By Doris Yu
January 22, 2015 — This morning, students from Jesuit high schools and universities gathered in the nation’s capital to mark the 42nd anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Over 500 students packed into St. Aloysius Church on the campus of Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., for the annual Jesuit Mass and Rally for Life.
This Jesuit-sponsored event draws students who travel hundreds of miles to take part in anniversary activities, including the March for Life around the National Mall. Held annually to observe the 1973 Supreme Court decision, the march is the largest pro-life event in the world.
Students from Jesuit high schools and universities sang pro-life songs and chants during the Jesuit Mass and Rally for Life.
The students began their day gathering in the warmth of St. Aloysius, within sight of the U.S. Capitol, to meet their peers at Jesuit institutions across the country and hear from pro-life leaders at Jesuit-affiliated organizations.
Jesuit Father Timothy P. Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference, presided and offered the homily at the Mass. He told the students, “We come together on this regrettably historic anniversary to give voice to the voiceless and hope to the most vulnerable among us. It is not simply enough to join the crowd on this one single day; as women and men for others, we have to stand for those 'others' who have no voice but ours."
The Jesuit Rally for Life was held in St. Aloysius Church directly after the Mass. Jesuit Father Joe Laramie, pastoral director at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri, emceed the celebration and Jesuit Marcos Gonzalez, a scholastic studying at Loyola University Chicago, led participants in a few chants while providing musical accompaniment on the guitar.
Fr. Laramie was no stranger to the event. “I've been several times before — the first time was in 2000 when I was in college at Saint Louis University,” he said. “I also preached at the Mass for Life in 2012 when I was a newly ordained priest, studying at Boston College.”
Because of his past involvement with the Mass and march, Fr. Laramie made sure he brought his Rockhurst students to Washington this year. “I hope our students get a sense of the greatness of this cause. Sometimes, it can feel like there are just a few of us — at one school or parish. But there are millions of people who are working to end abortion — and we'll be with hundreds of thousands in D.C. during the march. I hope our students are energized, strengthened in faith and ready to spread this message of hope to others.”
Jesuit Kyle Shinseki, a scholastic studying at Loyola University Chicago, gave an Ignatian reflection and Janet Durig spoke about working with expectant mothers while serving as the executive director of the Capitol Hill Crisis Pregnancy Center in Washington, D.C.
Shinseki was motivated to speak at the rally as a result of his own experience with pro-life matters. “The pro-life issue is important to me personally because I was the product of an unwanted pregnancy, yet I was saved from abortion by a courageous birth mother who I have never met and two loving parents who adopted me as their son,” he said. “So, I hope and pray that all life might be received as a precious gift from God.”The Jesuit Mass and Rally is a testament to the Society's continued devotion to pro-life values, a commitment that was reaffirmed in a 2013 formal statement issued by the Society of Jesus in the United States, marking the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
One goal of the Mass and rally is that the students will take the issues to heart and carry on their advocacy in their hometowns. “I hope that our students will find inspiration to continue their pro-life efforts through prayer, communion and community with fellow pro-lifers from other Jesuit institutions,” Shinseki said. “We can all help to further this cause by sharing our pro-life views with joy and compassion, finding the courage to engage in dialogue with others about this issue, and providing spiritual and material support to those facing crisis pregnancies.”
Fr. Laramie also encouraged students to do what they can for the pro-life movement. “Your parish may collect baby clothes for young mothers,” he said. “Your school may offer resources to pregnant teens. You can help. Even a small gesture or donation can mean a lot. Pray, learn, serve. And thank God for the gift of your own life.”
Delegations from Creighton University and Rockhurst University, among many other Jesuit schools, outside of St. Aloysius Church.
Following the Jesuit Rally for Life, students filed out of St. Aloysius to join the larger 42nd annual March for Life. The event attracted thousands of people who filled the streets of D.C. from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court.
Students hailing from Jesuit universities including Boston College, Fairfield University (Fairfield, Connecticut), Marquette University (Milwaukee) and Saint Louis University, along with many others, were in attendance. Some participating Jesuit high schools were Gonzaga College High School and Georgetown Preparatory School (both in Washington, D.C.), Jesuit High School (Tampa, Florida), Rockhurst High School, and St. Louis University High School.
The pro-life events in D.C. will continue after the Mass, rally and march, including the annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life this Saturday, Jan. 24 at Georgetown University. The one-day conference is the largest student-run Catholic pro-life conference in the nation, attracting about 650 pro-life advocates, students, clergy and sponsoring organizations. The keynote speaker will be Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, and Most Reverend Joseph Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, will celebrate the O’Connor Conference’s Mass for Life at the close of the day’s events.
View additional photos of the Jesuit Mass and Rally for Life at the Jesuit Conference USA Facebook page.