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Local marchers thwarted by blizzard

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BRIGHTON — Boston-area Catholics chartered busses, bought plane tickets and made other plans months in advance to attend this year’s March for Life, only to have them thwarted by last week-end’s blizzard that cancelled flights and clogged roadways. The snowstorm prevented seminarians, priests, teenagers, college students and many other Bostonians from making the trip to Washington, D.C.

“It was a bit disappointing,” said Father Dan Hennessey, assistant director of the Vocation Office. “Many people were interested in attending the Pro-life March, and a lot of time and effort went into the preparation.”

Father Hennessey helped plan a trip for students from seven area Catholic high schools. Over 30 students and several chaperones found out on Jan. 21 that the trip, suggested by Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley, would not happen.

Marianne Luthin, director of the Pro-life Office who also helped plan the high school trip, said although it was the right decision to cancel, the kids were disappointed.

Every group traveling by bus she was aware of had to cancel their plans, she added.

Seminarians from both St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston cancelled bus trips.

The high-school group was supposed to meet up with other groups from Boston including Life Teen in Dedham and a Boston University group. Both of those trips were also cancelled.

Life Teen in Dedham had a late-night flight on Jan. 22 that was canceled. Father John A. Dooher, pastor at St. Mary Parish in Dedham, said they held a holy hour that night at the parish to pray for everyone involved with the march.

However, some New Englanders who left before the brunt of the storm hit were able to make their way to the nation’s capital. Archbishop O’Malley departed in the afternoon on Jan. 22, after the snow started falling, but was able to make it to Washington.

Although the Boston University Catholic Center and Boston University Right to Life bus was cancelled, three of BURTL’s officers flew down early to attend conferences in Washington and beat the weather.

Washington received five inches of snowfall, which Mark Estano BURTL’s vice president said was a “big deal” for residents.

The snow did not seem to phase marchers, though, with the total turnout being about the same as last year’s march except that “there was no one there from the Northeast,” Estano said.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who were really disappointed that they didn’t get to go,” he added.

Karen Farrell, a Catholic campus minister at BU, said canceling the trip was a disappointment, especially because so many students expressed interest.

“We just felt that Massachusetts had a strong presence this year,” she said.

Farrell added she hopes to expand the interest next year and take two busses.

Father Hennessey said the high-school group is focusing on doing something else this year by gathering all the students who wanted to go on the march and celebrating Mass with the archbishop.

“We know that although we could not be there physically, we were all still praying — we were there spiritually,” he said.

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