Despite the impending blizzard, buses departed from cities and towns throughout the Archdiocese of Hartford for this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 22. All returned without encountering weather problems.
Dozens of buses filled with March for Life participants, most from points west, were stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike during the snowstorm.
“The snow didn’t deter us,” said Francie Clark of St. Martha Parish in Enfield. “We were all there braving the weather, no matter what. The kids were all bundled up, and there were kids in strollers. Constitution Avenue was still filled with people.”
The schools and government offices in the nation’s capital closed at noon that day because of the snowstorm. The first snowflake didn’t fall until after the last speaker spoke at the hour-long rally, which began at noon, Mrs. Clark said.
Mrs. Clark had joined 36 others on a single bus that departed from All Saints Church in Somersville with a stop at St. Mary Church in Windsor Locks. Her bus left Connecticut late Thursday night, with many riders sleeping on the bus, subsisting on granola bars and water, and arriving early on Friday morning to participate in a number of pro-life events being held that day.
The Somersville-Windsor Locks contingent arrived in Washington at 4:30 a.m. to tour the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Once there, they participated in adoration in the crypt as well as the closing Mass in the main church. The group also said a prayer of thanksgiving outside a closed Planned Parenthood clinic, visited legislators’ offices, and then joined thousands of others for the rally and march up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court.
For Mrs. Clark, the highlight of the rally was the entertainment that preceded it, which included performance poet Shawn Welcome.
The 13 pro-life speakers were also uplifting, she said. “All of the speakers were short but very on the mark,” Mrs. Clark reported, and many detailed what they accomplished for the cause. “It’s good to know that your prayers are bearing fruit.”
Mrs. Clark was equally encouraged by the young people who joined her group on the trip this year. “We had a number of new people in their 20s, who decided to pray the rosary on their way back. They also prayed the Memorare to ask Our Lady to help when the bus had trouble with the wipers.
Charles Mihaliak of Avon, who is a parishioner of the Cathedral of St. Joseph, boarded a bus in Waterbury with his three children. He joined a total of 55 home-schooled children and their pa-ents drawn from throughout the state and Massachusetts on an overnight ride Thursday night to arrive in Washington early Friday morning.
Their first stop was the Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life, which was celebrated by Archbishop Leonard P. Blair in the ballroom of the Washington Plaza Hotel.
“It was a real joy for them,” Delores Mihaliak said of her children’s time with the archbishop. Afterward, the archbishop greeted the children and posed for photos.
The homeschoolers later browsed in the bookstore at the Catholic Information Center, then proceeded to the rally and marched in the snow.
“We got snowed on,” Mr. Mihaliak said, but he reported that the bus left the city later that afternoon with no problems.
Mrs. Mihaliak, who did not at-tend the event, said this year’s theme really resonated with the three of her five children who did attend – Delores Ann, 17, Charlie, 15, and John, 12 – when they returned home and discussed details of the event.
“The topic for this year, ‘Pro-Life and Pro-Woman Go Hand in Hand,’ was interesting for the kids,” she said. “It cleared up some misconceptions.” The theme made the point that “being pro-life is being pro-woman. It was excellent to have this conversation with the kids afterward.”
Mr. Mihaliak agreed. “That’s a very powerful theme, something I was really pleased to see,” he said, “to have women stand up and say, ‘If you respect me, you need to respect my baby.’”
Nearly 70 students, faculty and parents from St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol joined the Franciscan sisters and other archdiocesan pilgrims who departed Thursday morning on buses from the Franciscan Life Center in Meriden and staying overnight at a hotel.
The high school students attended the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the basilica on Thursday night. It was celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and bishops from around the country, including Archbishop Blair.
“It was a beautiful witness to see so many young people drawn from so many areas around the country. You really got a glimpse of the wider church,” said Katherine Purple, a religion teacher and campus minister at St. Paul Catholic.
On Friday morning, the stu-dents also participated in the Thanksgiving Mass that was celebrated by Archbishop Blair at the Washington Plaza Hotel and the breakfast that followed. “It was very empowering,” Miss Purple said. “He was commissioning them to go forth and stand up for life.”
When the weather reports moved up the storm from evening to noon, the group from St. Paul Catholic decided to leave Washington before noon in an effort to beat the storm. “We stayed ahead of the storm the whole time, which was a blessing,” Miss Purple said.
To those who support the pro-life movement but have never attended the rally and march, Mrs. Clark has some advice. “People who are in pro-life can get discouraged by the media and by what’s not happening in politics,” she admitted. However, the march can rekindle enthusiasm.
“You’ve got to try it at least once,” she said. “If you can walk, you can do this. It’s very encouraging and inspiring.”