During his apostolic journey to the United States from October 1-8, 1979, Pope John Paul II traveled from Boston to New York and then Philadelphia before arriving in Des Moines, IA with his final stops in Chicago and Washington D.C. before returning back to Rome.
On October 4, 1979 Saint Pope John Paul II made a historical visit to Des Moines, Iowa and celebrated an outdoor mass at Living History Farms. Approximately 350,000 people from around the country, the largest crowd in Iowa history, flocked to the Farms on a cold and rainy autumn day. As the Pope arrived in a helicopter, the skies parted and the bright sun came out.
Prior to his first visit to the United States, the Pope received a letter from Iowa farmer Joe Hayes. Written at his rural home kitchen table, the farmer invited the Pope to travel to Iowa on his U.S. tour to speak on stewardship of the land. The Pope did just that – speaking on gratitude, conservation, and generosity of the land and those who farm it.
This was a monumental visit in the life of Living History Farms. The Pope’s visit attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to Living History Farms and Des Moines. To commemorate Saint Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Farms, the Church of the Land was built in 1984 and now serves as a part of the 1875 town of Walnut Hill.