Last week California Catholic Daily interviewed the great Fr. Cornelius Buckley, chaplain of Thomas Aquinas College. The beloved priest has been a supporter of the Walk for Life right from the beginning:

They sleep on the floor at churches and schools
TAC chaplain inspires students to attend Walk for Life West Coast

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.

(Note: to see how great the TAC students are, and how well Fr. Buckley has taught them, check out this video of their response to the vile behavior of opponents at last year’s Walk.)

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 of When 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.