BISMARCK, ND — Around 600 students, administrators and friends of the University of Mary are just hours away from descending upon Washington, D.C. to lead the 44th Annual March for Life on Friday, January 27, 2017.

It’s a moment Mary students have been waiting an entire year for, and for some, their entire life: the honor of leading the March for Life event representing the unborn and promoting the dignity of every human life.

Joseph McDonald, a junior from Minneapolis, MN, double majoring in math and Catholic studies, and Mary Montoya, a sophomore communications major from Parker, CO, are first time attendees of the March for Life.

“Attending the March for Life has been a dream of mine,” said Montoya, who started her pro-life movement at her high school. “I am very honored and excited that the University of Mary is leading the march and it is always something I will treasure. I made sure I was on the bus with some of my best friends. It’s truly amazing and a blessing we all get to go.”

“Personally, while it is an honor, I don’t think it matters where you are in line, as long as you get to be there,” said McDonald. “Ultimately, this isn’t about one group or another, or one religion or another. This is about people of all backgrounds marching for life as a human right and that it should be held with the most dignity.”

On Wednesday, January 25, at 10 a.m., in the Our Lady of the Annunciation Chapel, the University of Mary will celebrate this great privilege with a send-off Mass and blessing ceremony and then board the seven buses at 11 a.m. The media is welcome to attend this event before the pilgrims’ journey takes them from Bismarck to the streets of DC. Once they arrive they will attend the Life is VERY Good Rally Thursday. On Friday, they will attend Mass celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan and then head to the National Mall for the opening ceremonies at noon, Eastern Time. The March for Life opening ceremony itinerary features several high profile and respected speakers, including University of Mary senior Katrina Gallic from Sarasota, FL.

“I am very passionate about this issue,” said Gallic, who is attending her third March for Life, but the second in as many years and is majoring in marketing with a double minor in philosophy and Catholic studies. “The right to life is the foundation of all the other rights. So if it’s not protected—none of the other rights can be.”

At 1 p.m. the march begins towards the U.S. Supreme Court and then a meeting with U.S. Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota at the steps of the Capitol.

The University of Mary has garnered tremendous national media attention for being selected to lead the rally and for its strong pro-life stance. Four national news organizations will be marching with the University of Mary and one will be imbedded in one of the buses as they make the 30-hour trek across the country.

Media and the public are welcome to follow their journey on social media with #whywemarch, #LifeAtMary #marchforlife and @umary.