Stranded after blizzard, Twin Cities teens celebrate Mass along Pennsylvania Turnpike

| January 23, 2016 | 10 Comments
Bus Mass

Students from six dioceses celebrate Mass on an altar made of snow on the side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Jan. 23. The students were stranded by the East Coast blizzard after attending the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Courtesy Sarah Herrlin

Some 200 teenagers from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis are stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but are trying to make the best of the situation.

The group was on its way back from Friday’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., when the Blizzard of 2016 stranded their three buses along the side of the road with thousands of other travelers. Instead of burying themselves in their cell phones and complaining to their friends back home, they went to work on sculpting a snow altar and walking up and down the road inviting people in 10 to 15 other buses to attend a noon Mass Jan. 23.

The group’s leader, Bill Dill of the archdiocese’s Office of Marriage, Family and Life, said trying to organize the Mass posed challenges.

“We started with no hosts and no priests,” he said. “We asked everyone to bring hosts, but everyone said they didn’t have any. Someone gave us four they said were extra. We told those we invited that they probably wouldn’t get Communion, but could certainly receive spiritual Communion.”

Dill isn’t sure how many people attended the roadside Mass, which was celebrated by Father Pat Behm from the Sioux City, Iowa, diocese and concelebrated by a handful of other priests. He said students and adults from Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Omaha, Nebraska; Fargo, North Dakota; St. Louis, Missouri; and Erie, Pennsylvania received the Eucharist in a most unusual place.

“The priest broke the Eucharist into the smallest reasonable size pieces,” he said. “In the end every person received Communion.”

One teenage girl said she had chills during the Mass, but not because it was cold.  Many thanked Dill and the group from the Twin Cities.

It is unclear when road crews will remove the snow and reopen the heavily-used stretch of turnpike, and it probably doesn’t concern the group from the archdiocese because they just received supernatural bread for their journey.


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Category: Local News

  • Dominic Deus

    Now this is a *cool* story! Leave it to the young–and many thanks to the priests who celebrated the Mass for the Faithful and most of all, thanks to the young people themselves!

    • Charles C.

      There are so many pieces of bad news, this gives me hope for the future. It is like the blanket of fresh snow blotting out the dark and evil places and promising a holy spring.

      I wish I could spend some time with these young ones, just to enjoy and be edified by the Spirit they have in them.

      “In the end, every person received Communion.” I’m sure they all went away satisfied. All from four hosts. I’m not surprised that the girl said she had the chills during Mass, I’m having them now.

  • Jim Carroll

    Can’t help but wonder if, come spring, someone will set up some kind of marker at the spot.

  • Katie M Zaitz-Fi

    As a Catholic who believes in the respect for all life, I find what these people did in attempting to go to Washington DC was a complete DISRESPECT for life! All weather forecasts predicted a blizzard, many bishops asked for people to stay home. These people put their lives, the lives of the bus drivers and all first responders in jeopardy, by attempting to travel in these bad coditions! This showed a complete lack of respect for life!

    • MNgirl

      I agree. This is not a “good” story but a story of irresponsibility. The National Guard was forced to come out and save them!

    • Charles C.

      After the initial shock, I thought that Katie M Zaitz-Fi and MNgirl were either joking or trolls. However, it may very well be that they are serious and deserve a serious response.

      The busses were stuck because some tractor-trailers were unable to get up a hill. Traffic piled up behind them. The Pennsylvania Turnpike, an essential road which was going to be plowed whether anyone was on it or not, was still open and operating until then. First responders were going to come out to

      • Katie M Zaitz-Fi

        I understand that the tractor-trailer were already on the road, having these additiona buses on the road, was unnecessary and put the lives of everyone on the bus in danger along with the first responders! These additional buses caused further delays in getting the road cleared, but most importantly put the lives of everyone on the buses and first responders in jeopardy unduly. Their actions showed a complete lack of respect for life!

        • fightforgood

          incorrect, stuck traffic is not a war zone, danger is little, time is long.

        • Charles C.

          Dear Katie M Zaitz-Fi,

          You keep saying that the buses’ presence on the turnpike put the lives of all of the passengers at risk, as well as the lives of the road crews. Please explain how this could be. Do you think some other vehicle would come along at 70 m.p.h. and run into the bus? The whole point was that no one was moving. Where do you see an extra risk for the road crews? What you’re suggesting just doesn’t happen. People stuck in the middle of a long line of cars aren’t suddenly killed.

          And your concern that the buses caused additional delay seems to demand an explanation as well. There was a 16-hour delay. How long would the delay have been if the buses weren’t there? 15 hours and 55 minutes?

          You’re upset they were on the Turnpike? No, that’s not what’s bothering you, they had to come home after all. You’re bothered that they went to D.C. in the first place. But tens of thousands of other marchers were there as well. You are arguing that they all showed a complete lack of respect for life. You should have been there on stage to tell those people they had no respect for life.

          The only thing that would have satisfied you would be if they cancelled the March for Life on account of forecasted snow. Is that the brave spirit of the martyrs? Is that the kind of bold commitment to our faith we need to display?

          But perhaps I misunderstand. Perhaps your position is that there is no value higher than safety and keeping people alive as long as possible. I hope that’s not your belief, but some would share it if it is.

    • fightforgood

      Wow negative. What’s obvious is you didn’t follow the March for life at all, or the cause of this issue (hint: before the feet of snow fell). How about realizing that people made the best of a bad situation? Without the MFL buses, there is still traffic to clear. Ugh.