Bishop Nickless leads pro-life prayers Jan. 22
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
Jan. 24, 2008
In this fact-based society, dates are important and significant ones are to
Bishop R. Walker Nickless in his homily at Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux
City said people remember birthdays, anniversaries of marriages or ordinations
and he remembers where he was on Nov. 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy
was killed. He mentioned that everyone remembers the date Sept. 11, 2001 when
the Twin Towers and Pentagon were attacked.
"There is another date that we as Catholics should remember - 1-22, Jan.
22. This date marks the 35th anniversary of the 1973 decision of the Supreme
Court of the United States to legalize abortion," said the bishop.
"This decision gave the right to attack and kill the most vulnerable and
helpless human life - that of an unborn child."
Bishop Nickless pointed out that he and his brother bishops in the United
States designated Jan. 22 as a day of penance for violations on the dignity of
the human person. It was designed to be a day of prayer "for the full
restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life."
About 250 people gathered at the 12:10 p.m. Mass at Cathedral to pray for an
end to abortion. The Mass was concelebrated by Father Brad Pelzel, Msgr. Richard
Zenk and Father Paul-Louis Arts.
As the homily continued, the bishop noted that he wore purple vestments as a
sign that it was a day of sadness and sorrow.
"We gather today to pray," said Bishop Nickless. "First we
gather as God's people to offer the greatest prayer we know - the prayer of the
Mass - where Jesus Christ offers himself once again on the altar here in the
sanctuary for our sins."
Particularly that day, the bishop noted, they asked for forgiveness for the
horrible crime of abortion. He mentioned that following the liturgy, they would
pray another prayer - the rosary - outside Planned Parenthood in Sioux City.
He invited people to pray the rosary anytime that day on their own if they
were unable to join them in prayer outside of the abortion clinic.
"We know prayer is helpful, but prayer also needs action," said
Bishop Nickless, who urged the faithful to talk to others about the evils of
abortion. "I want to thank all of you for taking the action to be here
today. I thank you for all you do for the pro-life cause."
He asked them to pray for the thousands of people gathered in Washington,
D.C. for the March for Life - including groups from the diocese.
"Why are we so concerned about abortion and the right to life?"
questioned the bishop.
He stressed that human life is sacred and God alone is the Lord of life.
"Our society seeks abortion and says it's okay because our culture
values convenience and pleasure more than life itself," said Bishop
Some look at the unborn, disabled and elderly as useless and may label them
as less than human, but the bishop reminded people that from God's perspective
every human life is precious. Catholic Christians, he added, should believe
As the homily drew to a close, Bishop Nickless said, "May God bless our
efforts and bring every human being peace and justice."
According to Mark Thomason, the diocesan pro-life contact person, about 100
people gathered outside Planned Parenthood after Mass to pray the rosary. Among
those gathered were about 30 students from Gehlen Catholic High School in Le
Mars and some students from St. Mary's High School in Remsen.
"Abortion is wrong and you shouldn't have to choose life (it should be a
right)," said Amber Walding, a ninth grade student from Gehlen Catholic .
Margaret Anderson, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church in Sioux
City, said participated in the rosary because she believes abortion "to be
one of the biggest evils in our world. I want to be here to be a voice for the
unborn who are in danger of abortion."
She tries to pray frequently on Tuesdays in front of the abortion clinic.
Bo Boatman, a member of Immaculate Conception and a 2005 graduate of Bishop
Heelan High School, said he has seen people pray outside of Planned Parenthood
weekly and when his pastor mentioned the prayer service, he wanted to be there.
"I don't think I could have found myself doing a better thing
today," he said. "I wanted to come here to pray."
Thomason said he was pleased with the turnout at Mass and for the rosary. The
diocese had encouraged people to organize prayer services in their own parishes,
communities or schools as a sign of solidarity for life. If services were held,
he would love to hear about them. (Digital photos may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
"This is really the first step. We want to grow in our pro-life efforts
from our (the diocesan-level) end," he noted. "Pro-lifers have been
doing some great things at the grassroots efforts."
Thomason also referred to the pro-life work of Catholic Charities, which
offers adoption and heads up Project Rachel post-abortion counseling.
He mentioned that he would like to compile the names of pro-life contacts and
representatives in order to make all people aware of how they can join in prayer
services and ministries that help defend life. "I am proud of everyone and
all of the efforts that are being done across the board to build a culture of
life from Soup Kitchens to helping out migrant workers and the poor," said