The University of Mary led the 2017 March for Life in Washington D.C.

BISMARCK, ND — Four motor coach buses of University of Mary students, faculty and President Monsignor James Shea are ready for the 1,500-mile trek east across the United States to the nation’s capital for the 2019 March For Life.

Shea attends the March for Life every year, and has been since a very young age.

“Growing up, my parents made sure our family was always involved in the pro-life movement,” added Shea. “We frequently attended the North Dakota marches in Bismarck to mark the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, which were invariably in the bitter cold. I also gave speeches in defense of life at local parishes and for high school debate competitions. When I began studying for the priesthood in Washington, D.C., I was able to see the March for Life firsthand—to see how it brought people of faith and good will from across the nation together to defend life. I didn’t miss a March during my years there. My time at the North American College in Rome during the last years of Pope St. John Paul II was also very formative. His

UMary President Monsignor James Shea with Cardinal Timothy Dolan and hundreds of Mary students at March for Life

frequent exhortations against fear and the ‘culture of death’ really formed my priesthood and prepared me for work in Catholic secondary and university education. It’s been a glad honor to bring our students at the University of Mary to the March each year so that they too can grow in confidence and witness to a culture of life.  For me, the most beautiful experience is to see their faces radiate with hope and joy as they march with thousands of others for the cause of life.”

Four buses packed with pro-life pilgrims and the Pro-Life Generation will be practicing chants and cheers, singing songs and studying along the way to the East Coast on a 30-hour journey.

Cassandra Johnson of Moorhead, MN, is only a freshman at the University of Mary, but she’s already making her fifth trip to the March for Life. She started at a young age when she witnessed the culture of death firsthand.

UMary students leading thousands of pro-life supporters at 2017 March for Life in Washington DC.

“I have experienced standing outside of my hometown abortion clinic and I have watched young women walk in,” said Johnson, who’s majoring in psychology and minoring in Catholic studies. “I have seen the indifference, pain, sorrow, and anger that abortion can bring first-hand. One time when I was walking to pray at the clinic an escort came up to me and offered to walk me in. My heart dropped into my stomach because I realized they thought I was going there for an abortion. Young girls like me, at that time age 15, were going to get abortions. I vowed from that moment on that I would not just sit by and watch the culture of death take over but that I would stand up for my brothers and sisters in the womb in any way that I can. I march so that I can protect my siblings in the womb.”

“Young people have a bad reputation right now,” said Dalton Guinn, a senior from Stevens Point, WI, who is making his sixth trip to the March for Life. “They say we’re lazy, carefree, and unmotivated. That can’t be any further from the truth. This year the university is taking 200 people to the March for Life. Nights of limited sleep and bus rides filled with homework. No one going to the March for Life is lazy, carefree and unmotivated. We are committed to something bigger than ourselves. We are motivated to fight for the right to life. We care enough to stop our busy lives as students, drop anything and take a 30-hour bus ride to Washington, D.C. to make it known that what is happening is wrong and change is in order. Every student going on this trip knows that they’ll be on the bus for 60 hours, but that doesn’t stop us. Our love for the cause outweighs any obstacle.”

Hundreds of UMary students posing for photo on the steps of the US Supreme Court after leading the 2017 March for Life.

Wednesday’s send-off includes the traditional all-campus Mass at 10 a.m. in the Our Lady of the Annunciation Chapel. During that time all the travelers will be present for a special prayer blessing before departing at 4 p.m. Thursday includes a stop in South Bend, IN, for Mass on University of Notre Dame’s campus before arriving in Washington, D.C. that evening. Friday, The Most Reverend David Kagan, bishop of the Bismarck Diocese, will celebrate Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. The University of Mary contingent will then gather at 11 a.m. (Eastern Time) on the National Mall for the rally featuring March for Life President Jeanne Mancini, a bipartisan congressional speaker lineup, Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, and many more. The march down Constitution Avenue towards the US Supreme Court where abortion was decriminalized in America with the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade begins at 1 p.m. (ET).

Over 100,000 Americans are expected to gather for this year’s March for Life, the largest annual pro-life event in the world. This year’s theme, “Unique from Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-science” focuses on how scientific advancements reveal the humanity of the unborn child from the moment of conception.

University of Mary students proudly lead hundreds of thousands of pro-life supporters at the 2017 March for Life in Washington DC.

University of Mary students attracted national media attention when they and thousands of march-goers were snowbound 54 hours on Pennsylvania turnpike in buses lined up for miles returning home from the 2016 March for Life. Kaitlyn Fuglseth of Fertile, MN, was a freshman at the time and attending her first March for Life event.

“My first experience at the March for Life was life-changing,” she said. “While many may hear of this experience and dread something like it, it was one of my most memorable experiences at UMary, if not throughout my entire life. Being stuck on the bus for that long made me realize one important thing that Msgr. Shea has told every student at UMary since day one: that my life isn’t about me. And being stuck on a bus surrounded by nothing but snow, stranded vehicles, and my fellow classmates made me realize that the purpose of this trip was not for me, for my comfort, for my sleep, or for my joy, but for the joy and life of others—particularly the unborn. It also showed me that living a life for others instead of for myself isn’t all that miserable after all. In fact, I would venture to say that it’s filled with more happiness, more peace, more joy, more love, and more fun. There is an intoxicating joy that flows when we choose, in any moment, to live our life for others.”

This past year, Mancini hired University of Mary alumna Katrina Gallic to be part of the March for Life staff as the special assistant for communications. Gallic riveted the crowd and nation in 2017 when she had the honor of speaking at the rally just before the University of Mary led the March for Life that year.

“It was a beautiful and surreal experience,” said Jose Jimenez, a senior secondary math education major at the University of Mary who was with Gallic at the march that year with over 600 of their classmates. “Seeing the amount of people gathered towards the protection of life and being able to lead that effort in the front of the march made it a very special moment and memory in my heart. We are called to advocate for the truth. We can find this truth through reason or divine revelation, and this debate of the value of life in which the Pro-Life Generation is fighting for is true. So, it is our duty to pass on these values and this truth to our kids, and thus, future generations.”

The March for Life has been held annually in Washington for 46 years. It is a bipartisan, interdenominational gathering of hundreds of thousands of Americans who travel to the nation’s capital to testify to a message that is powerful and life-affirming.

The University of Mary, with just over 3,600 students, has been a part of this March for the last decade.

About the University of Mary

True to its motto “lumen vitae”—the Light of Life—the University of Mary offers education for the whole of life through cutting-edge professional programs grounded in a solid liberal arts tradition.

A Christian, Catholic, Benedictine institution founded in 1959 by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, Mary offers over 60 undergraduate degrees, 14 master’s degrees, and four doctoral programs in Occupational Therapy, Education, Nursing Practice and Physical Therapy. With over 3,600 students, Mary has locations in North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Arizona, Rome and Milan, Italy, and Arequipa, Peru.