By JOANNE FOX
The president and CEO of National Life Runners insisted you don’t have to run to be a part of the group.
“We have more than 7,000 individuals from ages 1 to 101 and even two blind individuals who are members,” insisted Dr. Patrick Castle. “We pray, fundraise, and some run/walk as a team until we cross the finish line that ends abortion.”
Castle, who resides in Papillion, Neb., was in Sioux City, as part of the annual A-Cross America Relay for Pro-Life, which takes place nationally from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday.
Life Runners log about 5,540 miles – the distance from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border – forming the shape of a cross in their A-Cross America run, which concludes in Kansas City on March 25.
Of course, not all 7,000 members physically run, Castle clarified.
“They can participate ‘by remote’ from wherever they are, adopting whatever part of the course they wish and being supportive in any way they can,” the Sioux Falls native said.
Castle, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, founded the Life Runners team after a personal encounter with St. Padre Pio. The 2002 canonized priest from Southern Italy was known for his healing powers and carrying the stigmata – bodily marks, pain, and bleeding in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus.
“I was running the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon in 2006,” he explained. “During the last 10 minutes, I was wondering if I would be able to finish when I could hear someone speaking to me, and when I looked over my shoulder, I could see St. Padre Pio running with me.”
Castle and his running partner Rich Reich decided to form Life Runners, which helps to fundraise for and promote the pro-life cause.
Life Runners sport blue jerseys with the theme: “Remember the Unborn Jer 1:5.” The Scripture reference is: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Hanging from a cross on the shirt is a pair of tennis shoes. A white dove represents the Holy Spirit and peace.
Life Runners provide pro-life prayers, devotions, education and funds. Fundraising benefits pregnancy help centers through races and the A-Cross America Relay. Their slogan is: “All in Christ – For Pro-Life.”
Castle and some local Life Runners came together at KFHC 88.1FM, Catholic radio studios in Sioux City, to promote the race and the team.
Carter Kuehl, a seventh grader at Sacred Heart School in Sioux City, said it was important for him to be a Life Runners member to put an end to abortion.
“I credit my mom, Mandi, with my decision to join; she’s the leader of our Wednesday team,” said the 13-year-old. “We are saving babies by being a part of Life Runners.”
Classmate Lawren Volz, 13, echoed those sentiments.
“I wanted to be a part of something that could change the world,” she said. “I remember seeing the eighth grader Life Runners and that motivated me.”
Sacred Heart sixth grader Joey Fitzsimmons enhanced those thoughts with his own.
“I was in fourth grade and saw the Life Runners at school,” the 12-year-old recalled. “My dad, John, invited me to join and I thought it was a good idea.”
Paula Parmelee, a long-time Siouxland runner and this year’s recipient of national Life Runner of the Year, praised the students for their commitment to the pro-life cause.
“It’s inspiring to hear their testimony,” she said. “These young people are living their Catholic faith amidst a societal culture of death.”
Castle, who currently serves as executive director of special projects at Midwest Laboratories in Omaha, referenced another Scripture quote to reinforce the comments.
“The prize is found in Philippians 3:14,” he said. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
For more information, visit liferunners.org or locally, contact Paula Parmelee at firstname.lastname@example.org.