A Mass celebrated for students stuck on a motorway in Pennslyvania for 22 hours has quickly achieved legendary status.
The 500 or so students were on their way home from the March for Life rally in Washington when Storm Jonas consumed the East Coast of America.
A group from the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis built an altar made of snow and asked Fr Patrick Behm of Le Mars, Diocese of Sioux City, to celebrate the Mass.
Fr Behm told the ChurchPOP website: “It was incredible – easily one of the highlights of my time as a priest.”
Although there were about eight priests available to celebrate Mass, the honour of principal celebrant went to Fr Behm, “probably because I had my travel Mass kit”, he told The Catholic Globe, Sioux City’s diocesan newspaper.
The inclement atmosphere did take a toll on Fr Behm, who attributed weathering the cold to “many years of working in the frozen-food section at Hy-Vee [supermarket]”.
“I had my coat on under my alb and stole, but I had no chasuble,” he said. “When it came time to distribute Communion, I told the others my hands were too numb and they took that on.”
Fr Behm said the response to the 35-minute service, which started at noon, was gratifying.
“Seeing that faithfulness and that joy from everyone was very positive,” he said. “It certainly made the 22 hours of being stuck do-able.”
Fr Behm returned to Plymouth County about 11 pm local time to discover the event had taken on its own media life.
“I have spent a lot of time doing interviews,” he said. “In each one, I’ve been trying to credit Bill Dill [who suggested he celebrate the Mass] and the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis with the idea and trying to remind everyone that I had six or seven brother priests concelebrate with me.”
Fr Behm also stressed the reason behind that Mass was initially the reason for the trip – the March for Life to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court Roe vs Wade decision, which legalised abortion.
“Make no mistake about it, the tide is changing and I believe, this is the generation that will see Roe overturned,” he said. “Every time I go to the March for Life, the crowd gets younger and younger. Christ was with us in this storm. He’s with us in every storm, and it is he who will ultimately bring the victory.”
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