By Lou Baldwin

Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – They called it “Pushing the Envelope.” March 30 saw hundreds of students at Holy Family University in Northeast Philadelphia signing red envelopes to be sent to President Barack Obama the next day.

The stamped red envelopes were empty and the back explained why. They read, “This envelope represents one child who died in abortion. It is empty because that life was unable to offer anything to the world. Responsibility begins with conception.”

As part of a nationwide campaign, millions of red envelopes with a similar message on the back were sent to the President from concerned citizens around the country to protest what the administration calls the Freedom of Choice Act, which in fact would limit the freedom to oppose abortion on demand and could limit the freedom of conscience of health care workers.

This legislation could affect the future careers of some of the Holy Family students who signed the envelopes.

“It might affect where I want to work,” said senior nursing major Michelle Begnaud. “I think every baby has a right to be born. They can’t speak for themselves and we need to speak for them.”

Timothy O’Driscoll, a sophomore nursing major, said the act definitely could affect him. “It would take away my conscience and that’s not what I’m looking for,” he said.

Katie Greene, who is a Holy Family graduate teaching theology of the body at adjacent Nazareth Academy High School, crossed the campus to sign a red envelope.

“I think this is great,” she said. “The president should know how many people in this country oppose abortion. This really makes a bold statement.”

Oblate of St. Francis de Sales Father James MacNew, Holy Family’s campus minister, said, “We wanted to jump on this because the Freedom of Choice act would establish abortion as a fundamental right and require taxpayer funding.”

Holy Family’s participation in the Red Envelope Campaign was Father MacNew’s initiative, and he suggested it, he said, because Holy Family “is about the salvation of souls and the dignity of the human person. We try to teach our students that their baptism calls them to action. We try to incarnate our intellectual faith into the real world. We live, we teach, we serve, we worship in union with the magisterium, and we take that out into the market place.”

Holy Family University operates under the sponsorship of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, who also run the academy and nearby Nazareth Hospital.

Sister Noreen Werner, Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement of the University, stopped by to sign an envelope.

“I’m taking a pile of these home with me because I know that our sisters support this,” she said.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.