Jesuit Students Celebrate Life

By Doris Yu

January 27, 2017 — Standing on the steps of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Jesuit Church in Washington, D.C., today, Marquette University sophomore Steph Wissing gazed at the hundreds of students milling around and spoke about “how alive the young Church really is. … People don’t believe it, but I really believe it.”


Jesuit Father Bill Muller gave the homily at the Jesuit Mass for Life.

After looking inside and scanning the rows of Jesuit high school and university students (and one baby!) that filled the church from front to back, it’d be hard to doubt her.


A young mother and her baby were in the congregation.

School groups journeyed across the country — many for long hours by bus — to participate in events marking the 44th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. They gathered this morning at “St Al’s,” as it is affectionately known, the home church of Gonzaga College High School, for a special Jesuit Mass for Life.


“For me, recently, the pro-life movement has become a part of who I am,” said Wissing, who traveled from Milwaukee with fellow Marquette University students. “I’ve never been here before, and I thought it was a great opportunity to not only meet other people at Marquette who are passionate about the pro-life movement, but to see all the people from across the country who are here for the same reason.”


Marquette University student Steph Wissing traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Jesuit Mass for Life.

Jesuit Father Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, was the presider and Jesuit Father Bill Muller, president of the Jesuit Schools Network, gave the homily.


Members of the student choir hailed from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, and Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Fr. Muller began by describing a custom of African Bushmen of greeting each other along a path or roadway by saying, "I see you," with the other replying, "I am here." 


(l-r) Jesuit scholastic Michael Wegenka, Jesuit Father Bill Muller and Jesuit Father Timothy Kesicki

“As far back as we can trace human history, women and men want to know they belong, that they have value, that they are seen,” Fr. Muller said. “That's what we are praying about this morning and marching for today — that all be seen, recognized, noticed and that all belong to our crazy and wonderful human family, from the baby in the womb to the dementia patient taking a last breath.”


Students at Saint Louis University High School sing during Mass.

Schools in attendance at the Mass included Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, Jesuit High School in Tampa, Saint Louis University High School, Fairfield University in Connecticut, College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and many others.


(l-r) Students from Saint Ignatius High School, Cleveland: Jonathan Ockunzzi, Daryl Forrest II and Erik Johnson III

“We represent 1,500 boys back at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland,” said Jonathan Ockunzzi. “As Catholics and Christians, we believe in the sanctity of life. It’s our constitutional right to come to Washington, D.C., and make our voices heard, and show the world that we believe that life is precious. God gives everyone this precious gift.”


His classmate Erik Johnson III echoed that sentiment. “We represent a greater community,” Johnson said. “I just think it’s amazing that we all come for the same purpose, all from the same age group. It’s very powerful and strong and very motivational to see us all come together for one thing.”


Following the Mass, the students walked down the street toward the U.S. Capitol to join the larger March for Life, which has been held every year since 1973.


School groups gathered for a photo after the Mass.

“This is important — life, and the value of every life, even if you’re not born yet,” said Daryl Forrest II, from Saint Ignatius High School. “We’re just making sure we try to get this word out and spread it across the country.”

Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit www.jesuitvocations.org for more information.


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