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Jenkins, students head to D.C. for march

Madeline Buckley | Friday, January 22, 2010

Almost 400 students will participate in this year’s national March for Life Friday in Washington, D.C. — doubling last year’s participation.

The Notre Dame Right to Life Club sends students to the nation’s capital every year to march in the annual pro-life rally, the group’s co-vice president Mary Daly, a senior, said.

But this year, for the first time, University President Fr. John Jenkins will join the marchers.
Jenkins created a pro-life task force in September to “broaden and deepen the pro-life culture” at Notre Dame to help “strengthen the Notre Dame community’s witness to Catholic teaching on life.” One of the task force’s first recommendations was to suggest the University president join Notre Dame students in Friday’s March for Life.

The task force’s creation was in response to the work of a group of students who condemned Jenkins’ decision to invite President Barack Obama to deliver the 2009 Commencement address and award him an honorary degree.

Daly, a leader within the student group that protested Jenkins’ invitation to Obama, said she is pleased with the progress of the task force so far.

“We’re very glad to have Fr. Jenkins and faculty coming,” she said. “This is something we’ve been working to get for a several years now.”

Daly said Right to Life has invited Jenkins’ to march with the students every year, but this is the first year he has accepted.

“It’s a testament to people’s recognition that this is something that is important, especially for Notre Dame to have a voice in it is key, and this year our numbers are record setting,” she said.

Right to Life president John Gerardi said he believes the creation task force and Jenkins’ participation in the March is a step in the right direction for the University.

“Looking at the task force as a whole, I think they’ve done a lot of good things and I certainly appreciate help giving for the March,” Gerardi, a senior, said.

Gerardi is participating in the March for the first time, but Daly has gone each year she has been at Notre Dame.

“What is cool is when you go to the March, you get this sense that these 3,000 people think this is important just like I do,” Daly said. “It’s incredibly exciting to be able to go with a group of friends, but also with people from Notre Dame I don’t even know. We go and sleep on a gym floor and are backpacking through the city in a way.”

The students will begin the day Friday with a Mass and gathering for students, faculty and alumni before embarking on the March. Afterward, the group will meet for an “ND family dinner,” Daly said.

Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades will celebrate a Mass Saturday morning at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Arlington, Va.

Gerardi said a big focus of the trip is uniting students, faculty and alumni.

“I think it’s a really good thing that the University as a whole is attempting to give witness to the sanctity of human life,” he said. “I also think it is nice to see that it’s sort of the entire Notre Dame community, not just a rabble-rousing group of rambunctious 20-year-olds.”
Although Daly said Jenkins’ appearance makes this year’s March significant for the Notre Dame community, she said Right to Life is approaching this trip in the same way they have every year.

“We would like this year to go similarly to other years. I think that’s kind of normal. I don’t want to hype things up because Father Jenkins is coming, and I don’t think he wants that either,” she said. “He wants to join us and be apart of it. That’s something that has been communicated to us.”

Daly said she hopes the March acts as a unifying event for the Notre Dame community.
“You feel this instant camaraderie with everyone there,” she said. “It’s really a cool thing.”