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Storm shortens Buffalonians’ sojourn in D.C. for ‘March for Life’

WASHINGTON – Friday’s “March for Life” became a breakfast for life – and a “virtual march” conducted on buses heading northward – for nearly 300 people from Buffalo.

A caravan of buses organized by the Diocese of Buffalo arrived in D.C. on Thursday and was scheduled to stay until after Friday afternoon’s annual anti-abortion march. But with a huge snowstorm bearing down on the nation’s capital, diocese officials decided early Friday morning to fill up the buses and send them home shortly after the contingent’s annual breakfast at the Washington Plaza Hotel.

“We’re trying to put safety first,” said Cheryl Calire, director of pro-life activities for the diocese.

Calire and Bishop Richard J. Malone decided to shorten the pilgrimage early Friday morning after weather forecasters came to agree that D.C. was about to be pummeled by upward of 2 feet of snow starting Friday afternoon.

The march in Washington went on as scheduled, and the Buffalo contingent participated, in a way, from afar.

At noon, as the rally in the nation’s capital began, the Buffalonians on the buses agreed to all say the rosary in unison – while marching their feet up and down as if they were walking.

“We would like to do a virtual march,” the Rev. Robert A. Wozniak, director of priestly formation at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, said at the breakfast. “That way we will be in union with the purpose we came here for.”

The crowd of 300 was no smaller than in previous years, and only three people canceled their plans to join the diocesan contingent.

“I think that really speaks volumes,” Calire said. “There were so many people who really felt called to be here.”

A similar caravan organized by the Buffalo Regional Right to Life Committee was scheduled to travel overnight from Buffalo and arrive in D.C. in time for the march, and to head back north at the end of the day’s activities around 6 p.m.

Noting that meant the group would have to depart in the middle of a snowstorm, the head of the pro-life group, Stasia Zoladz Vogel, decided to cancel the trip for the first time ever.

“We would be in the thick of it,” Vogel said regarding the snowstorm. “I didn’t want to put our travelers at risk, knowing that this could be a total debacle.”

The March for Life marks the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, and it begins with a rally before a march to the Supreme Court.

Catholics also mark the event a day earlier at a Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which the group organized by the Buffalo Diocese attended on Thursday.

The group from Buffalo included a large number of teenagers, which is nothing unusual. Kathryn Lopez, the conservative columnist who spoke at the Buffalo Diocese breakfast, noted that participants in the pro-life movement include increasing numbers of young people.

“Unfortunately, the snow will dampen that picture,” she said. “But the truth is that hearts are awakening.”

Of course, longtime abortion opponents such as Mary Puszert of Cheektowaga took the long, but abbreviated, bus trip to Washington as well.

“The weather didn’t dictate our actions,” said Puszert, 62. “We knew we would be safe. We just wanted to come and make our stand.”