Student pro-life supporters and people of all ages are invited to take part in statewide march for life event at the North Dakota State Capitol Friday, January 29, 2021.

 

BISMARCK, ND — The University of Mary has a very strong history of supporting the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. This year, for the first time in its history, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the March for Life is inviting the University of Mary and millions of other students and groups from across the country to join the cause virtually, Friday, January 29, 2021. According to the March for Life, its 2021 theme, “Together Strong: Life Unites,” inspires an entire generation to unite in defense of lives of the most vulnerable, little ones hidden in the womb.

“The annual rally will take place virtually and we are asking all participants to stay home and join the March for Life virtually,” said Jeanne Mancini, president for the March for Life in a letter to attendees. “We will invite a small group of pro-life leaders from across the country to march in Washington, DC, this year. These leaders will represent pro-life Americans everywhere who, each in their own unique ways, work to make abortion unthinkable and build a culture where every human life is valued and protected.”

Typically, the private Catholic university in Bismarck, ND, takes the 3,000-mile roundtrip bus trek with a contingent of over 200 students. The initial plan for this year, out of safety concerns due to the pandemic, was to fly a smaller group of 30 students and staff to DC. But the plan has changed once more, this time to a small march that can only be viewed online by the masses.

Providentially, the pandemic restrictions have created an even stronger pro-life public presence in North Dakota, thanks to the University of Mary and other statewide organizations. Mary and other entities have teamed up to organize a peaceful North Dakota March for Life Rally at the North Dakota State Capitol. The marchers will be required to socially distance and wear masks. Those unable to attend can listen to it live-streamed on Real Presence Radio by visiting yourcatholicradiostation.com or downloading the app. The event begins with a public Mass celebrated by Bishop Kagan at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at 11 a.m. on Jan. 29. After Mass, groups are invited to march (or drive) to the State Capital front steps to gather at 12:30 p.m. Among the special features of the event will be guest speakers and a moment of silence for the nearly 62 million lives lost since the mandate to legalize abortion in the U.S.

Taking part in the North Dakota March is University of Mary Student-Body Vice President Triston Kosek, a senior and Buffalo, Minnesota, native double-majoring in business communications and politics with a minor in Catholic studies. Kosek believes this is an opportunity for people from all over the state to come together and march peacefully, non-violently and show unity in support for the unborn.

“Taking a stance to preserve life is foundational, and the fact that our university holds firm and does not waver is a blessing and great witness,” added Kosek. “The University of Mary is incredible for developing the human person that recognizes challenges and faces them in the light of virtue. The core of this university is phenomenal and the choice to remain committed to attending the March for Life is a testament to those core values.”

For Kosek, and his classmates Justine Boone, John Brule, and Ben Helget, this would have been their third year attending the national March for Life together since meeting as freshmen at Mary during the 2018-2019 school year. Instead of attending the national March for Life, the four will join thousands of North Dakotans at the State Capitol in Bismarck in defense of the unborn and for the dignity of life. Helget, a Clearwater, MN, native, had planned on making this his fifth trip to DC for the event. His experiences date back to high school when witnessing first-hand Mary’s faithfulness to the sanctity of life as hundreds of students, and their President Monsignor James Shea, led the 2017-2018 March for Life.

“My friend was attending Mary that year and I met up with him and the rest of the students who were leading the March for Life in D.C.,” said Helget.  I remember seeing their huge number of students all wearing their traditional iconic beanies. That’s when I decided to come to Mary as a student and knew I wanted to go on the march. When I initially came to the University of Mary, we four quickly developed a close friendship and it has remained so ever since. We shared our faith convictions and concerns about abortion — and that is what fueled our desire to all go to the marches together. That being said, there is something very redemptive in the bus ride. Throughout the journey each bus takes time praying together and sharing each other’s experiences. So that part of this year’s journey will be different and sadly missed.”

One of the organizers of the North Dakota march is University of Mary’s Assistant Director of Ministry Ed Konieczka.

“COVID has not stopped Planned Parenthood from performing abortions, so we are determined that it won’t stop us from protesting abortions. In addition, there have been brave and committed people at the March for Life every year since the Roe V. Wade decision. And we are gaining ground with the young people of this country. It is imperative that we continue to engage our young people in this issue.”

The 2016 March for Life demonstrated University of Mary’s true commitment to the cause of protecting every unborn baby in the mother’s womb and the dignity of every person. That year, on their way back from the March, two buses filled with students and Shea were caught in a snow storm on the Pennsylvania Turnpike when a semi ahead of them stalled causing hundreds of vehicles, including the University of Mary pilgrims, to be stranded on the highway for 24 hours. Several rosaries, Masses, games, and songs later they were able to continue their trek back home. In 2017, the University of Mary led the March for Life with over 600 proud attendees. That year, March for Life President Jeanne Mancini also asked University of Mary senior Katrina Gallic to be one of the featured speakers alongside Vice President Mike Pence and other dignitaries. Following a powerful speech and later upon graduation, Mancini sought out Gallic for a position with the March for Life organization — where she continues today fighting for the dignity and sanctity of the unborn while carrying on University of Mary’s mission — for life.