The wheels started turning in Kathryn Brown’s head on a long bus ride home from the nation’s capital last year.
Returning to Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., after participating in the annual March for Life, Brown listened as students chatted about how awesome it would be if their group was chosen someday to lead the event.
And now, that’s become a reality. On Wednesday, Benedictine students will lead the expected hundreds of thousands of abortion opponents.
One-quarter of the student body –– more than 400 students –– set out in eight buses Monday for the 24-hour trek to Washington, D.C.
“We have a combination of monks, faculty, alumni and mostly students who are participating,” said Brown, a junior from Lake Winnebago majoring in English who is coordinating the trip for Ravens Respect Life. “We’ll be carrying the banner at the front of over half a million pro-lifers from across the country, which we’re so honored about.”
The March for Life is held each year in opposition to Roe vs. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in a decision handed down on Jan. 22, 1973. The rally begins at noon Wednesday on the National Mall and is followed by a march up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill.
Benedictine College President Stephen Minnis said he couldn’t be prouder about the role his students are playing.
“Our students are really pumped up about it,” he said. “Almost a quarter of our students will be traveling in a bus, 24 hours both ways, and taking off three days of school. It’s a real labor of love for them.”
Minnis said Benedictine students have participated in the march since 1985, and he’s been told it is the largest group from the farthest distance. “No group this large travels as far as we do,” he said.
The group plans to arrive in Washington this afternoon. On Wednesday, several dozen members of the Benedictine contingent will carry the banner at the front of the march.
“I admire the passion of these young people,” Minnis said. “They believe that abortion is the civil rights issue of the day. They are willing to spend their hard-earned money and take time out of class and spend 48 hours on a bus to be a witness for their beliefs.”
Brown said she contacted the president of the March for Life last June and put in a request to lead this year’s event.
The Benedictine group will be joined by about 30 students from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Emporia State University in Emporia, Kan., and Newman University in Wichita, Brown said.
“That’s a big part of the trip for us, is being able to reach out and build connections with other pro-life student groups,” she said.
Others from the Kansas City area also will attend the march, including groups from the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas is sending three buses and 158 people, most of them high school students from parish youth groups or Catholic high schools, said spokeswoman Rose Hammes.
Hammes said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and the youth office staff would try to line up the students behind the Benedictine group for the march because they want them all to march together. However, she said, “This will be a challenge.”
The Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese sent four buses and about 200 people of all ages from local parishes, said spokesman Jack Smith.
Brown said the journey marks the largest student trip in the college’s history.
“We have a reputation for sending big groups to the march,” she said. “Two years ago, we sent four buses. Last year, we sent seven.”
But it’s not just the size of the group that’s impressive, Brown said.
“One of the things for me that’s really inspirational about this trip is that it’s always been organized by students,” she said. “That really says something about our student body.”