Contact: Jennie Deerr
(515) 278-5286
Living History Farms

On Friday, October 2, Living History Farms will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Pope John Paul II's historic visit to Living History Farms on October 4, 1979. Ruth Haus, President of Living History Farms, wanted to commemorate this significant event in a community-wide celebration. "The visit of his holiness, Pope John Paul II, in 1979, was an event that catapulted Living History Farms onto the national stage. His message to us to care for our land and to feed the world are as relevant today, as they were 30 years ago when he spoke to our crowd of 350,000. As stewards of 500 acres of land ourselves, Living History Farms puts this message into practice every day. Iowa's rural heritage is brought to life at Living History Farms and highlights the impact of our agricultural roots upon society," says Haus.

The day will start with nearly 800 Des Moines Area Catholic School children participating in Catholic School Day. Schools participating include Assumption, St. Pius X, St. Joseph, St. Theresa, Holy Trinity, St. Francis of Assisi, Holy Family, St. Augustine, Sacred Heart, Christ the King, St. Patrick and St. Anthony Catholic Schools. Students will focus on the themes of stewardship and foodways. Students will also participate in "The Hungry As A Horse: Non-Perishable Food Drive." Students from Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines will be at Living History Farms Friday to collect non-perishable food items on behalf of the St. Mary's food pantry in Des Moines. The goal is to collect 2,000 pounds of food, which is the weight of one Percheron draft horse at Living History Farms.

At 5 p.m. on Friday, October 2, there will be a free, interfaith prayer service at Living History Farms in Urbandale, outside of the Church of the Land at the Farms, which was constructed in honor of the Pope's visit. Attendees should park in the Visitor Center parking lot and enter through the Visitor Center to walk to the church. Doors to the event will open at 4:45 pm. Directions to the Visitor Center are found on Living History Farms' website at A limited number of chairs will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Guests are welcome to bring a blanket. People and families attending the interfaith prayer service can also bring a donation of non-perishable food.

Representatives from at least eight Christian communities, two Jewish communities, and the Des Moines Area Religious Council, have agreed to participate. Music will be led by musicians from Drake University, under the direction of Dr. Aimee Beckmann-Collier. Dr. Beckmann-Collier, a Des Moines native and former choral director at Dowling Catholic High School, was among the musicians at the 1979 papal Mass in Des Moines. Following the prayer service, a dinner catered by Shane's Rib Shack will be available at a price of $7 for adults and $4 for children. The Living History Farms Guild will provide homemade pies. Guests are also welcome to bring a picnic dinner. (Please note, no alcohol or tobacco products are allowed.)

Mary Nelson, Immediate Past Board Chairperson of Living History Farms added, "In 1979 any visit by a Pope outside of Italy was rare. The fact that he would chose Des Moines, in answer to an Iowa farmer's letter was almost beyond belief. It was his interest in land stewardship that made the trip a natural for him and a memorable time for us. It is a wonderful part of the history of Living History Farms." In October 4, 1981, the formal dedication of the Interfaith Church of the Land proceeded with an outdoor service. It included representatives of Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Muslim religions to emphasize the interfaith character of the church. Governors Ray and Hughes were also in attendance.

There will also be a collection of historic items from the Papal visit, on loan from the Diocese of Des Moines. These items include Living History Farms will display the following items on loan from the Diocese of Des Moines including the Papal Quilt - The colorful quilted banner used as a backdrop on the cathedral space for Pope John Paul II's visit was designed by Father John Buscemi. The quilt will be on display from September 30 - October 4th at Living History Farms with the exception of October 3rd, when it will be displayed at Dowling Catholic High School for the Symposium. Other important pieces from the Pope's visit will also be on display throughout the weekend.

Volunteers interested in helping with the prayer service should contact Jan Milroy, Manager of Volunteer Services, at (515) 278-5286.

In case of rain, the event will be held inside the Flynn Barn.

Living History Farms is a 501(c)(3)non-profit, historical, educational museum located at 11121 Hickman Rd (exit #125 from the combined interstates 35/80), Urbandale, Iowa. Operations and maintenance are dependent upon gate receipts, memberships and contributions.

Living History Farms is open Wednesday-Sunday from September 9 - October 15.
Wednesday-Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm
Sunday, Noon to 5 pm
Season sponsor is Bravo Greater Des Moines.

Regular Daily Admission is: Adult, $11.50; Child (4-12), $7; Senior Citizen (60+), $10.50. Living History Farms members are admitted free. Arrive by 3 p.m. to tour the entire museum. Ticket sales and admission to the Farms ends at 4 p.m. Grounds and sites close at 5 p.m. For a special events update, call (515) 278-2400.
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