CARROLL - A representative of the national pro-life ministry, Priests for Life, will visit the Diocese of Sioux City Feb. 14-16 to speak about the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion and euthanasia as well as work to strengthen local pro-life efforts.
The visit was arranged by a retreat/mission group from Carroll that meets weekly at Holy Spirit Church.
Dennis L. Schleisman, a parishioner at St. Lawrence and member of the retreat/mission group, pointed out that his son Steven's interest in and involvement with Father Frank Pavone and Priests for Life captured his own attention.
"They are trying to inform the people about this pro-life issue and the importance of overturning Roe v. Wade," he said. The retreat/mission group is "in union" with those same beliefs.
Schleisman, a retired farmer, and his son had attended a pro-life speech by Father Pavone at the Right to Life Convention in Cedar Rapids last year. He was so impressed that he felt he had to get involved.
Judy Feld, a member of the retreat/mission group, pointed out that they work to evangelize other parishioners by sponsoring speakers and retreats in the Carroll area.
"We really feel that people need to be catechized and taught our Catholic Catechism," she said. At the weekly meetings, they usually pray the rosary and watch an educational video on the catechism or have a speaker. From there, they plan events and help spread the information in order to "try to go out and be little apostles - spreading the news."
Father Peter West, who began his ministry with Priests for Life in 1998, is one of six priests who works full-time with the Priests for Life ministry. He will deliver the pro-life message in Carroll of Priests for Life, which is a pro-life network of over 40,000 priests and deacons.
Recognized and approved under the Canon Law of the Catholic Church and working in harmony with the goals of the bishops' pro-life committee and local diocesan respect life offices, Priests for Life seeks to:
1) unite, encourage and provide ongoing training to priests and deacons who give a special emphasis to the "life issues" in their ministries;
2) instill a sense of urgency in all clergy to teach about these issues and to mobilize their people to help stop abortion and euthanasia;
3) assist clergy and laity to work together productively for the cause of life;
4) provide ongoing training and motivation to the entire pro-life movement.
Father West, who has experience working with youth as a teacher and youth group leader, will lead a pro-life assembly at Kuemper Catholic High School on Feb. 14. The priest was the founder and director of Amicus, a Catholic young adult group for men and women in their 20s and 30s.
"The dignity of human life tends to be the cornerstone of the students' actions," said Monica Miller, campus minister and theology teacher at Kuemper High School.
Through the students' Catholic education, she said they are expected to be informed Christians and have a profound respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death.
"Whatever we can do to encourage that - we will encourage," said Miller. The pro-life talks by Father West should foster this philosophy.
The representative of Priests for Life will present a pro-life retreat designed specifically for priests from 9 to 11 a.m. on Feb. 15 at Holy Spirit.
"I look at this as a way to share the Catholic position on abortion because this is not an easy subject to bring up in the ordinary Sunday homily," said Father Jim McCormick, pastor at Holy Spirit. "Bringing someone in who is a specialist gives all of us a chance for a fresh look at the issues involved and to know just where we stand. It is creating an occasion of awakening and an awareness of the church's stand on this very important subject."
The pastor said he was grateful Father West will have the opportunity to discuss this issue with the young people at Kuemper.
"I'm very disturbed that I hear the abortion rate is the same among Catholics as the general cross-section of the United States," said Father McCormick. "It's that either the Catholics consider that it is okay or they may think the church no longer takes it seriously."
The parish invites the priests to attend for an informal gathering, followed by lunch. He encourages all priests to participate, even those who find themselves available to do so at the last minute.
Organizers of this gathering hope that Father West will give priests of the Diocese of Sioux City better tools in which to address the issue of abortion and euthanasia in homilies.
"Our young people need to hear about this from the pulpit," said Feld.
A second session will be held from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on Feb. 15 for the general public. It will be presented free of charge and there is no registration.
"This is open to everyone," stressed Feld. "We are not the only religion who believes this. We are praying to the Holy Spirit that he touches a lot of people."
Schleisman expects Father West to address the connection between contraception, abortion and divorce.
Father West plans to deliver a pro-life homily at all weekend Masses at Holy Spirit - 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 15 and 7, 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 16.
Organizers of the visit by Father West believe that through the presentation at the high school and to the priests and laity, his message will reach a diverse range of individuals.
"There is a demand for these speakers," stressed Schleisman. "There is a great desire to know the truth."