With the Fourth Sunday of Advent today, we have entered the final countdown for Christmas. These final days of preparation for the Feast of the Incarnation are a good time for us to reflect both on the gift of life we have all been given by God as well as on the work we are all called to do as Catholic Christians in order to protect the gift of life. And so today, Fr. Bill Miscamble, C.S.C, a Professor of History as well as the President of the University Faculty for Life at Notre Dame, shares with us some of the unsung Holy Cross heroes in the Pro-Life Movement.
Holy Cross has been a part of the pro-life cause from its very start, and our heroes in the movement are many, even if they have not always achieved great acclaim for their efforts.
Brother John Lavelle, C.S.C., was a tireless worker for the pro-life cause at Notre Dame through the 1970s and 1980s. His wonderful work with college students inspired many young people to carry on his mission. The St. Joseph County Right to Life organization even named an award in his honor to recognize exemplary pro-life students enrolled in local colleges and universities like Notre Dame, St. Mary’s, and Holy Cross.
Other pioneers in the pro-life movement in those early years included such wonderful priests as Fr. Ed O’Connor, C.S.C., who led students in prayer and encouraged their efforts for a deepened respect for human life.
Subsequently, the Pro-Life efforts of Holy Cross have been expressed in numerous ways, not only in parishes through various life-sustaining initiatives but also through assistance to a variety of organizations that assist women in crisis pregnancies. I think for example of Fr. Paul Doyle, C.S.C., who is a longtime member of the Board of Hannah’s House here in South Bend which is a maternity home that provides shelter and support of various kinds for the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of pregnant young women. I think also of the wonderful seminarians who, over the last two decades, have done pastoral placements at the Women’s Care Center in South Bend. There they have provided direct counseling to young women to persuade them to choose life for their babies.
I must confess that my own involvement in direct pro-life efforts has come rather recently. Of course I have always preached and written against the evil of abortion, and have presented this as the great moral issue of our time that demands our engagement and commitment. I’ve also tried in meaningful ways to assist women who are pregnant and to influence them to have their babies. Furthermore, I have tried to build “a culture of life” as Pope John Paul II encouraged each of us to do.
In becoming even more involved in pro-life efforts at Notre Dame recently, I am following in the footsteps of great Holy Cross priests like Fr. Kevin Russeau, C.S.C, and Fr. Jay Steele, C.S.C. Such Holy Cross priests have led the way in supporting the deeply committed students of Notre Dame Right to Life – a group which I now serve as chaplain in place of Fr. Russeau who now is our Novice Master.
My efforts at Notre Dame, however, have focused especially on working with my faculty colleagues. I have been involved in recent months in forming a Notre Dame Chapter of the University Faculty for Life organization, which is a national organization promoting the pro-life cause on university campuses. At the present time I serve as the president of our local chapter. I have recruited over 30 formal members of our local chapter, which makes us one of the largest in the country, but I have well over 200 faculty and staff members with whom I am in contact. They are supportive colleagues in the growing pro-life efforts at Notre Dame. We are seeking to do our part through spiritual, academic, and social endeavors to help build support for the pro-life cause on campus and beyond. We want to support our wonderful students in their efforts and to walk beside them in defending life from conception to natural death.
What is truly heartening is that many priests in Holy Cross as well as our seminarians are deeply committed to the pro-life cause. They have heard Pope John Paul II’s call to proclaim the Gospel of Life. Rest assured that we will be well represented at the March for Life in Washington DC in January. If you are present at the March perhaps you might seek us out and join us. We want more and more men to join us who share our pro-life convictions—men who want to affirm God’s gift of life and to resolve to allow all others to share it.
For more on the efforts at the University of Notre Dame to protect the gift of life from natural conception to natural death, read about the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life, which among other projects, sponsors academic events, research initiatives and curricular offerings. Also read about the new position created to coordinate life initiatives on campus, which grew out of the Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life called together by Fr. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C, the President of Notre Dame.