Marchers take to St. Francis campus mall for pro-life event

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Jan. 21—LORETTO, Pa. — Carrying pro-life signs and dressed against bitterly cold temperatures, students, faculty and staff from St. Francis University were joined by community members on Friday for the 9th annual March for Life on the Mountain.

"It's so encouraging to see everyone in the community come together," SFU Students for Life co-President Lydia Martin said.

She and fellow co-President Emily Clark led the group.

"This is a really good opportunity for the local community," Clark said.

The school's tradition is marked by participants praying the rosary at Immaculate Conception Chapel, followed by a march around the campus mall and noon mass.

The local gathering is organized for those who cannot make it to the national rally held in Washington, D.C.

"Our community is committed to pro-life causes," university President Fr. Malachi Van Tassell said.

He was also leading the group 50 or more in the single-digit, breezy weather.

Marchers ranged in age from older participants to younger students, such as Avery Conner, 12, and Eli Cunningham, 14.

The two attend St. Benedict Parochial School in Carrolltown, but were brought Friday to attend the march.

Both said it was important to stand up for their rights and are glad the university organizes the rally.

"It's good for them to hold the event for people who are incapable of going to D.C.," Conner said.

Cunningham agreed.

He added that he thinks "it's wrong to kill babies" and wanted to do his part in standing up against abortion.

"All human life is sacred," Tony Conrad, of Altoona, said.

He marched around the mall carrying a sign with a picture of a fetus on it that read "Is this a choice?" above the image and "Or a Child?" below.

Conrad said he's participated in the school's event before and decided to attend Friday because he "felt a push to be here" and "to stand up for life."

John George and David Brown, both members of the Knights of Columbus, also carried signs that read "Love life. Choose Life."

"I think this is a wonderful idea St. Francis has up here," George said.

Both men noted how difficult it can be to make the trip to Washington, D.C., in the winter.

Second-year graduate student Patrick McCauley also attended the rally as he has every year since enrolling at the university.

At one time he also helped organize the pro-life effort.

McCauley, a Williamsburg native, said the priest at his home parish passed on the concept of sanctity of life to him and he's carried that ever since.

"It's fantastic to have this opportunity," he said.

Despite fewer people than usual because of the weather, McCauley was still pleased with the number of participants this year.