Benedictine College Sends 4 Busloads to March for Life
Largest Group in its Long History of Participation
LISTEN - St. Benedict's Abbey Podcast with monks and students at the March.
Since 1985, students from Benedictine College have been making the 1,000 mile trip from Atchison, Kan., to Washington, D.C., in support of the March for Life. Nearly 300 students and staff of the college, including President Stephen D. Minnis, attended this year. In addition to sending a large contingent to the March itself, Benedictine’s success has led to participation by other groups and colleges in the Midwest.
This year the Benedictine College group coordinated the trip with more than 200 area high school students from within the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, swelling the numbers to more than 500. In addition to attending the March on Jan. 23, Benedictine College staff and the Ravens Respect Life group organized an expanded program, complete with a Mass at Nativity Parish in Washington, plus a dinner followed by a praise and worship rally.
“Benedictine College has the largest group attending from the greatest distance away,” said Minnis, who has attended the March since he became Benedictine’s president in 2004. “Seventeen percent of our student body is willing to take a 48-hour round trip bus ride in support of life. We’re proud of that.”
When the buses arrived in Washington, the students were treated to a hot spaghetti dinner by the Knights of Columbus at Nativity Parish, according to Sarah Swafford, Director of Special Projects for Catholic Identity at Benedictine College. After that, an inspirational evening of worship helped energize the group and set the mood for the weekend.
“We had the Mikey Needleman Band for the praise and worship rally, as well as Mike Debus, the performance painter from Kansas City,” Swafford said. “It was a great night!”
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, president of Ravens Respect Life. “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.”
“Both the Knights and Ravens Respect Life have done a great job of raising awareness of all the life issues,” said Fr. Meinrad Miller, OSB, Benedictine College Chaplain. “I think the March for Life trip started with three or four students attending, but then it grew to 15, then up to a full bus, then to several buses.”
“In the early 2000s we were one of the only college groups going to the March for Life from this area,” said Fr. Meinrad. “So we organized five buses with students from Benedictine College, The University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Kansas State University, the University of Kansas, and Fort Hays State University. Today, I think all of those schools now have their own March for Life trip.”
In 2009, the Benedictine College presence attracted the attention of documentary film makers, 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.
Students attending the March have said they take inspiration from all the people they encounter at the event who are willing to make sacrifices for their beliefs.
“The first time I attended the March for Life was the first time I realized that there really was hope, that even if we weren't the majority in Congress, we were passionate and we were not going to give up,” said Stephanie Trouba, this year’s March for Life Coordinator for Ravens Respect Life. “I've continued my involvement in pro-life groups and my prayers for an end to abortion in part because of the hope I found among the hundreds of thousands of people I marched with.”
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