Ribbons a tie to suffering church


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

In a sea of black at Clergy Days in Iowa City June 8-10, an orange ribbon pin on Father Michael Spiekermeier’s shirt stood out.
“It’s for the persecuted Christians throughout the world,” the pastor of parishes in Hills, Nichols and Lone Tree explained, noting that the orange color matches the jumpsuits of Christian martyrs beheaded at the hands of ISIS in the Middle East.

Carol Kaalberg, cluster coordinator of parishes in Hills, Nichols and Lone Tree, back row right, poses with residents of Atrium Village senior apartments in Hills. All are wearing orange ribbon pins in support of persecuted Christians around the world.

Fr. Spiekermeier and members of the three-parish cluster have been wearing the ribbon pins for about a month now. Cluster coordinator Carol Kaalberg said Tom Barr, a St. Mary–Nichols parishioner, initially shared the idea with her after hearing of a national campaign calling upon Christians to show solidarity with the suffering church. “He told me about this campaign and asked if I could find some orange ribbon.”
She and other parish cluster coordinators latched on to the idea, seeing it as a way to heed Pope Francis’ plea to remember and pray for the world’s persecuted Christians. Fr. Spiekermeier said, “It rang a bell with a lot of people.”

Barr, along with the Altar and Rosary societies in Lone Tree and Hills, purchased rolls of orange ribbon for the project, enough for 1,200 ribbon pins. Lone Tree parishioner Deanna Krueger donated safety pins and members of all three cluster parishes cut and assembled the ribbon pins. Once completed, the parish members were able to pick one up out of a basket before or after Mass.


The campaign has since broken through the borders of the cluster parishes, becoming a way to unite many local Christians for a common cause. The cluster parishes have delivered ribbon pins to local assisted living facilities, community service organizations and non-Catholic churches. Fr. Spiekermeier said, “They were glad to do something like that because persecuted Christians are on their minds, too.”

Other Catholic parishes have taken up the campaign. The cluster donated ribbon pins to seven area parishes. Recently, cluster parish representatives delivered a batch to Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine to help them get started. Kaalberg said, “The ribbons have been very popular.”

Kaalberg is encouraged by the response. “It’s a small project that ended up being a larger project but a wonderful experience in that it is a daily reminder of prayer for persecuted Christians around the world.”

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