Briar Cliff students part of pro-life movement
By JAMIE MCCLURE, Globe intern
Oct. 4, 2007
At Briar Cliff University, a pro-life group was started four years ago and it
has been increasingly trying to raise awareness about various Right to Life
issues and gain student involvement.
According to Sister Janet May, the director of campus ministry, "The
Right to Life group, or the pro-life group on campus is rooted in the Peace and
Justice Committee." The committee has been in existence four many years at
"When I came to Briar Cliff in 2003, I made efforts to get students
involved again," said Sister May.
The pro-life group meets at 8 p.m. every Thursday in the Gantz room on
campus. There are 24-26 students who attend the meetings. At least 100 students
have expressed interest in Right to Life or pro-life issues. Many of the
students who attend the meetings are freshmen and sophomores.
The issues discussed at the meetings range from anti-abortion to euthanasia
and capital punishment.
"From a standpoint of campus ministry, it is to bring all issues on the
quality of life to the attention of the students," said Mark Westrich,
assistant campus minister. "What we are doing as believers in responding to
the horrible injustices in Darfur and other developing Third World nations is
another important aspect that we try to bring the students attention to."
Westrich is the faculty advisor for the pro-life group.
"My goal and wish as faculty advisor is to be able to help lead students
to be a self-director as best as they can," said Westrich. "We are
working on instructing the students as well as spreading the work-loads so that
one person isn't doing all the leg work."
He also said they are incorporating views, ideas, input and energies of
everyone in the group to continue to grow spiritually.
The student coordinator for the group is sophomore Tony Decker.
According to Decker, "When I came to Briar Cliff in 2006 as a freshman,
I was disappointed to learn that there was not a very active pro-life group, and
I began to pray to ask God if there was any way I could make a difference. I
began asking around to see what it would take to start something like a pro-life
He also said the peace and justice group at BCU had a pro-life stance, but
they weren't strictly centered on abortion. He added that the Briar Cliff
pro-life group's main concentration is abortion.
"Our first event as a group was Pro-life T-shirt Day on April 27 of this
year," said Decker. "We wore the shirts, were very successful and
caught attention from everyone on campus."
The pro-life group is working on a couple of projects. There is a bulletin
board promoting peace and justice outside of the BCCares and the campus ministry
office is being redesigned. The redesign will be dealing with pro-life issues
for the month of October.
The students are also in the process of putting together an idea for a
demonstration to take place on National Pro-Life Day and Vigil Prayers at
Trinity Heights on Oct. 22. Westrich also said there are three students
interested in going to the pro-life rally in January in Washington D.C.
"Every year that the pro-life group has been here on campus, we have
sponsored one of the Right to Life prayers at Trinity Heights," said Sister
Janet. "This year, the pro-life group is giving more emphasis on the
abortion issue; and that aspect has not been as active before. However, that is
not the only 'life issue'. We encourage students to see 'pro-life' as a seamless
garment...involving all issues that deal with respect for life for people from
womb to tomb."
Along with the prayers and demonstrations, the pro-life group has begun
discussing the option of speakers coming to the Briar Cliff campus.
"We are having a discussion about whether or not to have a speaker talk
to our group alone, or have the group bring a state or federal known individual
come to Briar Cliff to address the campus," said Westrich. "It's still
in the works."
There are other groups at Briar Cliff that are focused on pro-life issues as
well. A few of them are the Knights of Columbus and Catholic Daughters of
America. According to Westrich, these groups were well known last year because
they were very active on campus.
"I joined the pro-life group at Briar Cliff and I try to remain involved
because of a personal life experience," said Natalie Scott, senior theology
major. "I became pregnant when I was nineteen. I had been pro-life before
but being suddenly faced with drastic life changes forced me to start looking at
the situation in a different way. I ended up giving my baby up for adoption and
now I am there for not only the babies but for the girls, for the women who are
going through such a desperate time in their life."
Westrich said that pro-life is not strictly defined as an anti-abortion group
as much as upholding all the ways of the true respect of life and its issues.
"My primary reason to be involved in the group is because it's an
extremely emotional issue and it's something that needs to be discussed by our
students," said Westrich. "We have a very diverse campus and how we
bring this issue to campus and how we interact with one another about this issue
will speak a lot about what we can get done on this campus. My responsibility as
the advisor is to help our students understand."
According to Scott, "If I have any responsibility with this pro-life
group, it is to represent women's interests and to make sure that they are not
set off to the side in our race to save their children."