Hillsdale College for Life has started a biweekly prayer ministry to bring awareness to the issue of abortion.
Senior HCFL Presidet Kathleen Russo explained the addition to the club’s portfolio of activities as “a necessary part of HCFL’s work to promote the value of life.” By formally recognizing the faith-based aspect of the club in this way, HCFL can more accurately and honestly meet its goal to “unify” the student body through advocating for the sanctity of human life. The meetings will happen twice a month on Sundays at 1:15 p.m. in the formal lounge.
Sophomore Bryce Asberg, a club board member, echoed the need for spiritual guidance.
“Our efforts to promote the sanctity of life are not going to succeed apart from God, so it seemed like a good idea to set aside time to pray over these issues,” he said.
The HCFL’s leaders said the perceived change isn’t so much of a shift in ideals as a formality.
Russo addressed concerns that the club may become too “cliquey” or exclusive, and said a primary goal of the club is to “reach out to all the various campus faith groups,” and encourage political involvement and activism.
“Prayer has always been an element of what we do. Whether it is with 40 Days for Life or sidewalk counseling, there has always been a large Christian presence in the movement,” Russo said.
According to their mission statement, 40 Days for Life is a pro-life campaign with “a vision to access God’s power through prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil to end abortion.” Sidewalk counseling is a less formal way to spread awareness through outreach and abortion education, where volunteers stand outside of abortion centers to speak with women and passersby.
HCFL also aims to fortify student’s pro-life opinions through exposure to secular and scientific support for the issue. Russo said she believes, when it comes to arguing against abortion, the scientific support for life beginning in the womb outweighs biblical evidence.
“Students should never be satisfied with justifying their pro-life convictions purely based on their religious beliefs, and it is the goal of the HCFL board to arm them with all the knowledge necessary to be able to intelligently defend the science behind it,” she said.
Russo hopes the ministry will cause students to both question and justify their beliefs, as well as fortify them with multifaceted arguments. She said she believes HCFL represents a movement in the right direction that can serve as a model for other schools and organizations in the future.
“I don’t expect mountains to move, but I do hope that the issue of abortion moves a little closer to the forefront of our campus’ mind,” Russo said.
Russo said she isn’t afraid to dream big in terms of what HCFL can accomplish in the future.
“My dream is the chapel packed full of students once a month praying for the sanctity of life — and I don’t think that is too absurd to wish for if we truly take our faith seriously,” she said.
The prayer group currently has 10 – 15 people and is growing. Both HCFL club leaders and members hope prayer meetings can be a place of “connection, unity, and understanding,” rather than conflict.
Manocchio said the ministry has a “very flexible format,” including an opening passage of scripture, an intercessory prayer, and a closing prayer. The rest of the meeting is determined by what group members want to pray for that day.
One feature of the club Manocchio finds especially valuable is the diversity of prayer during meetings, indicating the variety of issues within the pro-life movement.
“We pray for everything from the unborn and pregnant mothers, to pro-life politicians and blessings for the organizations that spend each day fighting abortion,” Manocchio stated.
A detailed list of prayer requests describing local and national pro-life issues is available for students who aren’t as familiar with the pro-life movement, Asberg said. After choosing an issue, students are encouraged to pray aloud or silently.
“It’s whatever they’re comfortable with,” he said.