March for Life During COVID-19

Image Courtesy of Anchorage Daily News

By Javier Mazariegos 

When The Catholic University of America announced that the spring semester of 2021 would begin with a two-week quarantine, many students’ immediate question was: what about the March for Life?

The March for Life has always been an important day on campus at CUA. This year, the Catholic University pro-life community demonstrated for the lives of the unborn without attending the traditional march to the Supreme Court. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the march was virtual. 

March organizers decided to limit the number of in-person demonstrators earlier in January when the status of the march came into question. A few hundred pro-life leaders from around the country who represent the many branches of the pro-life movement took to the streets behind the official March for Life banner. The Rally for Life was broadcasted virtually. 

For most CUA students on campus, this year’s pro-life advocacy involved tuning into the virtual rally. Since welcoming students back on campus, from freshmen to seniors, the university has emphasized the importance of following the health and safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The first two weeks of classes have seen a particularly cautious series of protocols to make sure the semester can start with a clean slate of negative tests. All the March for Life events worked within the parameters of the university’s protocols. 

The majority of events were organized through the Cardinals for Life, CUA’s pro-life club. They put together a comprehensive plan for “Pro-Life Week 2021.” 

“Although many of our events were virtual this year, student participation remained impressively strong,” said senior Anna Stephens, the President of Cardinals for Life.

Regarding the overall outcome of the week, Stephens continued, “The growth of our organization and the success of these pro-life events serves as a testament to the truth that each and every human life is a beautiful and precious gift and must be cherished, respected, and defended.”

The first day of the week was Pro-Life T-shirt Day; CUA pro-lifers donned their gear and shared pictures with one another. The following day was Donation Day, during which the Cardinals for Life raised $355 for Waterleaf Women’s Pregnancy Center in Aurora, Illinois to help finance supplies for mothers and their babies. All donations were made through Venmo, which has become a popular means of raising money virtually for student organizations. 

The next day they held a Pep Rally for Life featuring philosophy professor Fr. Ignacio de Ribera Martin. On Thursday, the day before the March, a virtual sidewalk prayer was held, and a virtual vigil mass was celebrated for the protection of the unborn.

On Friday morning at 11, the March for Life started their official livestream. Pro-life advocates, including former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, focused on the theme of this year’s march: “Together Strong: Life Unites.” The basic tenor of this theme aimed to emphasize the strength of unity that they believe can arise from the cause of building a culture of life. 

The familial hearth has become the touchstone for American life during the pandemic, second only to Zoom. Former New England Patriot Benjamin Watson and his wife Kristen emphasized this “pro-life from the home” approach and its emination into the everyday world during their portion of the prepared remarks. For CUA students this meant seeing their quarantine status in their dorm rooms as the place to still participate in pro-life events. CFL formation team member junior Emma Wilenta commented on how the events from this week gave her a place to take a stand. 

“It was refreshing to gather together even though it was virtual to remind ourselves of why we do what we do. The pro-life community here at CUA is alive and well, despite being quarantined during what is normally such a special week.” 

Catholic University Student Body President Gerald Sharpe shared a statement with the University community earlier that week via the SGA Cardinal Chirp, emphasizing the CUA pro-life community’s commitment to the cause.

“As the Church has reiterated throughout the centuries, human life is inviolable from the moment of conception…I recommit myself and the organization I lead to doing everything we can to support the sanctity of all life,” Sharpe said. 

Sharpe encouraged pro-life students to tune into the events put on by the Cardinals for Life and Campus Ministry. University chaplain Fr. Jude DeAngelo added to the voices of students and faculty advocating for a pro-life stand. In his statement, he highlighted the importance of both prayer and sacrifice in addition to the action that accompanies the pro-life movement. He echoed a number of pro-life leaders who didn’t shy away from encouraging and good old fashioned fast.

“Our inability to march with our customary force and energy does in fact leave us the opportunity to grow in grace…We can ask the Lord to take our sacrifice and join it to the eternal Sacrifice of His Son on behalf of the preborn children and their mothers and fathers…for doctors and nurses not to be compelled to participate in abortions. We can pray for the conversion of politicians’ hearts and for those in the abortion industry,” said Fr. Jude. 

The Office of Campus Ministry similarly worked within the COVID protocols by encouraging virtual attendance at events and providing materials for students to make pro-life posters earlier in the week, which would decorate campus on Friday. 

One of the posters, placed outside the Pryzbyla Center, was posted to the University’s Instagram and Facebook pages. The Instagram stories of some CUA students have boasted content on a number of different issues over the past months, often on more controversial ones. On Friday, many students shared the same picture of a homemade sign outside the Pryz that read, “Valuing life is not weakness and disregarding it is not strength. -The Incredibles”

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