Bishop Thomas Zinkula and his brother bishops in Iowa are promoting a video campaign to help encourage the use of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) and the state’s four Catholic dioceses launched the video campaign last week, made possible in part by The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Catholic Cares Coalition and the Iowa Department of Public Health. The campaign features Iowans sharing their reasons for supporting the vaccine.
Iowa currently ranks 25th in residents fully vaccinated as compared to the rest of the United States, with the percentage of rural Iowa residents lagging behind those in Iowa’s urban areas. Iowa Catholics are slightly above the average when compared to other segments, yet some Catholics still struggle with the decision. The bishops of Iowa stand behind this communication effort as another way to guide and counsel Iowa Catholics. In a statement, they said:
“Since the development of COVID-19 vaccines to combat the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 60% of Iowans have received the vaccine. The faithful of the Catholic Church are receiving the vaccine in larger numbers than any other denomination. Despite its effectiveness, many in the general population are hesitant to receive the vaccine.”
“We restate that vaccination has been proven to be the most effective way to fight the virus that continues to affect and kill so many. In communion with Pope Francis, we remind the faithful that the common good of public health should take precedence over any moral reservation about receiving the vaccines; they will not be effective if people do not use them.”
Among the Iowans whose stories appear in the video campaign is Ryan Burchett, a deacon candidate from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport. He and his brother, Garret, co-own and operate Mississippi River Distilling Company in LeClaire. The early months of the pandemic threatened their livelihood until the federal government allowed local distilleries like theirs to produce hand sanitizer to meet growing needs. Now back to the craft distillery business, Ryan feels strongly about the vaccine as a way to protect employees, family, customers and friends.
“How do we mitigate the danger that is apparent through what’s happening with this virus so that I’m not asking (our employees) to put their lives on the line to sell a cocktail or a bottle of whiskey?” Ryan Burchett sees an element of politics overshadowing an awareness of the common good. “This vaccine, to me, is what we’ve been praying for the whole time,” he said.
“Where would we be without this vaccine?” he asked. “If we’re thinking about our family at home, all the school kids they’re going to school with, the patrons that come into my business, my employees and things like that, it changes the dialogue a little bit.” He encourages viewers to think of the larger humanity. “If there’s one thing I can do to get us over this hump and to make a difference in turning the tide on this thing, then absolutely, I want to do that.”
Daniel and Ellen Rosmann, farmers from near Harlan Iowa, along with their parents, Ron and Maria Rosmann and brother, David Rosmann and his wife Becky, also share their story on video (see both videos at https://iowacatholicconference.org/getvaccinated .
The family farms together on nearly 700 acres, raising organic crops, livestock, hogs and egg-layers. Daniel and Ellen lost their uncle Father John Vakulskas to COVID-19 in late 2020. They do not want anyone else to suffer from the disease. They believe in the vaccine because they love the “whole human family.”
Other Iowans featured include Alondra Melendez, a college student from Storm Lake, Iowa, and Dawn Suksai, a Laotian factory worker also of Storm Lake who shared her story with her 10-year-old grandson, Ethan by her side. The videos will roll out this month and in December across Iowa.
Kent Ferris, director of the Social Action and Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Davenport, spearheaded the video campaign. “For those who still have questions about whether or not getting the vaccine will make a difference, we want people to know that their friends and neighbors across Iowa believe in the vaccine,” he said. “There are many people ready and willing to talk with those who are struggling to make a decision about whether to be vaccinated. It’s worth our efforts to join the conversation across our state.”
For more information, visit https://iowacatholicconference.org/getvaccinated and https://www.