By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
A revision of the Iowa Catholic Conference’s (ICC) constitution and bylaws will provide for two standing committees — Education and Human Life and Dignity — to reflect the priorities of Iowa’s four bishops. Previously, the board heard from five standing committees: Communications, Education, Family Life, Pro-Life and Social Concerns.
The bishops worked on the revisions at their May 15 Board of Directors meeting at Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Church in Ankeny, said Bishop Martin Amos. The other bishops are Archbishop Michael Jackels of the Archdiocese of Dubuque; Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Diocese; and Bishop R. Walker Nickless of the Sioux City Diocese.
The ICC, the bishops’ public policy agency, serves as the lobbyist in the Iowa Legislature on issues important to the Church and society. While the four bishops are the directors, they rely heavily on the laity, religious, priests and deacons who serve in an advisory position on the Iowa Catholic Conference. The conference advocates for the common good and works with other groups to promote public policies that respect the human person.
With that focus in mind, the bishops had discussion at their spring meeting with two major groups in Iowa that focus on pro-life issues: Iowans for Life and Iowa Right to Life. The aim of the discussion, Bishop Amos said, was to determine how to coordinate events of both groups to more effectively convey the pro-life message. “This is one of the first times I’ve heard them talk about all life issues — from conception to natural death,” said Bishop Amos, who was heartened by the discussion.
One of the suggestions, he noted, was to conduct a pro-life event around Mother’s Day rather than hosting an event that conflicts with the March for Life event in Washington, D.C. This is still very much in the discussion stage, Bishop Amos noted.
Leaders of Iowans For Life followed up with an email to the bishops, expressing enthusiasm for collaboration.
“The Rally for Life would benefit greatly from your collective presence, and we are certain this would also produce fruit in terms of great opportunity to bring the spiritual shepherds of Iowa to the faithful,” wrote Lisa Bourne and Maggie DeWitte, co-directors of Iowans for Life.
The two women said their organization will work with ICC Executive Director Tom Chapman on ways to “foster the combination of the Rally with your annual legislative day.”
Bourne and Witte said they were eager to work with the bishops in their respective dioceses on current diocesan pro-life efforts or new initiatives.
In other business, the bishops also discussed their Faithful Citizenship pamphlet which provides guidance on formation of conscience that faithful citizenship requires. The bishops also heard a report from Chapman on the 2014 Iowa Legislative session, and will discuss legislative priorities at its fall meeting.