WASHINGTON — As Christmas approaches, colleges are already making plans to travel to Washington for the annual March for Life in January.

At Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., Jenny Ryan, director of campus ministry, sees students feeling very strongly after the election this year.

“A lot are coming into my office upset,” she explained. “We’re spreading the message of hope — God has not abandoned us; he’s fighting the good fight and needs us to join to preserve the sanctity of life.”

She said more students than ever are signing up for the school’s bus ride to the Jan. 22 March for Life.

The entire student body of Christendom College, over 400 strong, will fill several buses in a caravan from their Front Royal, Va., campus to the march.

According to Christendom spokesman Niall O’Donnell, the majority of faculty and staff accompany them. O’Donnell said that after the recent election, “Students are aware and eager to take action.”

About 300 students at The Catholic University of America officially signed up for 2008’s March for Life. At the same time, the school opened their gym as cohost with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for an overnight stay before the event for 1,500 marchers coming from across the country, according to Peggy Morris of Catholic University’s campus ministry office.

Again this year, the entire student body of Magdalen College in Warner, N.H. — 65 students plus chaperones — will board buses, stay overnight with host families from Jesus the Divine Word Church in Huntingtown, Md., then make their presence felt at the march the next day, said Terese Rennie, Magdalen’s assistant dean of students.

“I told them over and over again we’re going to be there right after the inauguration,” Rennie said. “They realize the value of being there this year and know that with a lot of prayers and going, we’re trying to make a difference.”

At Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, senior Emily Espinola, vice president of Students for Life, says this year’s march is again turning out big numbers of students. Last year, about 350 went by bus, with an equal number going by car; they were later joined by faculty and a big alumni group. Close to 1,000 Franciscan students, faculty and alumni attend the march each year.

“We had early sign-ups this year so we could get as many students as possible,” she said. That included an extra week of sign-ups and plans to fill at least seven or eight busses, hopefully more.

“They are worried FOCA could hurt the pro-life movement the most,” she said of the Freedom of Choice Act that President-elect Obama has promised to sign. “They want to have a presence in Washington, D.C.”

Staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.

Info: MarchForLife.org