By Anne Marie Cox
For The Catholic Messenger
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.
“To begin the day with the celebration of Eucharist and an almost full St. Ambrose Cathedral was inspiring as was the dedication of these people in support of life, especially the unborn,” Bishop Amos said.
“I wanted to come out today because I support life,” Stephanie Joyce of St. Mary Parish in Storm Lake said before the 9 a.m. Mass. “Life is more important than sleeping in.” The Mass combined with the march was “awesome because we get the true life of the Church, and then we get to go out and show the world,” she said.
During 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,” Rhonda DeRocher of Sacred Heart Parish in West Des Moines said 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,” Archbishop Jackels said 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 has grown.
“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,” Bowen said. “We’re very encouraged by the growing numbers and the growing enthusiasm. The support of Iowa’s four bishops is huge,” Bowen added. “It’s overwhelming to have their support and backing,” she said. “It makes all the difference.”
The Midwest Mass for Life was sponsored by the Iowa Catholic Conference. The Midwest March for Life was sponsored by Iowa Right to Life.