CUA Students Participate in March for Life

"We’re so proud of you!" the Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., President, told the 170 CUA undergraduates assembled on the steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

CUA students joined thousands of others who traveled from around the country for the annual March for Life.

The students were on their way to participate in the annual March for Life, a peaceful protest march from the White House to the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill. Father O’Connell rode the Metro with students to the Ellipse on the National Mall, where speeches were given to the tens of thousands of marchers who gathered Jan. 22.

Before the march, many CUA students had been up for 24 hours, chaperoning 1,800 high school student visitors who arrived by the busload the day before the march.

Sophomore Erika Cunis, for one, spent a sleepless night at the Raymond A. DuFour (athletic) Center. She and junior Andrea Wray coordinated 126 CUA student volunteers who came out to help supervise 1,915 visitors camping out in the DuFour center and 515 more in the Basilica. Miss Cunis, a philosophy major from Plymouth, N.H., called the pro-life movement "one of the most important of our time."

CUA students and March for Life volunteers Erika Cunis, Tarek Saab and Dorothy Bolinto.

"I equate the scourge of abortion to slavery," she said. She felt that her service was "giving people a chance to express their passion for the movement."

Volunteer Dorothy Bolinto, a freshman from Virginia Beach, Va., was one of those responsible for making sure boys and girls stayed on separate sides of their overnight accommodations throughout the athletic center. Fulfilling these duties meant she received less than four hours of sleep. The deprivation didn’t dampen her enthusiasm for the next day’s march.

"I’m very excited about this, this is my first experience" with the March for Life, she said.

Tarek Saab, a senior electrical engineering major from New Bedford, Mass., was the DuFour center emcee. His voice directed visitors throughout their stay, announcing where confessions were being heard, where there were opportunities for "praise and worship" and adoration. He made sure they were quiet and orderly.

He got the visitors to bed on time at 1 a.m. by leading a Rosary over the loudspeaker for the entire group "to pray and to put them to sleep at the same time," he said. They were up, showered and off to their assigned eating areas by 7 a.m.

"Catholic University of America is a pro-life university," Mr. Saab said,. "As young people in the United States we have a duty to stand up and use the First Amendment for what it’s there for, to say what we believe in, that abortion is wrong."

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was held in the second floor aerobics room in DuFour, where senior Matt Foley, of Quincy, Mass., said there were 300 to 400 people squeezed in. The last priest concluded hearing confessions between 3 and 3:30 a.m., Mr. Foley said. He has attended the March for Life every year and said his volunteering was for a worthy cause. "I was just doing my little part," he said.

Several hundred of CUA’s registered visitors slept in sleeping bags on the marble floors of the Basilica’s crypt, where a Eucharistic prayer vigil was held throughout the night in the Crypt Church. Each hour was led by seminarians from a local or visiting religious order. Extra confessions were also heard late into the night after the crowded Vigil for Life Mass.

Miss Wray, a philosophy major from New Canaan, Conn., summed up her service: "I look upon the time spent volunteering as a sacrifice of praise and of supplication. Praise, because the march is a celebration of the gift of life, and supplication, because we have badly abused that gift and are in need of the Lord's forgiveness and healing."

Catholic University encourages students to express their support for the annual March for Life by allowing them excused absences from class, provided they have permission from their professors, make up missed work and sign attendance lists on the day of the protest.