Notre Dame Day for Life


More than 700 #prolife students, faculty, and staff gathered at @NotreDame for a pro-life rally paralleling the national March for Life after the university abruptly cancelled the student trip to Washington because of COVID. … Click To Tweet

Although Notre Dame cancelled the student trip to Washington only nine days before this year’s January 21 March for Life in Washington, D.C., the Notre Dame Right to Life students succeeded in organizing a successful parallel event on campus. Both the national and the campus events testified to the vitality of the pro-life movement as the participants marched and prayed in guarded hope that the Supreme Court will soon overrule Roe v. Wade and its license for almost unlimited abortion. Here is our account of the highlights of the dual marches. 

The National March for Life

This year’s 43rd March for Life in Washington marked the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision declaring abortion a constitutional right. The March, which is replicated in states and cities and foreign countries (and this year at Notre Dame), is the largest human rights demonstration in the world.

Doubtless COVID discouraged some from attending but others may have filled in, since the turnout was once again impressive and we saw nothing in published reports remarking on diminished participation.

One of the principal related events for some years has been panel presentations by pro-life leaders at Georgetown University staged by the student-organized Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life.

This year, Sycamore Trust became a sponsor and hoped to host a group of Notre Dame students at the panel discussion, but the on-site presentation was cancelled because of COVID. It was streamed, however, and can be viewed here.

One of the speakers was Dr. O. Carter Snead, director of Notre Dame’s de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture and nationally prominent pro-life leader, who discussed his recent book “What it Means to be Human” – described by the Wall Street Journal as one of 2020’s “most distinguished.” 

You can view Professor Snead’s talk here.

The address of the keynote speaker, Bishop Robert Barron, is of special interest because he opened with a reflection on the pernicious effect of the address then Governor Mario Cuomo delivered at Notre Dame in 1984. There, as one of the nation’s most prominent Catholic politicians, he advocated the “personally opposed but won’t impose” dodge that has become unholy writ among Catholic politicians who claim they abhor abortion even as they cast votes to support it. 

You can view Bishop Barron’s address here.

The Notre Dame Event

Despite the brief time available, the student Right to Life club, with the help of the de Nicolo Center for Ethics and Culture and Campus Ministry, staged an admirable Day for Life on campus.

Notre Dame senior Francine Shaft, the president of Notre Dame Right to Life and a 2021 Sycamore Trust awardee (and the first speaker in the video below), described the event to Sycamore Trust as “a unique opportunity for pro-life students, faculty, and staff to be witnesses to the dignity of unborn children on campus. “

She continued:

About 700 members of the Notre Dame community attended Mass in the Basilica, where Fr. Jenkins presided. From the Basilica we peacefully and joyfully marched across campus to Library Lawn, below Hesburgh Library’s “The Word of Life” mural. There we listened to a variety of speakers representing students, faculty, and staff. The Day for Life gave the Notre Dame community the opportunity to show the strength of its pro-life character, and I am so proud of the strength with which we prayed, marched, and rallied for life.

You can read more about this event here and view highlights in the video below.

This was Notre Dame at its best.

To be sure, every silver lining must have its cloud, but it did not cast a shadow on these students, faculty, and staff, and accordingly we defer its examination to our next bulletin. For now, we conclude with Carter Snead’s moving short 2021 video when the national March for Life was cancelled.


Elizabeth Kirk Interview. On the day of the March, the editor of Crisis magazine interviewed Sycamore Trust board member Elizabeth Kirk about a range of abortion-related issues, including the prospects of the Supreme Court’s overruling Roe v. Wade in the pending Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case and the consequences if it does. 

A 1996 graduate of Notre Dame Law School and an expert on the law and policy of abortion, Elizabeth is currently the director of the Center For Law And The Human Person at Catholic University of America, where she teaches on matters of law and the family. She has in the past been served as, among other things, assistant director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture and lay consultant to the USCCB committee on pro-life activities.

Both a video and text of this wide-ranging and illuminating interview are available here. One segment is of special interest because it involved questions by Justice Amy Coney Barrett during the oral argument Dobbs that drew a good deal of comment. In this part of the interview, Elizabeth discussed Justice Barrett’s inquiry.

Contact information

Should you wish to write leaders of the organizations responsible for the Notre Dame Day for Life, here is their contact information:

Francine Shaft
President, Notre Dame Right to Life

Professor O. Carter Snead
Director, de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture

Rev. Pete McCormick
Director, Campus Ministry

A Call for Alumni of Catholic Colleges & Universities

Until recently, generations of college students on Catholic campuses across the United States have been inspired by their experience to embrace the Catholic faith as the integrating principle of their lives. Now, suffering from a half-century of secularization, many of our nation’s 221 Catholic colleges and universities are no longer teaching from a distinctively Catholic intellectual tradition, even as the world is desperate for men and women with the competence and confidence to stand tall for the truth of Catholicism.

Far from being helpless in the fight against secularization at their alma mater, Notre Dame alumni at Sycamore Trust have demonstrated that alumni can play a special and effective role in efforts to protect their alma mater’s Catholic identity. Encouraged by their example, other alumni groups with similar missions have started to organize.

If you are concerned about the Catholic identity of your alma mater and would like to discuss organizing an alumni group like Sycamore or if you are involved with something similar already, please get in touch with us. Just as efforts to undermine Catholic identity on campuses across the nation have increased in number and coordination, we believe that so, too, should the fight for Catholic identity.

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 Let us know what you think about the issues we’ve raised in this bulletin in the comments below. And help to spread the word by sharing this bulletin with others who care about Notre Dame’s Catholic identity. 

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If you are like us and want to see an authentic Catholic renewal at Notre Dame, please consider lending a hand by making a donation to Sycamore Trust.

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