The following story appeared in the August 12 Idaho Catholic Register.
National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias, presents an award to Bishop Peter Christensen at the National Right to Life Convention in Atlanta on June 24. The award was given to thank Bishop Peter for his “I Shall Give Half” campaign, which is estimated to have provided more than $170,000 to the NRLC as well other pro-life organizations. (Courtesy photo/MaryLou Molitor)
By MaryLou Molitor
for the Idaho Catholic Register
On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court issued the decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson case, which over-turned the Roe v. Wade decision, Diocese of Boise Bishop Peter Christensen was the guest of honor at a reception featuring some of the nation’s most noted pro-life advocates.
Bishop Peter was honored at the National Right to Life Committee’s (NRLC) annual convention in Atlanta June 24-25 for his “I Shall Give Half Campaign.” He launched the campaign in 2021 in reaction to the federal American Rescue Plan Act that appropriated $450 billion to state and local governments and health-related agencies, but included no restrictions to limit spending for abortions. At the same time, the federal government issued $1,400 stimulus checks to U.S. taxpayers.
Bishop Peter saw an opportunity to counteract the possible increased abortion funding by asking taxpayers to donate half of their $1,400 stimulus checks to a pro-life organization of their choice. As he said at the time, “We recognize that not all can afford to give a sum of $700. … Whatever gift can be given, a gift of some amount is encouraged to be donated as a charitable almsgiving to protect the lives of our unborn children.”
Bishop Peter recommended the National Right to Life Educational Foundation as a possible recipient of these donations. The Bishop’s “I Shall Give Half” appeal to Idaho Catholics provided more than $170,000 in donations to NRLC that it likely would not have otherwise received. In addition, other pro-life organizations also received unexpected and much-needed donations as a result of the campaign.
In gratitude, the National Right to Life Committee hosted a reception in the Bishop’s honor on the evening of June 24. NRLC President Carol Tobias told those attending that the contributions could not have come at a better time. She explained that during the 2021 COVID lockdowns, NRLC employees were feeling the negative effects of working remotely, including discouragement and isolation. The Bishop’s efforts resulted in a much-needed boost, both financially and psychologically.
In his remarks, Bishop Peter explained the inspiration for the “I Shall Give Half” campaign, noting that the idea came to him in the midst of a sense of frustration over the federal government’s increased abortion funding. Rather than reacting with anger, the Bishop said he decided to do something positive – and the “I Shall Give Half” campaign came to him immediately.
With hundreds of pro-life leaders in the audience at the event, Bishop Peter also took the opportunity to promote his “Marriage for Life” decal. He explained that this inspiration similarly occurred to him one day while driving and observing bumper stickers, many of them vulgar or inappropriate. Rather than bemoan the situation, he said he resolved to come up with an idea to offer a positive alternative – and thus was born the “Marriage for Life” decal which he designed. Bishop Peter said these decals have been distributed in the thousands, and he invited attendees at the NRLC Convention to take a decal back home to their local pro-life groups.
Bishop Peter was not the only Idahoan at the convention. He was joined by two Idaho seminarians, Ian Willnerd and Nathan Ribb, whose attendance was sponsored by St. John Vianney Society, an Idaho organization that encourages vocations and publishes the annual “Men In Black” calendar.
Bishop Peter Christensen promoted his “Marriage for Life” decal at a reception during the NRLC national convention where he was guest of honor. Diocese of Boise seminarians, Ian Willnerd, left, and Nathan Ribb attended the convention with Bishop Peter. (Courtesy photo/MaryLou Molitor)
Willnerd and Ribb, who reside at Bishop White Seminary and attend Gonzaga University in Spokane, said they were deeply affected by what they learned at the conference and came away with a renewed commitment to the pro-life apostolate. Both were surprised that the high court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was announced on the first morning of the convention. While they enjoyed the jubilation following that news, they also quickly realized, along with other attendees, that this moment represented not an end to the pro-life struggle, but rather a new beginning. The significance of that moment was not lost on the seminarians. “How awesome it was to be surrounded by some of the greatest pro-life minds as Roe v. Wade was struck down. I will never forget where I was,” Nathan Ribb said.
Ian Willnerd is no stranger to the pro-life movement. He was recently chosen as president of his school’s Students for Life group for the coming year. “The conference was an opportunity to further my education and recommit myself to the pro-life movement,” Will-nerd said. “I learned the most about assisted suicide and euthanasia. These end-of-life issues were something I had struggled to understand in the past.”
“Roe may be overturned, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” Willnerd said. “I look forward to inspiring other young people to be evangelists for the gospel of life.”
“I received so much from each presentation,” Ribb said. “I left the event feeling confident and convicted about the message of life.” One talk in particular, by Matt Birk, a former center for the Minnesota Vikings and Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, was especially meaningful to Ribb.
“One line in particular stuck with me: ‘No one is born pro-abortion; they have to be taught to believe it.’ This statement was mind-blowing; it reveals a truth intrinsic to human nature. We are born knowing that life is sacred, until this inherent understanding is twisted to believe the abortion industry’s claims,” Ribb said. “The real work of the pro-life movement is to reconstruct the culture as one that respects and upholds the dignity of the human person and the family.”
To see coverage of the 2022 NRLC Convention, including Bishop Peter’s award, access the July edition of NRL News at: nrlc.org/uploads/NRLNews/July2022NRLNews.pdf
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