraged to abort their daughter, Bella, who has Trisomy 18, a chromosomal disorder. While Santorum and his wife were told that death would be better than the burden of a disability for their daughter, they believed otherwise. Santorum explained that he and his family are better because of having Bella in their lives.
“One day we will be here in triumph,” Santorum said, “because love and truth will always triumph.”
The triumph of human life is a goal that Claire Salitsky, a 2012 Franciscan University graduate, seeks avidly. Currently a student at Ave Maria School of Law, Salitsky is pursuing a career in family law and the defense of human life.
“I wanted to do something that makes a difference,” Salitsky said. “I feel the unborn are unprotected in today’s world.”
Michael Villanueva, a Franciscan University theology and philosophy major and member of the Priestly Discernment Program, keenly feels the destruction to the human family caused by abortion.
“Life is the ultimate gift,” Villanueva said. “It’s important for us to be here because the most important things in our lives are the people in our lives.”