Pro-life activists from across the country gathered on campus this weekend for the the 13th annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, the largest student-run conference of its kind.
Kevin Sullivan (SFS ’14) and Katie Schmitz (COL ’13) co-directed the event, which attracted about 650 attendants this year.
The conference, sponsored by Georgetown University Right to Life, Catholic Daughters of America, the Knights of Columbus and University Faculty for Life, is held the weekend before the national March for Life, which marks the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Although the conference’s aim is to promote pro-life advocacy, Sullivan emphasized the educational component of the weekend’s events.
“The goal of the conference, in the message of Cardinal O’Connor, is discussion,” he said. “Our conference, while we do attract a lot of activists, is more about educating and discussion.”
The conference featured a Mass for Life Saturday afternoon by Bishop William Lori in DahlgrenChapel and a Fiesta for Life to benefit the Northwest Pregnancy Center in D.C. later that day.
Schmitz stressed that this year’s conference was intended to expand the traditional view of pro-life efforts.
“While the unborn is a very central idea to the pro-life movement, it is not the only aspect of the movement,” she said. “We value life from conception until natural death; that includes genocide and human trafficking and respecting and defending the lives of people who are subject to those sort of things.”
During Sunday’s keynote address, students from Fordham University to the University of Notre Dame Australia helped fill Gaston Hall.
Keynote speaker Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia highlighted the necessity of tolerance toward people with disabilities and the importance of valuing all life.
“The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection or imperfection,” he said. “The real choice is between love and unlove, between courage and cowardice, between trust and fear.”
Chaput also called on Catholics to take political action and vote pro-choice politicians out of office.
“Catholic citizens who take God seriously cannot claim to love their church and then ignore her council on vital public issues that shape our nation’s life,” he said.
Chris Cannataro (MSB ’15), who attended the conference, praised the archbishop’s adherence to Catholic beliefs.
“Archbishop Chaput gave a phenomenal speech,” he said. “He talked about the intrinsic value of life and embodied the values of St. Ignatius of Loyola of setting the world on fire.”
This year’s conference differed from years past in its focus on the political aspect of the abortion debate. For the first time, directors were able to coordinate a congressional panel, featuring Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), and Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.).
“[What we’re doing this year is] trying to gear [the conference] more towards Georgetown students who are political creatures,” Sullivan said.
The congressional panelists talked about their own commitment to pro-life legislation and the strides made toward advancing their ideals.
At the conclusion of Sunday’s events, the Students for Life at the University of Michigan were presented with the Fr. Thomas King, S.J., Award, which included a $1,000 prize. The award, which recognizes pro-life strides made by undergraduate student groups, is named after the former Georgetown professor who co-founded University Faculty for Life in 1989.
GU Right to Life president Joseph Cardone (COL ‘14) estimated that 30 Georgetown students attended the March for