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40 Days for Life kicks off in diocese

By RENEE WEBB, Globe reporter
(Email Renee)

Prayer and song were part of the Sept. 23 kickoff event for the 40 Days for Life Campaign that runs Sept. 24 through Nov. 2.

About 80 people attended the kickoff celebration that began with 5:30 p.m. Mass at Immaculate Conception Parish in Sioux City. Father Armand Bertrand, pastor, was the celebrant with Deacons Richard Port and Dennis Brockhaus assisting and 4th Degree Knights providing an honor guard.

“Our Holy Father Francis has seen a deeper link between the poor and unborn,” Father Bertrand said in his homily. “They are both one of the first victims you see in a throw-away society.”

The priest acknowledged that people can be seen as disposable when they do not serve the selfish interests of those with more power.

Father Bertrand expressed thanks for Mary’s Choice Pregnancy Resource Center as well as the center’s director, Sherrill Glassmaker, and all who work there as they are in solidarity with Pope Francis to help the marginalized and those in need.

As the pro-life advocates prepared to stand in front of Planned Parenthood out in the cold and wind for the next 40 days, he assured them that “what you do matters, for every human being is a masterpiece of the divine master.”

Father Bertrand quoted Pope Francis, “Even the weakest and most vulnerable – the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor – are masterpieces of God’s creation made in his own image, destined to live forever and deserving of the most reverence and respect.”

After Mass, the gathering continued in the parish hall with praise music and a speaker.

Father David Hemann, pastor of St. Michael Church in Sioux City, led the group in song.

“God loved each of us into existence. We praise and thank him for the gift of our life and every other person he has loved into existence.” Prior to singing the song, “Sanctuary,” he added, “But not only are we a life, but we literally have the life of God dwelling within us.”

Father Hemann told those present that with faith, hope and love, they could do all things. Tying into the theme of his song, “Walk on Water,” he asked them to keep their eyes on Jesus.

Deacon Richard Port, who serves at the parishes in Akron and Hawarden, was the master of ceremonies for the gathering. He introduced the witness speaker, Rob Heller of Sacred Heart Parish in Sioux City.
Heller informed the crowd that as a child, his family had taken in many pregnant unwed mothers into their home from Catholic Charities.

“We didn’t know any different,” he said. “We thought everyone hosted unwed mothers.”

He said his family received many blessings from the women “who had made the right choice.” To this day, his parents receive Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards from some of those women they hosted and even some of their children.

Heller also relayed a recent event in his life that affirmed his pro-life stance. Attending a wedding, he learned that a member of his group was a woman who had worked at a pregnancy crisis center.

“She had convinced a young mother to make the right decision and so the mother continued the pregnancy,” he explained. “When the baby was born, it was to be adopted and this family took in the baby for her first two weeks of life. Through God’s plan, a family member of theirs who was looking to adopt came to know the situation and adopted the child.”

That baby was the bride at the wedding he attended.

Glassmaker gave a brief overview of an event that affirmed the work of Mary’s Choice and those who pray for the unborn at Planned Parenthood. A single woman, who just had a second child, told Glassmaker she had chosen life in part due to the example of a young family member – a Catholic grade school student - who “was so enthusiastic about praying at Planned Parenthood and touring Mary’s Choice.”

“Today, because of a prayerful witness outside of Planned Parenthood, there is a family across the bridge that have two beautiful children,” she said.

As the celebration drew to a close, Fred Shellabarger, assistant director of adult catechesis and family life, played a preview of the pro-life movie The 40 Film that was set to be presented on Oct. 2 at Bishop Heelan High School. He said if others were interested in hosting the film at their parish or school, they can contact him for more information at (712) 233-7532 or freds@scdiocese.org.


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