By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
BURLINGTON — As Knights of Columbus passed out blue balloons to more than 600 people in Crapo Park Aug. 8, Deacon Bob Glaser told the crowd to consider someone in their life who needed forgiveness. “Many of you may be struggling to forgive someone, or maybe the person who needs to be forgiven is yourself.”
He then asked the crowd to release the balloons and, along with it, their pain. Within moments, the sky was speckled with floating blue orbs, and the crowd began to sing worship music.
The balloon release followed a speech at Faith Festival by local OB/GYN Dr. Kimberly Marshall, who explained to the audience how she was able to forgive the man who kidnapped and sexually assaulted her as a child.
She explained that while she got on with life following the incident, eventually marrying, becoming a doctor and raising eight children, she struggled to let go of the traumatic incident. After years of panic attacks and nightmares, she knew she had to forgive the man who assaulted her, but had a hard time doing so. She recalled the advice of her pastor, Father Bruce DeRammelaere, who said to her, “You can forgive the person of that crime, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t guilty or won’t pay for their crimes.”
Following that, she visited her abuser in prison and offered forgiveness, even though he showed no remorse. “I did my part, and now I am free,” she said, ending her speech to a standing ovation from the crowd, and tearful embraces from her family.
Marshall’s story of faith was one of seven shared at the five-day Faith Festival, held each night in the heart of Burlington in an effort to evangelize, build camaraderie among all Christian faiths in Burlington, and offer encouragement. Another speaker, Bruce Brockway, said, “It is important to look at the things we have in common: the faith, love and trust we have in Jesus Christ. If we focus on the similarities, we can unite and bring light to the darkness of this world.”
Members of the Des Moines County Catholic Parishes (DMCCP) — Ss. Mary & Patrick in West Burlington, St. Mary in Dodgeville, and Ss. John & Paul in Burlington — came together to volunteer at the event.
They provided worship music, a children’s activity area, and a seemingly endless supply of home-baked treats hand-delivered on trays. More than 35 Knights of
Columbus from Council 568 oversaw logistics of the event and helped with parking, collections and other tasks each night. Father David Steinle, pastor of the West Burlington and Dodgeville parishes said, “It really showed a working together of all the Des Moines County parishes.”
Ruth Skeens, DMCCP director of evangelization and adult faith formation, said organizers hoped for 300 attendees each night, but far exceeded that.
A collection was taken each day to benefit local charitable organizations. About $3,800 were raised, with donations given to Burlington Homeless Shelter, YMCA Domestic Violence Shelter in Burlington, Burlington Birthright, and St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, also in Burlington.
On the final day of the festival, Fr. Steinle celebrated Mass in the park with more than 500 people. Father Marty Goetz, pastor of the Burlington parish, concelebrated and said, “It was wonderful to see all those people gathered together to come and worship God and celebrate the Eucharist.”
He was adamant, however, that for those whose faith was sparked by Faith Festival, the spark is just the first step. “We’ve got to keep the fire burning!”