It’s not unusual for foreign countries to import from the United States. This week however, Spain will bring in an unusual “made in the USA” product: the Catholic Pro-Life movement. Speakers from Project Rachel, Catholics Called to Witness, the Dallas Respect Life Office, and Human Life International, have been invited to speak at “The Catholic Church For Life – Offering Concrete Answers” Conference, April 6-14 in Madrid, Spain. This conference is historical in that it marks a significant beginning in the Church to take the reins in the pro-life movement. Previously, many Catholics have been involved in anti-abortion, pro-life causes, but the organizations they have formed to engage the culture have been secular, not religious.
María José Mansilla, President and Founder of Spei Mater, a group dedicated to promoting pro-life work in the Church, is organizing this conference with D. Juan Antonio Reig Pla, Bishop of Alcalá of Henares, to show the American model of Pro-Life Catholic action and to learn how to adapt those models in Spain.
Two years ago, Project Rachel put on workshops there, and already that program of healing for post-abortive women has been implemented in several Spanish dioceses. The conference goal, according to Mansilla, is to encourage the pro-life ministry to become a part of parish ministries. Up until now, defending life has largely been delegated to civic associations unlike in the United States where every Catholic diocese has a Respect Life office.
Uniting Pro-Life with the Church
Mansilla said there is a growing realization for the need to bring the Catholic Church into clearer unity in the fight for life. “After many years working in the secular pro-life movement, my experience is that only God saves and if we don’t fight against the culture of death with the weapons of faith and within the communion of the Church, we have no hope,” she said.
She also said that she hopes the conference will reach far beyond Spain and have repercussions in all of Latin America as has happened with Project Rachel. “The fact that Hispanics now make up around 50% of the Catholic Church in the Americas and the Pope is Latino, makes Latin America the main stage for the battle between the Church and the culture,” she said.
Adriana Gonzalez has been fighting that very battle from her home in South Florida for several years. She is very encouraged by the election of Pope Francis and how it is helping to awaken Hispanics around the globe. “They are responding so vibrantly to the Holy Father’s election and words. This conference comes at a perfect time to reach out to those Spanish-speaking Catholics in Europe with this pro-action message to bring the Gospel into the world. This is tapping right into what the Holy Father has been preaching since he was elected – both in words and in by his actions. He is a living example for all Hispanics and all Christians how to put the Gospel into action. Prayer and trust in God is a universal message, according to Gonzalez, regardless of one’s nationality. I know that many around the globe that are not even Christians, have been touched by this holy man’s life and witnesses.
Catholic Witnesses launches in U.S. and Madrid’s Public Square
Adriana, and her husband Manny, are Founders of Catholics Called to Witness (CC2W) a faith-based organization dedicated to upholding and promoting religious liberty, and the three non-negotiable principles stressed by Pope Benedict XVI: protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family – as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage; and the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
The Gonzalez’s are in the process of launching a pro-action arm of CC2W called Catholic Witnesses, which was formed to encourage the Catholic community to participate in the public arena. Gonzalez, a homeschooling mother of seven, and creator of the well-known Test of Fire Election 2012 video, was invited to speak at the conference in Madrid, Spain this week to share this new evangelization effort she is launching in the U.S. next month. She will share her story of how her desire to make a difference in this world with so much strife and suffering can be used by God to help others to hear the Gospel message.
Ironically, Gonzalez will launch “Catholic Witnesses,” in Madrid, Spain, just three-weeks before its anticipated Pentecost Sunday launch date in the United States. “This conference is a nice fit for us,” she said, “because our first Catholic Witnesses project, Catholic Witnesses in the Public Square (CWPS) is about getting the laity involved. It is designed as a parish-sponsored response to our world where moral principals, once embraced in our culture, are being pushed out by secularism and moral relativism.” Gonzalez hopes that CWPS will help reawaken the Christian voice and motivate people to make a difference in the world.
The four pillars of CWPS are prayer, education, action, and fellowship. “This is not primarily political,” Gonzalez explained. “We want to begin by focusing on prayer. We cannot go anywhere without the Lord sending us with our eyes first fixed on Him.”
The education portion is done through a documentary series on issues that are determining the future of American society. The first volume of the CWPS video series features dynamic speakers, such as Jesuit Scripture Scholar, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., EWTN Global Catholic Television Network CEO, Michael Warsaw, and Dan Burke, Executive Director of the National Catholic Register and best-selling author of the book, Navigating the Interior Life. Each shares their expert knowledge on the topic of religious liberty and taps into the spirituality and wisdom of these prominent Catholic leaders. “It is like a dynamic speaker coming to you personally to share their experience and profound knowledge,” Gonzalez said.
CWPS also provides discussion guides, which map out questions and topics to stir the parish group’s conversation and ideas for action. In addition, people will be encouraged to visit the CWPS website for current events and issues that need Catholic support, such as the 40 Days for Life, legislative issues, ways to help the needy, and others.
“An action item could be: what are you doing for the poor in your community instead of delegating everything to the government?” Gonzalez explained. “If I am truly pro-life, how am I living that? Voting every few years? If that is it, then how much claim do I have to that title of Pro-Life?”
The fourth pillar of the program is fellowship. Gonzalez pointed out that the small parish groups will have the opportunity to provide support for one another, which in turn creates bonds of friendship cemented in faith. “Through such bonding,” she said, “our church members become stronger and we spur each other on.”
The Gonzalez family has discovered the power of such bonds through forming a prayer/discussion group of around 15 adults that has been meeting once a month in their home since January. “We pray and worship the Lord. We are focused on life issues right now and have a call to action. Then we always eat together with a potluck dinner, get to know each other and form those bonds.”
“I am so excited to share what God has done within our small group. I am so humbled that He has now asked me to share this with other pro-life brother and sisters in Spain. I am excited for this opportunity to share our CWPS program with them and am confident that it is a model that has already been tested first-hand and shown to work right in my own back yard. I pray it will catch on at this conference and spread wherever God wants it to go.”
But aside from her own example, Gonzalez said she wants, above all, to encourage people to trust in God and to volunteer to serve him. “By praying and putting ourselves in God’s hands, we go forth with the power of the Holy Spirit,” she said. “It is He who will open doors for us. We have to have the courage to say ‘yes’ and take that first step.”