Notre Dame Returns to The March for Life


A large @NDRTL delegation joined a huge crowd for this year's @March_for_Life to celebrate the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade and promote a culture of life. #GoCatholicND Click To Tweet

In whatever way you are able to support our common purpose — by giving of your time (especially in prayer), talent, or treasure — we are all very truly grateful.

An Iniquitous Proclamation

On January 20, the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a large Notre Dame delegation joined a huge crowd of enthusiastic pro-life demonstrators gathered on the National Mall to celebrate the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe and rededicate themselves to a culture of life.

At the same time and just a few blocks away in the White House, abortion champion and Notre Dame honoree President Joe Biden denounced the Court for its decision and rededicated himself to a culture of death.

Declaring in his Proclamation that he would “continue to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Biden called on Congress to restore Roe v. Wade through legislation and pledged to continue to use his authority as President to circumvent state restrictions that have been put in place following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Biden and Notre Dame

It wasn’t long ago that our nation’s “first anti-Catholic ‘Catholic’ President” was considering an invitation from Notre Dame’s President, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., to be honored as Commencement speaker. He eventually declined the invitation pleading a conflict, which turned out to be a weekend with his wife at Camp David — a dodge widely attributed to apprehension s over an Obama-type protest, apprehension stoked by Sycamore Trust’s anticipatory protest petition with some 5,000 alumni and related signatures.

But there was hope from the Jenkins Administration until just weeks before Commencement that he would address the class of 2021 – even as his opposition to the Church on issues of sex, marriage, and gender was clear and even as it was becoming clear how far he might go in support of abortion.

How far he has gone! 

What was a near miss for Notre Dame’s Catholic identity was anything but for Father Jenkins, who has a history of seeking to honor Joe Biden. The commencement invitation followed upon Father Jenkins’s 2016 selection of then Vice President Biden as the recipient of the Laetare Medal as one whose life “illustrates the ideals of the Church,” notwithstanding his support for abortion and same-sex marriage and the objection of Notre Dame’s bishop, the Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades. 

Father Jenkins Stays Home.

While Biden’s January 20 pro-abortion screed was no surprise, Father Jenkins’s absence from the March was.

Until the last March, he had attended every year since Notre Dame’s campus erupted in protests when pro-abortion President Barack Obama was honored as the 2009 commencement speaker despite the injunction of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”

Led by Notre Dame’s then bishop the Most Rev. John M. D’Arcy, 83 cardinals, archbishops and bishops condemned Father Jenkins’s action.

Father Jenkins thereupon appointed a faculty “damage control” task force, and it was at their recommendation that he began attending the March for Life.

But now for the second year in a row he has stayed home.

Notre Dame’s True Champions for Life

450 Notre Dame Students with NDRTL attended the 2023 National March for Life | Source: Kolbe Media

But don’t let what Father Jenkins has done and what he has failed to do reflect on the Notre Dame student Right To Life organization or the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture — which played a central role in organizing the Notre Dame delegation and sponsored a post-March reception — or the McGrath Institute for Church Life or the Notre Dame Faculty for Life or the other pro-life forces at the university.

“We had about 450 students in attendance this year” reported NDRTL President Merlot Fogarty. “While this was the lowest number of attendees we’ve had in many, many years,” she said, “the turnout in comparison to other universities was still the highest!”

Explaining that COVID restrictions had forced NDRTL leaders to cancel their participation in the preceding three events, Fogarty pointed out, “Only seniors on this march had attended the march in the past.” And the fact that it was many students’ first time attending the March, she said “made for a really enthusiastic group of students, a lot of whom had never seen so much energy and passion for life before” and many who as a result “expressed the desire to go local, as well as to get more involved in the community around Notre Dame and their communities at home.” 

Mass for Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, and Holy Cross students at St. James Catholic Church in Falls Church | Source: Kolbe Media

Fogarty expects this enthusiasm will lead to NDRTL’s participation in the Illinois March in the Spring and the Michigan March in the Fall, which will underscore the opportunity for students to carry the Notre Dame pro-life message to places where their peers currently have access to abortion.

“For this march in particular,” Fogarty said, “I think a sensation of gratitude and excitement could be felt amongst the marchers. We did it! We overturned Roe, we proved definitively that there is no right to abortion in our nation’s constitution.”

At the same time, Fogarty and other pro-life Notre Dame leaders recognize that much more work lies ahead. “It is going to take innovative and unique laws, policies, and organizations,” Fogarty says, “to work state-by-state to eradicate abortion.” And she and her associates are determined to pursue “other ways in which we will be able to effect change in our broken culture [and] have a huge impact on a mother’s decision for life for her child.”

The tens of thousands of students who spent hours on buses to stand for life in Washington this weekend are prepared to do their utmost to regenerate a culture of life in this country. It shows in their smiles, their chants, and their passion for protecting the lives of the most vulnerable. It was exhilarating to be a part of it!

Notre Dame Students lift their “Irish Fighting for Life” banner as they head toward the Capital and Supreme Court | Source: Kolbe Media

Sycamore Trust’s Part

As we have for many years, Sycamore Trust participated in the National March for Life by attending the student Mass held this year at St. James Catholic Church in Falls Church, the Rally on the National Mall, the March with hundreds of Notre Dame students and alumni, and the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture reception — passing out our Gift of Life Prayer cards (below) and Sycamore Trust beanies along the way.

Additionally, we were one of the sponsors this year of the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life at Georgetown University where Sycamore President Steve O’Neil and Executive Director Tim Dempsey distributed materials and discussed our work with attendees at what has become the largest student-run pro-life Conference in the United States. In addition to spreading the word and making new friends, we were very pleased to share our sponsorship table with the organizers of St. Thomas University’s Roccasecca Project, who were inspired by Sycamore Trust several years ago to form a similar organization to protect the Catholic identity of their alma mater.

Steve O’Neil and Tim Dempsey explain Sycamore’s mission to O’Connor Conference attendees | Source: Kolbe Media

Two of the new friends that we made at the Conference were members of “The ND 88,” Joan McKee and Jack Ames (shown below). McKee and Ames joined former ambassador Alan Keyes, Norma McCorvey (the Roe in Roe v. Wade), Fr. Norman Weslin, and a large number of other pro-life activists to protest Notre Dame’s honoring President Barack Obama as its 2009 commencement speaker. Notre Dame instigated criminal prosecutions against 88 of them who had strayed onto the edge of campus property while demonstrating. They suffered through two years of litigation until Notre Dame finally had the prosecution dropped, thanks to the efforts of Notre Dame alumni attorneys Tom Dixon of South Bend and Tom Brejcha and Peter Breen of Chicago’s Thomas More Society.

Left to right, Steve O’Neil, Tim Dempsey, Joan McKee, and Jack Ames | Source Kolbe Media

Apart from our official participation in the O’Connor Conference, Elizabeth Kirk (shown below), longtime Sycamore Trustee and Officer of the Board, gave a presentation on “The role of adoption in post-Dobbs America.” She is the Director of the Center for Law & the Human Person at the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America, associate scholar for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, and one of the architects of Notre Dame’s Vita Institute, which provides intensive interdisciplinary training for leaders in the national and international pro-life movement.

Elizabeth Kirk speaking at Georgetown University’s student-run O’Connor Conference for Life | Source: Kolbe Media

Finally, we were host to eight young alumni (shown in part below) for a lunch meeting to discuss their ideas about extending our new young alumni group to include in-person activities to help cultivate friendships and to build community among people with common values who are in similar stages of life and living in the same vicinity. You will hear a great deal more about this and related activities of our young alumni group as we continue to organize and expand membership.

Bob Burkett, ’13, Sam Lucas, ’17, Tim Dempsey, ’89, Zef Crnkovich, ’22, Austin Rose, ’22, Will Gentry, ’22, Mary Frances Myler, ’22 | Source: Kolbe Media

Let Us Pray

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O God, giver of every good gift, You created us in Your image and likeness, and called us to share in Your life and love.

You willed that Your Son, conceived of the Holy Spirit,
begin His human existence in the immaculate womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

By our prayers and through our works, may we always honor and defend the sanctity of life, especially the lives of those who yet dwell in their own mothers’ wombs.

May they be protected in the womb and loved in life.

Please grant the charity and courage of Saint Joseph to guide all fathers, and the humility and fiat of Notre Dame, Our Mother, to inspire and sustain all mothers as they welcome, nurture, and cherish their children.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life, Who lives and reigns with You for ever and ever. Amen.

 The above prayer is by Sycamore Trustee Father John Raphael (’89). To join us in regular prayer projects such as our Novena for Catholic Education and our Meditation on the 12-Days of Christmas, please join our Apostolate.  

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In whatever way you are able to support our common purpose — by giving of your time (especially in prayer), talent, or treasure — we are all very truly grateful.