By KATIE BORKOWSKI
CARROLL – Standing on the sidewalk in front of Santa Maria Winery, Ron Lenz leads the rosary during 40 Days for Life in Carroll.
Catholics from the Carroll area gather from noon to 1 p.m. every day during the 40 Days for Life campaign – Sept. 26 to Nov. 4 this year – and have done so for a decade.
“It is a simple but direct way of spreading the word of the Gospel,” said Lenz, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in rural Carroll County. “I go almost each of the 40 days with maybe two or three exceptions per year. We receive overwhelmingly positive reaction from the motorists by way of their honks, waves, thumbs up and verbal comments.”
Terri Prenger, a parishioner at St. John Paul II Parish, pointed out the participants present “a happy, cheerful, respectful presence.”
There are usually three to 10 people who are praying and holding signs each day. Students from Carroll Kuemper sometimes join in during their lunch period.
The participants always recite a rosary and a Chaplet of Divine Mercy, as well as visit with each other and wave at passersby.
“We sometimes get people who won’t even look at us, or shake their heads, but that is not the norm,” Prenger noted. “We get a lot of thumbs up, but we do get the occasional finger. Almost every day someone rolls their windows down and thanks us for our presence. Total strangers often stop to offer a little encouragement.”
The participants have received gift cards for free meals, water, hot coffee and pizza while praying for the end to abortion.
Lenz, who is participating for the fifth year, is happy to lead the rosary.
“Our public witness exposes the issue to a lot of people who maybe haven’t considered abortion very often,” he said. “It keeps the issue fresh in their mind and hopefully will entice them to pray for the unborn.”
Even though the Diocese of Sioux City is fortunate not to have any of life-ending facilities, Lenz said, “we still need to work to end this practice in our country, where abortion is still responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other cause.”
This is the 10th year the campaign has been held in Carroll, initiated the year after it was introduced nationwide in 2007.
Prenger felt it was too easy to say, “Oh, this doesn’t affect or concern me. I would never have an abortion and there isn’t a clinic in our town.”
“But it does affect us, each of us,” she insisted. “We must concern ourselves with the greater good of all the souls, not just our own, not just in our town.”
Prenger admitted “it isn’t easy to put yourself out there for all the world to see.”
“There are many times I’m very intimidated by angry faces whizzing by in their cars,” she said. “But this is what God is calling us to do – stand up and tell the truth.”
There are times when Prenger thinks of not going to pray and she asks herself, “What is the worst that can happen? ”
“Well, the answer is the worst has happened,” she replied.
“Abortion on demand seems to be the battle-cry of so many now,” she said. “You can’t change anything unless you put in the time and effort. We are doing that with our very presence and our prayers. I think this year especially, our very presence in the rain and the snow sends a super strong message – ‘We are still here, and we will continue.’”
Carroll Area Iowans for Life
The Carroll Area Iowans for Life (CAIFL) sponsor Life Chain Sunday along with participating in 40 Days for Life. Their two biggest projects are Pro-Life Billboards and the National March for Life in D.C.
“We have sponsored over 50 billboards in the Carroll area,” said Prenger. “Every year we help financially with the students who attend the March for Life. We also provide speakers to anyone wanting to hear more on the pro-life cause.”
In addition, the Carroll Area Iowans for Life president sends out a monthly newsletter with “uplifting pro-life victories and important legislative bills coming before the lawmakers,” said Prenger.