Initiative of the Ecclesial Movements for the Protection of Human Embryos
Ruth and Peter Fischer, Schoenstatt Family Movement: 70,000 Signatures and Apostolic Side Effects
Our initiative does not yet have a long history but it is a dynamic one.
At the beginning of June, the Schoenstatt family groups of our St. Anno Parish in Siegburg spoke about stem cell research and the implications on human life. We were convinced that we had to raise our voices to hinder economic interests, profit or scientific curiosity to dominate the decision, and also question the ethical responsibility of human life. We realized that we would need solidarity if we wanted to achieve something.
We first became active in our parish, then shared our concerns in an article on schoenstatt.de, and at the same time wrote to all diocesan leaders of the Schoenstatt Family Movement. The reaction to our article on the Internet was overwhelming from abroad. We got letters of encouragement and support from Canada, the United States, and Argentina. But obviously we had not found the appropriate "tone" and "means" to reach Germany. But that would soon change.
On June 18, we heard through a mailing from PressOffice Schoenstatt that Ecclesial Movements in Munster had founded an initiative for the protection of human embryos. On the same day we joined this initiative; this was the solidarity we had been looking for. One day later we were informed by the central committee that they had discussed the initiative. The Ecclesial Movements decided that we should represent Schoenstatt until the official contact person would be named. This is the state of the matter up to now.
For us it is important to know that this is not the apostolic project or hobby of the Fischers. It is an apostolic initiative of the Ecclesial Movements, of many individuals and communities in Schoenstatt and in the Church. It is a concrete, common responsibility of the Ecclesial Movements, an expression of true solidarity and community of mission. This initiative is our contribution to the Apostolic World Confederation that Father Kentenich envisioned for this millennium.
During the first few months we tried to answer all the letters we received, to express our thanks and keep in contact. Since August we have given up. To all of you who helped, we therefore say today: Thank you!
We now want to share with you about this initiative and the life hidden behind the over 25,000 signatures that arrived in our mailbox. We want to do it by quoting from the more than 600 letters and emails we received.
1. This Initiative Generated new Apostolic Energies and new Apostles in the Schoenstatt Movement
Initially we counted on the Internet to reach the Schoenstatt Movement but did not really succeed. The Initiative only gained momentum when the information and the forms were passed on in Schönstatt Aktuell, the printed version of schoenstatt.de edited by PressOffice Schoenstatt and in the monthly Covenant Magazine. We witnessed special apostolic zeal from persons who we had not expected to make such a commitment:
"I am sorry that I cannot work for more signatures: I am 94 years old and handicapped…"wrote Mrs. B. from Stuttgart.
An old member of the Family Movement in the diocese of Cologne shared that due to severe sickness of the husband, the wife could hardly ever leave the house. Via telephone, sitting by her ailing husband, she rallied for signatures, "because this is an initiative highly important to both of us." Both promised to accompany us with prayer and contributions to the Capital of Grace. Some days ago we learned about the husband's call home to God.
Many persons became highly creative:
"I got the list through our Professional Women's newsletter. It is important that we as Christians (and all people should also) work for the protection of human embryos. Some of my guests want to start the initiative in their parishes. They will send the lists directly to you. Heartfelt thanks for the leadership for this initiative!"
So A.P. from Westphalia. B.B. from the diocese of Munster sent us lists regularly, each accompanied by a letter sharing experiences and new ideas:
"I heard about this initiative through the Professional Women and was at once excited. As I work in a school for nurses connected to a hospital, I gave the lists to all of the wards. I also spoke about the initiatives to all groups to whom I give lessons, and combined this with a discussion on the protection of human life. Altogether I got 100 signatures. I think it is important to take the initiative. Many of the physicians, head nurses, and the director of the school also signed."
Soon we got another letter from her:
"Today the initiative started in my parish…"
You see what one committed young woman can achieve with a good initiative. We could go on for a whole hour with experiences like this.
2. An Unusual "Face" of Schoenstatt
Like the Schoenstatt Movement, the other movements with whom we are working together in the central committee had a "first-time" experience. In the past, we left the social and political field to the traditional Catholic organizations – of which also Kolping and the Association of Catholic Women started an action. We liked to work with them, but they all felt strong enough to do it on their own. But – we go on also when we don't succeed.
"Also in our parish we had two factions with two different actions, ending in nothing happening at all. In spite of the vacation season, I tried to get at least some signatures. I think time is running out, so I also send lists that are not complete with the hope of giving a small contribution to the protection of the human embryos." The small contribution: 84 signatures from the Mothers' League in the diocese of Munster.
But we also heard other responses:
While standing in line in the copy shop, I gave some lists to the director of a day care center for elderly people:
"Finally someone in the church is doing something in this field. Oh – from Schoenstatt? That surprises me a lot!"
F., Siegburg, associated with Schoenstatt as pilgrim.
"I found the article about the initiative in the magazine "Schönstatt Aktuell". I became very excited and began to collect signatures in our parish. Congratulations on this initiative. We Schoenstatt members need to work much more 'outside'," wrote a Lady of Schoenstatt.
3. Schoenstatt going Public – a big step ahead through Internet and Email
One of our special initiatives was an email distribution to over 1,000 addresses of Catholic webmasters, press offices, publishers, editors, bishops, and individuals to be found on respective web sites or e-mail directories. The other ecclesial movements did similar distributions via channels accessible to them. And within one day we had gone public, and the initiative had become known and widely discussed.
A parish priest from Eastern Germany to whom we had sent an email wrote: "Attached you will find six lists from my two parishes, Demmin and Grimmen. Last week during the convention I heard that other parishes of the Stralsund area have joined in the initiative, although to my regret not all did so. Hopefully, the parishes in the neighboring Greifswald area will also join. I hope and wish that you will receive many signatures for this highly important initiative."
We want to thank the over 600 parish priests who allowed the collection of signatures to be announced and accumulated in their parishes and parish churches.
In response to the email diffusion, we also received a letter from Osnabrück:
"These are the signatures collected by the associate collaborators of the VKR Lower Saxony. We asked all of our colleagues to join in this initiative with their students. With kind regards, Franz Josef Hülsmann, chairperson of the Catholic Religious Education Teachers (VKR) in Lower Saxony."
The Protestant Church of Brilon joined the initiative with utter commitment. A physician from Brilon, to whom we had sent the email as he maintains the Homepage of the Protestant Church, sent over 1,000 signatures. He had passed on the information to all Protestant and Catholic institutions in Brilon.
A Schoenstatt member wrote:
"Heartfelt thanks for your greetings. I don't have an email address – I am already retired, you know. But Radio Vatican broadcast the initiative and encouraged participation. Radio Horeb Germany broadcast the same. I got the lists through the Evangelical Sisters of Mary in Darmstadt. May I please get more information?"
4 Teamwork of the Ecclesial Movements
The representatives of the Ecclesial Movements in the central committee each tried to mobilize the whole movement – more or less successfully. Beyond, each movement worked for the whole initiative where we have our strength and resources.
We coordinated all the important steps. Now, journalists from Press Office Schoenstatt and of the Focolare Movement work hand in hand for the presentation of the results for the press. Please also pray for Ursula Doerpinghaus, Focolare Movement, who now is in Berlin and is trying to open doors in the government and Federal Press Conference.
We proudly present today more than 70,000 signatures. We don't know how many of them were collected by which of the Ecclesial Movements and the other organizations who later joined the initiative, and this is not so important anyway.
We especially want to say thanks for the 25,000 signatures that arrived in our mailbox.
We also want to especially thank the Schoenstatt members of the dioceses of Munster, Cologne, Osnabrück, and Mainz who collected 50% of all signatures.
The Schoenstatt Family Movement of the Mainz diocese had the most successful idea – they informed all parishes of the diocese through a department of the Diocesan Administration.
The Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary initiated the collection of signatures in many towns of Northern Germany especially, in the dioceses of Trier and Limburg.
The Professional Women of Northern Germany made the initiative their apostolate of the year and with a relatively small number of members developed many original ideas to bring this initiative into their work fields.
At the end, a remark from a letter that already points into the future:
"I was so surprised that the people did not hesitate to sign. They said that all these experiments of human life should not be allowed to happen. One could have filled lists at each streetcorner; people were waiting for this. Whenever you start a similar initiative again, you can count on me; and, if your time allows, please let me know when you begin so I can take part…"
You see, many people joined and participated with enthusiasm and commitment; others hesitated or refused. We are convinced that great and challenging tasks are ahead of us in the social and political fields
We need the solidarity beyond the borders of our own movement – and we find this in the Ecclesial Movements.
English edition: Joan Biemert, New Franken, Wisconsin,USA
More Information by Family Ruth und Peter Fischer, firstname.lastname@example.org
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