January 22, 2018 — On Jan. 19, more than 800 students from Jesuit high schools, colleges and universities from across the United States gathered at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church in Washington, D.C., for the Jesuit Mass for Life. At least 275 pilgrims came from nine high schools and colleges in the USA Central and Southern Province.
The annual event observed the 45th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion on Jan. 22, 1973. The day before the Mass, the U.S. Jesuits put out a statement, “Protecting the Least Among Us,” that reaffirmed their commitment to and solidarity with the unborn. The large showing of young people at the Mass was tangible evidence of this commitment to life, from the womb to natural death.
Students traveled hundreds of miles to participate; a group of 43 students from Rockhurst University in Kansas City traveled 22 hours by bus overnight to attend. Other Jesuit schools in the USA Central and Southern Province that sent delegations included Jesuit High School (New Orleans), Jesuit High School (Tampa), Loyola University New Orleans, Regis Jesuit High School (Denver), Rockhurst High School (Kansas City, Mo.), Saint Louis University and St. Louis University High School (St. Louis) and Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School (Houston). Jesuit schools from other provinces included Belen Jesuit Preparatory School (Miami); Saint Ignatius College Prep (Chicago); Wheeling Jesuit University (Wheeling, West Virginia); Marquette University (Milwaukee); and Boston College. Tampa Jesuit and SLUH each sent contingents totaling more than 50 people.
Father Brian Frain, SJ, education professor at Rockhurst University, helps carry the school's banner.
Fr. Sam Sawyer, SJ, presided at the Mass with several Jesuits concelebrating, including Fr. Stephen Planning, SJ, president of Gonzaga College High School; Fr. William Muller, SJ, executive director of the Jesuit Schools Network; and Fr. Gasper Lobiondo, SJ, superior of the St Aloysius Gonzaga Jesuit community in D.C.
Fr. Sawyer delivered the homily, which focused on the question: What does it mean to love our enemies in the abortion debate? “The Gospel we heard today is a tactical trainwreck. It tells us to offer no resistance to enemies and love them instead.”
St. Louis University High School sent a large group of pilgrims.
And so, Fr. Sawyer called on the students to love their enemies: “The Gospel does not call us to win. It calls us to love. And when we actually go out into the world and risk taking Jesus at his word, truly loving our enemies and walking the extra mile with them, we cooperate with God’s grace, grace so powerful that it was victorious even through death.”
After the Mass, students headed to the 45th March for Life. “When we march,” Fr. Sawyer said, “we must set out both to struggle for justice for the unborn and also to call our brothers and sisters back to the recognition of God’s love for each and every human life — both for the unborn and for themselves.”
Students representing Jesuit High School Tampa at the March for Life, Jan. 19, 2018
Lilly Lutz, from Rockhurst University, said their group would be “promoting life from womb to tomb,” which included visiting elderly people in a nursing home and supporting an organization that helps women who were formerly imprisoned.
Grayson Huldin, a senior at University of Detroit Jesuit High School, said being Jesuit educated taught him to see pro-life activism not just as a political position — but as an act of love.
You can read the full text of Fr. Sawyer’s homily at America magazine.
Students from Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School (Houston) tour the nation's capital..
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The Ignatian Spirituality Program of Denver offers Ignatian group retreats, individual spiritual direction, the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life, and trains spiritual directors and guides of the Spiritual Exercises.