Midwest March for Life draws crowd

By Kelly Mescher Collins
Special to The Witness

IMG_2183DES MOINES — The bitterly cold weather didn’t stop hundreds of Iowans from attending the annual Midwest March for Life on Saturday, Jan. 16.

The day started off with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Michael Jackels of the Archdiocese of Dubuque with Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Bishop Martin Amos of Davenport and Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City.

During his homily, Archbishop Jackels emphasized the need for well-rounded pro-lifers, who care not just for the unborn, but also the elderly, poor, minorities, refugees and those on the fringes of society.

“In a just society – and we pray ours will become a just society – everyone will have respect for the common good,” Archbishop Jackels said.

Father Joseph Pins, diocesan vocations director, said he appreciates the Mass for Life and felt the archbishop’s homily was a nice call to others.

“I loved the homily about being pro-life in everything we do, even down to the driving,” Father Pins said, noting the archbishop’s remarks on how even traffic laws are pro-life.

Father Pins said an event like this one is important.

“A lot of people say the church doesn’t have a voice in society, and we should have a voice in the public square,” he said. “We have an opinion on social issues that needs to be shared with the broader community.”

Archbishop Jackels also expressed his hope that the Midwest March for Life would grow in size in the coming years, while also offering a more convenient way for Iowans and Midwesterners alike a chance to take a public stand for life.

Catholics from all over the state took advantage of the March for Life close to home, including a bus load of Catholics from Sioux City.

Chris Pariseau of Our Lady of Good Council Parish in Holstein made the 150 mile trip with his wife and two daughters.

“It’s our second year,” Pariseau said. “We can’t go to D.C. so we come here for the gathering and all the dioceses of our state together.”

Chet Chapan of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Ames came with several friends from Iowa State University.

“I just have a passion for pro-life things and felt called to come since I can’t go to the one in Washington,” he said.

Fellow ISU student Michele Ries of St. Thomas Parish said the time was right to come.

“I’m for life and [this event] has always been something I wanted to do,” Ries said. “This is my last year in college and I figured I should do one that’s closer. I think it’s really important that people stand up for those that do not have a voice.”

After the Mass hundreds braved the near single digit temperature and gathered at the west steps of the State Capitol building to hear remarks from event coordinator Jenifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life and Archbishop Jackels.

“I have just brief words of welcome and gratitude for all of you,” Archbishop Jackels said to the crowd. “And continue what you’re doing, not just today, but every day. Standing up here, having you here reminds me of a preacher who stood on steps and said, ‘I have a dream.’”

Archbishop Jackels said he dreams of a larger, much more widely attended Midwest March for Life in future years.

“My dream is that standing on these steps, we would need more of a PA system to address those gathered way down there,” he continued, pointing far beyond the steps to the sidewalk below that was empty. “And the second part of the dream is that on account of all of us and our witness, that there would come a day when we would not have to gather except to celebrate the gift of life and respect of life from the moment of conception until natural death.”

Lupita de la Paz of St. Mary and Mathias Parish in Muscatine felt compelled to stand up for the unborn, despite the chilly weather, making the nearly two hour car ride with her eight other family members.

“We come to prevent abortion and save lives,” she said as she marched with her relatives.

Sean Wilson of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield admitted that it was originally his mother who wanted him to go, but said he was glad he came.

“It’s a pretty cool event and I am happy I came out to see a lot of people who came together to support a cause.”

Locals also took advantage of the opportunity to witness for life. Steve Cashman of St. Francis Parish in West Des Moines said he and his wife attend every year. “We can’t think of anything that’s more important than life,” Cashman said. “We want to support the most important social issue of our time.”

Julio Lopez and Oscar Romo of Our Lady of the Americas Parish came to represent their community and take a stand.

“We want to protect life and we want to stop abortion,” Lopez said. “We want people to know we respect life … We’re Hispanics. We’re Mexican people, and we want people to know we respect life.”

A luncheon featuring pro-life speakers and breakout sessions was held after the march at Hy-Vee Hall, including Dr. Alan Moy, president and scientific director of the John Paul II Medical Research Institute; Dr. Karla Polaschek, medical director of the Women’s Choice Center and Melissa Ohden, founder of the Abortion Survivors Network.


This story is provided courtesy of The Witness, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

and others. (Photo courtesy of Tom Chapman, Iowa Catholic Conference)