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Donnelly club brings pro-life movement to campus

Members of Donnelly College’s Pro-Life Club take part in this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C. Pictured are: Kevin Weinand, Maria Gricelda Magana, SaySay Than, Mercy Kumah, Angel Alvear, Brother Martin Navarro, Perla Torres-Garcia, Yareli Castor, Tanya Martinez, Darick Charles, Ian Suarez, Goreti Chapa and Yailyn Flores-Vazquez.

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sometimes all it takes is a person willing to stand up and be a leader. At Donnelly College here, that person is Brother Martin Navarro, SSA.

Brother Martin, a senior seeking a degree in organizational leadership, founded the Donnelly College Pro-life Club. He also does campus ministry as a work-study job.

The reason he started the club is simple.

“We didn’t have one before,” he said, “and it’s a good club to have.”

It all began with a friendly invitation from another Catholic college.

“Benedictine College [in Atchison] invited about 15 Donnelly students to go on a March for Life with them in January 2018,” said Brother Martin. “I was one of those students, and I saw how much it affected the other students. . . . It brought about some conversions and motivated them to work for the pro-life cause afterwards.”

Brother Martin didn’t launch the club immediately, however. Instead, he laid the groundwork, raised funds and launched it in August 2018. In just a couple of months, the club had grown to 30 members.

“Our first major project for the club was to send our first, full bus to the March for Life in January 2019,” he said.

Forty students went on that trip. At the beginning, fully half called themselves “pro-choice.” By the time the bus returned to Donnelly, none were.

The mission of the club is to educate students about life issues and to undertake activities that support the pro-life ethos . . . which dovetails nicely into the purpose of Donnelly itself. 

“The mission of Donnelly College is aimed to provide services to those who would otherwise not be able to afford a college education,” said Brother Martin.

“The average income of students at Donnelly is $27,000 a year,” he added. “We have a lot of adults and students with children who are striving to earn a bachelor or associate degree. . . . They’re juggling work, raising children and going to school.”

One of his dreams is to raise funds for day care for these struggling students so “they don’t have to choose between a degree and a beautiful child,” said Brother Martin. “They can have both.”

Fundraising is very important for the club, and not only for the day care proposal. The only way the club could afford a bus to the March for Life was thanks to a grant and club fundraising. The students are from mostly low-to-median income and blue-collar families.

“Many of the students work full-time jobs, as well as paying out of pocket for their own college education,” said Brother Martin. “The cost of going to the March for Life is out of reach for them.

“One student told me, ‘Brother Martin, I’d love to go. However, my parents don’t have jobs. I’m the only one in my family who brings in an income. I work full time. I pay for my own tuition and my little sister’s tuition at Bishop Ward High School. Not only that, my car broke down, so me and my sister have to ride the bus from Kansas City, Missouri, to school at 5 a.m. I’d love to go, but I can’t afford it.”

Brother Navarro is currently working with the Respect Life Committee of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood to bring doctors to the college to lecture about life-related issues. The club is also working with the archdiocesan pro-life office to take 40 students to a showing of the movie “Unplanned.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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