By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT – Life topics such as human trafficking to natural family planning were the focus of a diocesan-wide workshop Nov. 16 at St. Paul the Apostle Parish. More than 60 participants attended the respect life information workshop.
The event was organized by Jeanne Wonio, volunteer respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport.
Mass opened the event. General sessions began after a welcome from Kent Ferris, diocesan director of social action and Catholic Charities, and Loxi Hopkins, diocesan director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Relief Services.
Nora Dvorak, a diocesan social action committee volunteer and retired social worker, led a program on human trafficking and Safe Haven.
“Human trafficking is alive and well in the Quad-City area and in the diocese,” Dvorak said.
She became aware of human trafficking about five years ago and jumped in on the topic after listening to a Catholic Relief Services (CRS) teleconference call on the topic.
She picked up the phone afterwards and made calls throughout the diocese. “In our diocese we have it – mail-order brides, prostitution rings and more. It’s modern-day slavery,” she said.
Dvorak noted that each state has its own laws – if any — regarding human trafficking.
She showed a video about an Iowa teen lured into a “modeling job.” She was then taken and held against her will. Her new life, the teen said, was to serve customers as a sex worker. She was rescued by an undercover officer after three months in the human trafficking ring. She was later adopted in Iowa and speaks to others about her story.
Sex traffickers use fear, violence and death threats against those they hold captive, according to information on the video. The teen and her foster mom told parents to be aware of whom their children are keeping company with.
Although the teen in the video finally opened up about her ordeal, Dvorak said the girl has five locks on her door to keep people out. And she does not like to be touched by anyone.
A conference on human trafficking will be held Jan. 9 at the Rogalski Center at St. Ambrose University in Davenport at 7 p.m. Three survivors will talk as part of that event.
Dvorak also briefly talked about Safe Haven, a program that allows the mother of a newborn up to 14 days old to leave the infant at a participating hospital in Iowa with no questions asked. Police will not be called. In Davenport, both Genesis Medical Center campuses will accept such infants.
Another session of the workshop focused on post-abortive ministry and evangelization. Tasha Havercamp, New Evangelization director at St. Paul the Apostle Parish, spoke about bringing fallen-away Catholics back to the Church. She advised her audience to avoid being abrasive when evangelizing or talking about abortion or post-abortion ministry. “We need to listen.”
She said Save One, Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard are three programs that offer post-abortion healing for everyone affected by an abortion.
During a workshop session about spreading the word, Delores Stack said parish bulletins are free advertising for events and information about what is going on.
“Always thank them (parishes) and make sure you plan well ahead in sending your announcements,” said Stack, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and a volunteer at Women’s Choice Center, both in Bettendorf.
Some of the other workshop topics covered were natural family planning, marriage, Theology of the Body for teens, Elizabeth Ministry and poster/essay contests.
Sheryl Schwager, new director of Johnson County Right to Life, said she attended the workshop to learn more about what is happening in the diocese and to get more involved. She hopes more parishes get involved in various life issues.
Gail Devereaux of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton serves on the parish’s pro-life committee. “I came to learn more and how I can do more at our parish.”
She especially was interested in the human trafficking talk.
Wonio said she was extremely pleased with the turnout for the first-time event.
Goals for the future include a diocesan respect life committee, White Mass, pro-life boot camp for high school students, and additional Elizabeth Ministry programs in parishes.
“There are talented people all over the diocese who have been called by Christ to serve,” she said.