Crusaders for Life Represents UD at National March for Life
Date published: Feb. 18, 2020
The annual National March for Life took place in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 24 — and
for the first time, Crusaders for Life — UD’s largest student organization — represented
the university there in an official capacity. Forty students, including 25 freshmen,
made the trip; this number became 45 total in the UD group because they were accompanied
by Campus Minister Shelby (Flood) Ponikiewski, BA ’15, and her husband, Trevor, and
joined by alumnus and former CFL president Andrew Collart, BA ’19, and his brother
The trip involved a lot of planning, beginning as far back as last summer. CFL got
approval from Student Affairs on Oct. 2 and held their first fundraiser Oct. 5. Much
like for Alternative Spring Break, participation in the trip involved an application
and interview process. The officers did not turn anyone away, but some students did
decide not to go once they learned more about what the trip would entail, including
missing two days of classes and staying at a rectory in a D.C. neighborhood somewhat
far from the location of the rally and march.
Because so much planning had to happen so quickly, CFL Treasurer Mary Kate Tomassi,
BA ’20, recruited her mother to help make phone calls to find a place to stay; the
travel agent UD uses for the Rome Program booked the group on a flight that left Dallas/Fort
Worth that Thursday morning, Jan. 23, and returned on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Some students, like CFL President Kateri Remmes, BA ’21, an English major, had been
to the National March for Life before (this was actually her 10th time); some, like
mathematics major Tomassi and theology major Tatiana Rios, BA ’23, had been to marches
in other cities but not the D.C. march; and some, like Spanish and education major
Kate Frediani, BA ’23, had never been to an event like this at all.
Frediani said that as a high school sophomore and junior, she had been pro-life in
name but not in action, but then she had set out to learn more about the movement
and what it stood for; her senior year of high school, she started a pro-life club,
but being part of Crusaders for Life has been eye-opening because it is such a well-established
group. Rios, meanwhile, is a Catholic convert; she did not grow up in a religious
household and for a long time did not even know what abortion was. In high school,
she started a pro-life club and last summer attended a pro-life camp at UD.
For Rios, the most striking part of participating in the National March for Life was
seeing how many people were there, coming together to try to make change happen.
“We were praying the rosary with 1,000 people,” she said. “And it struck me, too,
how outnumbered the protestors were, and the anger in them versus the joy that radiated
through us. We were peaceful, and they tended to be hateful. I did see another student
interact with a pro-choice woman, and they did so with such peace.”
Frediani, Remmes and 14 others from the UD group attended the National Pro-life Summit
on Saturday. For Frediani, the summit and also the experience of the march as a whole,
seeing how many students were there, who wanted to be there, were the most memorable parts of the trip. For Remmes, it was seeing
the new members of CFL who hadn’t experienced anything like the march before.
“Seeing it through their eyes, looking down from Capitol Hill at the sheer number
of people — that was significant for me,” she said.
“I know there are a lot of young people involved in the pro-life movement,” said Tomassi,
“but seeing how many people there were, and especially young people, was really amazing.
I remember seeing just hoards of people who hadn’t been at the rally pouring into
She noted that while there were probably well over half a million people there, she
only saw three news cameras. President Donald Trump spoke at the rally; he is the
first president ever to do so.
Aside from all of the people they encountered in the march, the students were struck
by the generosity of the parish that hosted them and the connections fostered in their
own group when they all gathered together the night before the march, going around
the room and each sharing why they had come.
“People really started to open up, even those who had been shy at first, and we all
had such different reasons for being there,” said Tomassi. “There was both a variety
and a similarity to the stories.”
Tomassi also particularly appreciated the opportunities to share with others outside
of their group or the movement why they were there, to expand the knowledge of the
pro-life movement and what it means. One such encounter was a conversation between
CFL Social Media Officer Erin Quinn, BA ’21, and one of the Uber drivers who transported
“In some sense, we’re history makers,” added Remmes. “We hope to be the generation
that ends abortion.”
The first two photos are from the send-off President Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., BA '82
MA '83, gave the students before their departure.
Photos from the march are courtesy of Kateri Remmes.