Franciscan University is unique in many ways, but especially for its unwavering pro-life voice. The Students for Life (SFL) club on campus is known for organizing Saturday trips to the abortion clinic and the annual school trip to D.C. for the March for Life. What many people may not know is that the club is run by only five people. However, this is all about to change. SFL is expanding in exciting and significant ways.
SFL is incorporating two outreaches called Life Values and Core Values. Sophomore Cassidy Roderick, president of SFL, said that the changes are in response to “the call the Vatican is making about what it means to be pro-life. We look at popes like JP II and even Pope Francis where they’re calling for us to embrace the dignity of the human person,” which is more encompassing than only the issue of abortion.
Life Values Outreach, which began as its own program in October 2016, is designed to train Franciscan University students to give talks to middle and high schools in their home diocese over summer and Christmas breaks. The organization partnered with the Catechetical Institute to make online training videos for students to view on their own time to learn the content.
Through this program, students will give speeches based on one of four topics: the dignity of the human person, relationships, theology of suffering and hope for eternal life, which Roderick sees as being “the heart of what it means to be pro-life, and it’s those four topics that when misunderstood, that’s when we get all the other issues.”
Core Values Outreach also began separately from SFL at the end of last semester. This outreach prepares students for apologetic dialogues with other college students. Beginning next semester, students – equipped with information from online training videos, club meetings and a business card with a list of prompting questions – can board university vans to campuses in the Pittsburgh area to interact with other students and discuss life topics.
The business cards will have three questions: “Where does human dignity come from?” “What defines quality of life?” and “Is there meaning behind suffering?” On the back side of the card is a website where people may find the answers. According to Roderick, these questions are important because they are more open questions that are not already emotionally charged, yet “We’re answering questions that people ask in the depths of their hearts,” she said.
These two outreaches alone are major undertakings, so to make them possible, SFL is changing from a leadership team of five people to a leadership team of six departments. “We’re a big club, and so we want to ensure everybody has their place and has the ability to express themselves in the way that is most beneficial to the program,” said Roderick.
Early last month, SFL announced these coming changes, and many students were excited to get involved. “The impact that we’re looking for is a kind of reactivation of campus and of our students,” said Roderick. “We’re looking to challenge them on what it means for them to be pro-life. Because it’s not just going to the March for Life once a year, you know? Now it’s standing for the worth and the dignity of the human person not only in moral issues, but also in the entirety of their lives.”
With the anticipated growth, the club wanted to make sure that the groups stays “united and rooted in Christ.” Consequently, one of their teams is a spirituality team, a group of students working closely with a group of friars and religious. Each of the other departments will recieve a student from the spirituality team to guide them and lead them in prayer, explained Roderick.
These changes were in progress this semester, but they will be fully initiated next semester. Students are encouraged to become involved. Roderick called for students to come to the information meetings next semester and be initiated as members of the club. Though most of the leadership positions have been filled, “if (students are) interested in getting really involved, we want them; regardless of their major or what their interest is, we have a place for them somewhere.”
So far, SFL has received amazing responses in what was barely an idea less than a year ago. Because of the incredible expansion, “we have to remember that this is God’s work we’re doing; it’s not our own,” said Roderick. “This is something that God has asked us to do, and so it’s our honor to serve Him and to work for His glory and to help proclaim Him to youth back at our home diocese and college students in our area where we are called to bring the light of Christ to those closest to us. And so that’s what these programs will hopefully be doing.”