Patrick Castle takes over at Vitae Society
By Jay Nies and Martha Schieber
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Castle has spent virtually his entire life training for his defining race and battle: leading the Vitae Foundation into its second generation.
From the cold, pre-dawn South Dakota mornings as a newspaper boy through grueling physical training at the U.S. Air Force Academy, from pursuing a doctorate in nano-analytical chemistry to formulating overseas defense strategies in 9/11’s aftermath, from helping his future wife discover her pro-life leanings to saving a pre-born baby outside a St. Louis abortion clinic, from founding the National LIFE Runners Team to charging with 170 of his teammates in the Kansas City Marathon, Dr. Castle has embraced his training with grace and vigor.
“I certainly can’t complain with how God has prepared me,” he told a roomful of Vitae Foundation boosters at a June 10 pro-life dinner in Sedalia.
It was his first speaking engagement since succeeding Carl Landwehr on June 1.
“Pat, did you have any idea what God had in store for you at Vitae Foundation?” Mr. Landwehr asked him.
“No,” Dr. Castle replied. “But God’s ideas are always better than mine.”
The Jefferson City-based Vitae Foundation combines research and numerous types of mass media to promote a culture in which abortion is unthinkable, while helping women with unplanned pregnancies choose life.
Mr. Landwehr founded Vitae in 1992 and is continuing as a strategic advisor for Vitae.
He said he was honored to introduce his successor.
“Some people think transitions are terrible and hard to achieve,” Mr. Landwehr stated. “But if you focus on the mission and if you have someone like Pat Castle to move the cause forward, it’s really easy and exciting.”
Dr. Castle had just moved to Jefferson City from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., where he was the Medical Support Squadron Commander.
“I already feel home right here in mid-Missouri,” he said, “because mid-Missouri is for God and country and is fully pro-life.”
He talked about the seven years he spent as a paperboy, starting when he was 11.
“I was delivering news that wasn’t always good,” he said. “And now I’m smiling because God has me delivering mostly Good News.”
For starters, for the first time since Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973, more than half of the people in the United States identify themselves as pro-life.
In the past 20 years, the number of U.S. abortion clinics has fallen from more than 2,100 to fewer than 700, while the number of pregnancy resource centers has gone from 800 to more than 2,500.
Thanks in large part to the Knights of Columbus, more and more of those centers have ultrasound machines and can show the pregnant mother an image of her pre-born baby.
“Eighty-seven percent of abortion-minded, vulnerable women who see their unborn baby on ultrasound — guess what they choose. Life!” Dr. Castle said.
By placing meticulously researched messages on billboards, social media, television, radio and other forms of communication, Vitae has connected tens of thousands of abortion-minded women with their local pregnancy resource centers.
More than 75,000 abortions have been prevented — more than 75,000 lives saved.
Going into battle
Dr. Castle recalled his first year at the Air Force Academy, which was akin to being in basic training for 12 months.
Thirty-four percent of his classmates left before graduation.
“As I look back on that time with boxing and marathon running and the rigor and leaping out of airplanes, doing gliders and running my first marathon, I say, ‘Wow! Okay, God! I get it now.’”
His mettle was tested further when he was the Air Force’s chief bioenvironmental engineer in Turkey from 2000-02.
“I was the technical expert for the commanders, and we just happened to be the closest American unit to Osama Bin Laden on Sept. 11, 2001,” he recalled.
Dr. Castle was preparing for a real battle, and that’s exactly what he’s heading into.
It’s a battle in which more than 3,000 pre-born babies per day — about 23 percent of all Americans conceived — are lost to abortion.
He compared the 597,000 Americans who die of heart disease each year and the 530,000 who die of cancer to the 1.2 million who die through abortion.
“It’s the leading cause of death in America,” he said.
In a research study, 84 percent of women who had abortions said they did so because they believed they had no choice.
“Eighty-two percent said that if one supportive person had come to them and said, ‘You can do this, and I’m gonna’ help you,’ they would have chosen life,” Dr. Castle stated.
“Guess what,” he said. “Each of us can be that one person.”
Think about it
Dr. Castle talked about meeting and falling in love with Angi, his wife, while they were in graduate school together.
Eventually realizing that she didn’t share his pro-life convictions, he began making a clear but loving case for the unborn and their mothers.
“I never thought of it that way,” she told him.
“And that’s exactly what Vitae Foundation does,” he said, noting that the organization invested $2 million in social science research to find out how best to reach and help vulnerable, abortion-minded women.
He noted that his doctorate work in nano-analytical chemistry led him to build a very sensitive sensor to detect chemical-biological warfare agents.
Having studied molecular structures smaller than one-10,000th of the width of a human hair allowed him to make an unequivocally pro-life observation:
“You want to know when life begins? Trust me, life begins at conception. Fact!” he said.
Born to run
An avid running enthusiast, Dr. Castle founded the National LIFE Runners Team (www.liferunners.org) in 2008.
By running and walking in specially designed “REMEMBER The Unborn” jerseys, members pray and raise awareness and money for pregnancy resource centers throughout the country.
LIFE Runners has more than 2,700 members, ages 1 to 88. There are more than 59 chapters in all 50 states and 17 other countries.
“The only requirement is to get your $11 jersey and wear it anywhere — around the block, to the grocery store, to church, to school,” Dr. Castle stated. “And our message, like all the messaging that the Vitae Foundation puts out, is changing hearts and minds, which is truly saving lives.”
In 2011, 170 LIFE Runners signed up for the Kansas City Marathon — the largest team ever to compete in that event.
Afterward, Dr. Castle; Anne Carmichael, a Vitae Vice President; and about 100 other LIFE Runners went to Overland Park, Kan., to kneel down on the sidewalk and pray in front of the abortion clinic there.
Seeing them helped a security guard at the clinic find the courage to quit his job.
“I’m warning you, if you ask me to pray for something, as likely as not, I’m going to say, ‘Great, let’s pray right now,’” he said. “If you ask me to pray for you, you’re going to get prayed for!”
In February 2012 while serving at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Dr. Castle joined with his LIFE Runners teammates to spend a day with Coalition for Life St. Louis’ campaign praying outside the St. Louis Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.
By thinking quickly and connecting gracefully, he convinced a mother to go across the street to the ThriVe mobile medical unit instead of aborting her baby.
She contacted him on Facebook two years later and sent a photo of her daughter, Zoe Isabella.
Her name means “Life Promised to God.”
The people you meet
The LIFE Runners Team is what brought Dr. Castle into contact with Mrs. Carmichael at Vitae.
She joined the team in 2011 and facilitated a meeting between Dr. Castle and Mr. Landwehr the following year.
In the course of the discussion, the men asked each other, “When are you retiring, and what are you going to do after that?”
Dr. Castle’s answer was to see what God had planned for him.
“Well guess what? I have some ideas that God might approve of!” Mr. Landwehr told him.
Their relationship developed into something like the wise Obi-Wan Kenobi and the mentored Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars.”
“Carl has given great ‘vectoring’ to the pro-life movement through the Vitae Foundation,” Dr. Castle noted. “His approach, his research-based messaging is unmatched.”
Dr. Castle thanked Mr. Landwehr and all of his associates for doing the “heavy lifting” through the decades when abortion was more widely accepted than it is today.
“It’s great to jump onto a winning team,” Dr. Castle stated. “Together we are winning!
“I am absolutely blessed to represent and serve you,” he told the Sedalia audience, “and we are one team and are all in Christ for pro-life.”
He saluted them, and they stood and applauded.
Mrs. Schieber, a member of Immaculate Conception parish in Jefferson City, is the Vitae Foundation’s communications director.