“God Was Present”: How the Turnpike Mass Changed Lives, One Year Later

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The Turnpike Mass / Rose Nelson and Rachel Hall, founders of Katies for Life, a pro-life group at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN / Photos provided by Rachel Hall

You may remember the incredible story: Several buses full of pro-life students on their way home from the March for Life 2016 got stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike due to a snow storm. They were stuck for around 22 hours, but rather than get upset and discouraged, they made an altar out of snow on the side of the highway and held Mass for several hundred people as the snow fell around them.

Amazing photos, videos, and stories came out of the unique event that went viral across social media and brought far more media attention to the March for Life than usual.

That was a year ago. We caught up with a few of the participants to see how the experience affected them in the last year.

“Everywhere I go, it’s what I’m known for,” Fr. Patrick Behm, the priest who celebrated the Mass, told ChurchPOP. “Lots of people still ask about it.

“When my new [parish] assignment was announced… my predecessor told the parishioners that I was the ‘snow Mass’ priest, and everyone knew who he was talking about.”

A year later, his commitment to the pro-life cause remains as strong as ever: “I try to do as much for the pro-life movement as I can, including helping in our local Catholic school with their group, Students for Life.”

Senior at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN Rachel Hall says being a part of the Turnpike Mass was an inspiration for her continued pro-life work.

I was definitely inspired by the March For Life and experience on the Turnpike to become more involved in the pro-life movement,” Hall told ChurchPOP. “I am currently the co-president of the pro-life club at St. Kate’s, Katies For Life, and was encouraged by it to help the women on my campus choose life and become educated about the pro-life message.”

It also strengthened her Catholic faith. “It opened my eyes to the way God can use seemingly unfortunate events for his glory in even larger ways than we humans could ever imagine.”

Given all the media attention to the Turnpike Mass, she said she was thankful how “God was able to use an event such as the Turnpike Mass to give witness to the thousands of students who had embarked on this journey to promote the sacredness of human life.”

She also told us how she remembered the Mass: “The actual Turnpike Mass was spectacular. Hundreds of pilgrims were gathered in a cleared area around a snow altar, singing traditional Catholic hymns, and praising God.

“The snow was falling and stinging my eyes during the Mass as I shifted my weight to keep warm in my three pairs of pants and heavy winter jacket but the incredible heavenly presence was something I will never forget.

“It culminated during communion when a man stood up on a snow pile with his guitar and began playing ‘Lord I Need You’ by Matt Maher. The whole crowd joined, in our broken and weak state admitting our need for God’s grace.

It was life-touching and felt like heaven was touching earth. God was present.

Here’s a cartoon commemorating the Turnpike Mass, by Louis Hall:

Angelic Twaddle

You can find more Angelic Twaddle cartoons here.

Pray for the safety of this year’s March for Life!

[See also: 5 Feminist Pioneers Who Were Against Abortion]

[See also: How to Support the #MarchForLife With Your Profile Pic in 3 Easy Steps]

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