Although a great many things have changed in the past 30 years, Franciscan University’s unwavering dedication to the pro-life movement is not one of them.
The centerpiece of said movement, the Tomb of the Unborn Child, was recently honored with a ceremony led by the Rev. Shawn Roberson, T.O.R. The event recognized the 30-year anniversary of the entombment of babies Francis and Clare, both buried at Franciscan University on Jan. 22, 1987. Shortly after that day, a flame was placed at the head of the Tomb, one which will never go extinguished until Roe v. Wade is overturned and abortion is again made illegal.
Roberson, university chaplain, framed the ceremony not so much as one of rededication as one of honor.
“It wasn’t really in the strictest sense a rededication,” said Roberson. He said that once a location is blessed, it remains dedicated perpetually.
“It was more of a manifestation of the celebration of that blessing,” said Roberson,“and reiterating the pro-life stance that the university has taken.”
After the 12:30 p.m. Mass on Sunday, Jan. 22, a procession began at Christ the King Chapel, ending after a short walk at the Tomb of the Unborn Child, just east of the Portiuncula Chapel.
The procession itself was a witness “to life and to the goodness of life,” said Roberson, “in that we are a pro-life culture here at Franciscan University.”
The idea behind such a ceremony arose from a conversation Roberson held with Robert McNamara, head of the Center for Leadership on campus.
Roberson said, “(McNamara) let me know that the thirtieth anniversary of the entombment was coming up, and was wondering what we could do.”
Roberson said that the tomb’s importance stems from the movement it represents.
“The tomb is a physical presence,” said Roberson. “We have dedicated that segment of our campus in honor of the unborn, and in honor of actual children who have died because of abortion.”
The physical reminder of this country’s abortion victims continues to inspire young adults to voice their concerns regarding today’s “Culture of Death,” a society Roberson said is currently characterized by abortion.
Nonetheless, the Tomb of the Unborn Child remains a beacon of hope for all those who frequent its grounds.
Roberson said, “I just love the placement of the tomb.”
Given its relative closeness to both the Nativity scene and to the Portiuncula Chapel, Roberson acknowledges the university’s focus: “Franciscan has taken to heart its pro-life movement.”
Unsurprisingly, the late Rev. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., was involved in building the tomb.
After an employee came up with the idea for the tomb, Scanlan presented the idea for a tomb to university administration, and a sweeping majority decided such a structure had a place on campus.
“Franciscan was a pioneer, and Father Michael was instrumental in getting this all done,” said Roberson.
The Tomb’s widespread effect on Catholic society is “striking,” said Roberson.
Five years after the institution of the Tomb of the Unborn Child, Cardinal John O’Connor visited campus.
“(He) was was so moved by the Tomb that he said it should be in parishes around the nation, that these dedications should be in parishes, and they soon were,” said Roberson.
Despite changing seasons, students, administration, university presidents, even popes, the Tomb has stood resolute on the campus of Franciscan University, a physical reminder of abortion victims in this nation.
The recent honoring of the site only confirms what all Catholics already know to be true: whether in the womb or in the tomb, life is valuable.