Leading the way

Benedictine College named to lead this year’s March for Life

by Steve Johnson

ATCHISON — After sending seven buses and more than 340 students to Washington, D.C., last year for the annual March for Life, Benedictine College here has been honored with the lead position in the march this year. Members of the college’s student pro-life organization, Ravens Respect Life, along with Abbot James Albers, OSB, of St. Benedict’s Abbey, will carry the banner at the head of the procession on Jan. 22, the 41st anniversary date of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that opened the door for legalized abortions.
“The news that Benedictine College will be leading the March for Life has been the hot topic on campus all semester,” said Kathryn Brown, March for Life coordinator for the Ravens Respect Life organization. “We in Ravens Respect Life recognize what a huge honor this is . . . and we are proud to be taking the lead in front of over half a million pro-lifers who will be standing up for God’s most precious gift to us.”

Each year, Benedictine College sends the largest group the greatest distance for the annual march, and they have already exceeded last year, filling eight busloads for the 2014 event, the 29th year students have made the trip.

“About 20 percent of our student body is willing to take that long, 48-hour round trip bus ride in support of life,” said Stephen D. Minnis, president of Benedictine College. “I am proud and amazed by our students.”

“I see attendance at the March for Life as something almost necessary for a Catholic college student,” said Jeanne F. Monahan, president of March for Life. “Field trips like the March for Life can change and form a student’s perspective in many ways, as well as help to foster vocational and professional inklings.”

Abbot James, who graduated from Benedictine College in 1994 with degrees in theology and mass communications, had organized the trip to the March for Life when he was a student.

“I organized the trip my sophomore year; we usually went with Kansans for Life,” he said. “Back then, 15 to 20 students going was a good number.”

In addition to attending the march, Benedictine College staff and the Ravens Respect Life group usually organize an expanded program, complete with a Mass at St. Peter’s on Capital Hill, a rosary in front of the Supreme Court building, a gathering and Mass with other groups from the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and a gathering in the Senate building after the march, arranged by Benedictine alumnus Terry Gainer, the U.S. Senate sergeant-at-arms.

The trip to the march first started with Benedictine students who were interacting with the Kansans for Life organization. The school’s Knights of Columbus chapter took the lead and was a major promoter of the event. The first few years saw a handful of students go, but the numbers began to grow. In 1989, students at Benedictine College became so focused on right-to-life issues that they formed the Ravens Respect Life organization, using the name of the Benedictine College mascot.

“This is an important mission for us,” said Michael Green, last year’s March for Life coordinator. “We don’t go just because it’s some fun trip with our friends. We go to show the leaders of our country what we stand for; that is, the dignity of all people from conception to natural death.”

In 2009, the Benedictine College presence attracted the attention of documentary filmmakers, who then featured Benedictine students in their film. “Thine Eyes: A Witness to the March for Life” was shot on location by a six-camera crew to share the spirit of the annual march. It has now been seen on national television on EWTN and in theaters across the country.

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