By Anne Marie Cox | Special to The Witness
January 22, 2015
DES MOINES — Iowa’s four bishops joined hundreds of people from across the state in Des Moines Jan. 17 to celebrate Mass and take part in the third annual Midwest March for Life. It was a full house at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines as Davenport Bishop Martin Amos, Sioux City Bishop R. Walker Nickless and Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates joined Dubuque Archbishop Michael Jackels in celebrating the Midwest Mass for Life.
Many Catholics from the Dubuque Archdiocese made the trip to participate in the Mass at 9 a.m. and the march afterward, including Grand View University student Laura Goettsch, of St. Henry Parish in Marshalltown.
She said life is the “first gift we were given and the most important to stand up for. I’m here with friends demonstrating we are the new generation of pro-life advocates.”
At the morning Mass, Archbishop Jackels compared the effort to develop a culture of life to his effort of developing a culture of vocations. It boils down to the acronym PITA:
– Prayer, putting a value on God’s plan,
– Invitation, to all people to embrace a vision that values human life,
– Talking up the gospel of life, and
– Appreciating all life.
“I think it’s important to pray for all the people who may be considering an abortion and hope they have the strength to change their decision,” said Rhonda DeRocher, of Sacred Heart Parish in West Des Moines, before the Mass. “Life begins at conception.”
From St. Ambrose Cathedral, many in the crowd made their way to the steps of the Iowa capitol, where they joined others in publicly witnessing for life.
Marchers, many of them carrying pro-life signs in English and Spanish, heard from religious and civic leaders and marched around the state capitol building, ending at the steps of the Iowa Supreme Court. A luncheon and breakout sessions followed.
“God’s blessings on all of us who are coming out to stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves, speak for themselves, defend themselves, especially the unborn child,” said Dubuque Archbishop Michael Jackels on the steps of the Iowa capitol.
“Thank you for catching this vision of the Midwest March for Life and why we need it here in the Midwest and why we need it here in Des Moines, Iowa,” said Jenifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life.
Also speaking were Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who said, “I’m proud to be your pro-life governor,” and U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who said marches in Washington, D.C. and around the country have kept alive the hope of changing Roe v Wade, which legalized abortion.
Over the years, the march is growing.
“It’s absolutely growing,” said Bowen. It’s growing in terms of attendance and sponsorship. This year, the Iowa Knights of Columbus, St. Jude Hospice and media sponsor KWQW 98.3 “The Torch” radio station helped promote the march, and there was emphasis on spreading the word in the Latino communities.
“We’re very encouraged by the growing numbers and the growing enthusiasm,” she said.
Many students couldn’t attend the National March for Life this year so they came to the Midwest March for Life, said Olivia Rauen, a student at Iowa State University and member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Ames. Marches and public witness are important because “people driving by see us. A lot of people who are pro-life may think, ‘What can I do?’ Maybe it will inspire them. It makes a difference.”
Melany Hejlik, of St. Boniface in Garner, went to the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. last year and was inspired by seeing so many young people at the march. She returned home with a desire to get more involved in the pro-life movement. The Midwest Mass for Life was sponsored by the Iowa Catholic Conference. The Midwest March for Life was sponsored by Iowa Right to Life.
Cox works for the Office of Communications for the Des Moines Diocese.