TAC chaplain inspires students to attend Walk for Life West Coast

News from the Trenches

On Jan. 22, 2005, 6,000 peaceful pro-lifers faced a tidal wave of opposition in San Francisco. The occasion was the first Walk for Life West Coast. Pro-abortion demonstrators, egged on by the political establishment of San Francisco, behaved in such an obnoxious manner that even the liberal San Francisco Chronicle was compelled to notice the “taunts, jeers, and insults” hurled at the pro-lifers. Within six years, by 2011, the crowd of 6,000 had grown into a crowd of 50,000 pro-lifers, according to KTVU TV. The 2012 Walk, to be held Jan. 21 at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, may be the largest yet.

The success of the Walk for Life West Coast indicates that it answers a deeply felt need within pro-lifers, especially among the young. But it is also true that young people need guidance and assistance, perhaps even to make it to the event. One who has been quietly influential by his support and inspiration is Fr. Cornelius Buckley, SJ. For the past eight years, Fr. Buckley has served, says the school’s webpage, as the “beloved head chaplain” of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula. 

CalCatholic had a chance to speak with Fr. Buckley about the Walk for Life. Here is a transcript of that interview:

Cal Catholic: Father, you’ve spent a lot of time serving in San Francisco. Are you surprised to see the nation’s second largest pro-life event held there?

No. Nothing surprises me about San Francisco! In fact, it is an ideal place for so much. You know, it has a bad reputation but people do not realize all the good that goes on there. Hardly anyone knows, for instance, that it is home to two separate orders of cloistered nuns. And look at Pat Daly, the president of Archbishop Riordan High School and his staff. They have opened their facilities so that over 100 of our students will have a place to sleep at this year’s Walk for Life. I don’t know what we would have done without him!

CalCatholic: TAC has been involved with the Walk for Life right from the beginning. Tell us about that.

I think our school’s participation is wonderful. Thomas Aquinas teaches about 350 students and more than 250 attend the Walk for Life each year. It’s a real pilgrimage for them — they bring sleeping bags and sleep on the floor in various churches and schools. They come in buses and they share cars. Many of them attend Eucharistic Adoration, which is always held the night before the Walk for Life at Saints Peter and Paul. And of course there is a chance for some fun and games as they experience the city following the Walk. I have noticed that when they return there is a real difference. They have a real understanding of life and the importance of the right to life. These young people are our ‘salvation.’ And it’s not just Thomas Aquinas College. Both Cal and Stanford have sent delegations to the Walk for Life. This year we have sort of partnered with a pro-life group of students from the University of California at Santa Barbara, led by Deacon Chris. He’s great. USF students have attended as well.

CalCatholic: Will you be attending the 2012 Walk, Father?

Of course! I have attended the Walk every year. I usually drive up with a couple of kids. I no longer sleep on the floor, though!

While Fr. Buckley did not mention it, CalCatholic has learned that July 31, 2012 will mark the 50th Anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. The TAC website has a page devoted to Fr. Buckley’s anniversary. The text indicates the regard in which he is held: “The author ofWhen Jesuits Were Giants, Fr. Buckley is himself a ‘giant’ to those who have had the privilege of knowing him during his five decades of service to Christ and the Church. Ordained as a Jesuit in 1962, he has spent most of his life with young Catholics as a teacher, administrator, chaplain, and friend. One can hear the echo of his footsteps in the halls of the University of Santa Clara, Gonzaga University, St. Ignatius High School, and the University of San Francisco. Having served at Thomas Aquinas College since 2004, he is an integral part of the lives of the students, offering them the sacraments, spiritual direction, and always a lively wit.”

The college has also established the Fr. Buckley Scholarship Fund. The fund will support qualified students who wish to attend TAC, but who need financial assistance. Contributions to the fund will be distributed annually.

“Fr. Buckley has touched so many lives and brought so many young people closer to Christ,” says Paul J. O’Reilly, vice president for development at Thomas Aquinas College. “His friends and family could think of no better way to celebrate his golden jubilee than to create a scholarship that will continue to bless the lives of young people for decades to come.”

To learn more about the 2012 Walk for Life West Coast, Click Here.

To support the Fr. Buckley Scholarship fund, Click Here.



Posted Friday, January 06, 2012 7:46 AM By Camille
The Pro aborts are nervously waiting for the Pro Life Walkers to show up in S.F. There are flags on Market St light poles proclaiming SF to be a pro choice city. As we used to sing at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Daly City..An army of youth, flying the standard of truth, we are fighting for Christ our King. Heads held high, Catholic Action our cry and the cross our only sword.

Posted Friday, January 06, 2012 8:06 AM By Tracy
Fr. Buckley is a beautiful priest. I knew him when he was a chaplain at the hospital where I worked. He would go about his service to the patients day and night in a very quiet, cheerful and unassuming manner. I believe that many people he met there owe their eternal salvation to this humble priest. I didn’t realize until after a couple of years of knowing him how accomplished he really was. The truth is, no one there knew this about him. I was so pleased for him and the students of STAC when he was made the chaplain of that college.

Posted Friday, January 06, 2012 8:46 AM By jp
It is so important for religious people, especially Catholics, to give witness to political life and rallies such as the walk for life. We are called to be leaven in the culture.

Posted Friday, January 06, 2012 11:07 AM By Blake Konczal
Father Buckley is an amazing man of grace. It is heartening to read of his accomplishments at TAC. He went through hell from his Jesuit superiors during the USF – Saint Ignatius Institute debacle. They even went so far as to deny him the right to say mass at USF. Men like Fr. Buckley, and Fr. Fessio, are both suffering servants who eventually…succeeded!

Posted Friday, January 06, 2012 2:10 PM By Maryanne Leonard
Thomas Aquinas College is a uniquely wonderful, honorable, and truly Catholic four-year college, and Father Buckley is a blessing himself, a wonderful chaplain for TAC. I encourage you to help your kids religiously with their catechesis, their studies, and their extracurricular enrichment and hope and pray they will be admitted to this outstanding educational institution, a source of pride to beautiful Ventura County, to our state, our nation, and Catholics everywhere.

Posted Friday, January 06, 2012 4:34 PM By Elizabeth
Speaking as a 4th generation San Franciscan……. San Francisco is a PRO-LIFE City, just ask all the immigrants that helped building the City and had many children! My Grandmother had 14 children and I wouldn’t be on this earth if she had aborted my Mother, would I?? Please ‘pro-choice’ people, return to where you were brought up, and leave San Francisco alone…..because us natives are not leaving and we will stay and hold the fort.

Posted Sunday, January 08, 2012 7:19 AM By Anne T.
Thank you for this information, Cal Catholic, it helps us to know what truly good causes we can support and who are involved.

Posted Sunday, January 08, 2012 11:43 PM By JanJan
Though not an exclusively Catholic event, if you want to see the Church’s fresh young face, be in San Francisco for the Walk for Life West Coast. Bring your teens and watch as they experience the jeering crowds while proclaiming God’s truth. Important that they learn to pray for those who hate them, and in SF, they will meet them, face to face. Life changing.

Posted Monday, January 09, 2012 7:43 PM By Thomas Sundaram
I am a graduate of TAC living in the Bay Area, and every year that it was possible I have walked for life with my school. I intend also to do so this year. Every year, the protesters come out in force: men and women dressed as nuns with bleeding uteri, teenagers flashing their genitalia as their approving (and loud) handlers walk alongside the WFL, banging drums and shouting “keep your rosaries off our ovaries!” and other inane, misdirected slogans. The year before I first went, they threw water balloons filled with red food coloring, in a perverse imitation of the aborted children whose snuffing-out they supported. I was given the impression that it was quite possible, the year I first walked, that there would be a fight; thankfully, the SFPD did a grand job of protecting our right to assemble, and the WFL coordinators take great pains to keep it all nonviolent. I am proud of my school for always having led the charge, and I am proud of San Francisco for denying the claim that the life of the innocent is not precious enough to protect.