The Class of 2002 at the Franciscan University of Steubenville received a surprise visit at their Undergraduate Commencement exercises on May 11, 2002. Norma McCorvey and Sandra Cano, the plaintiffs of the landmark 1973 Supreme Court abortion decisions Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton, were present as guests to honor the graduates. They were invited by Fr. Frank Pavone, Founding Director of Priests for Life, who received a Doctorate in Christian Letters Honoris Causa from the University.
Fr. Frank addressed the graduates, telling them that their mission was not simply to fight abortion or to speak against it, but to end it. He called for a proper understanding of the "consistent ethic of life," which is compatible with placing urgent priority on the tragedy of abortion, as the US Bishops point out in their revised Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities (2001).
"There are some among you who are being called to dedicate yourselves full-time to the pro-life cause. If you sense that you have this call, now is the time to respond. You will never find a more urgent cause of justice," Fr. Frank told the graduates.
After the ceremonies, Norma and Sandra were joined by Fr. Frank and Fr. Mike Scanlan, TOR, Chancellor of the University, for a visit and prayer at the Tomb of the Unborn Child, located on the campus, where several aborted babies are buried.
Regarding the degree bestowed on Fr. Frank, Fr. Terence Henry, TOR, President, said, "Franciscan University is so proud to honor Fr. Frank Pavone. He realizes in everything he does and stands for that all life comes from God and thus has a sacred character." Fr. Scanlan added, "Fr. Pavone is doing such an important service for the Church. He has been remarkable in his initiatives and leadership in the pro-life cause."