I recently had the privilege of organizing a pro-life mission trip in Eastern Europe with HLI President Father Shenan Boquet. We are always blessed when a priest proclaims the Gospel of Life, especially to seminarians. This particular mission found us visiting four days in Hungary and seven days in Romania, before he continued on to Poland to join Lech and Ewa Kowalewski, HLI’s great leaders in that very Catholic country.
Like Poland, Hungary’s entire national history is wound together with its Christian faith. Saint Stephen founded Hungary in the 11th century. Hungarians fought many battles over the years, including against the Ottoman Turks and other invaders. After the bloody communist suppression of the 1956 uprising, János Kádár, whose rule was marked by what later became known as Goulash Communism, led the nation. The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 would later cause the end of the Warsaw Pact in 1991.
Lately we have seen signs that this great nation is returning to its Christian roots. Hungary’s 2012 Easter Constitution takes a clear stand for pro-family values, and has become a sign of hope in the European Union, where many countries have had abortion on demand for so long. Hungary could be a key nation to fight the pro-death mentality if it can change its laws to match its pro-life constitution. A united campaign is needed to reform and abolish outdated and unjust abortion laws.
When we arrived In Hungary, we were met by Dr. Imre Teglasy, HLI’s affiliate director in Hungary. A passionate fighter for the defense of life, he does not hide the fact that he is an abortion survivor. Indeed, this is why he serves in the fight for life.
It is clear that all over East Europe governments are waking up to the demographic catastrophe caused by abortion and other pro-death measures. In Hungary, abortion is legally permitted through all nine months of pregnancy if the baby is suspected of having a disability. Approximately 90 percent of children prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Appropriately, our mission began on International Down Syndrome Day, since the vast majority of these brothers and sisters of ours are killed in the womb. How can we decide whether a baby’s disability would make her life not worth living?
In Budapest, St. Francis’ Director General Dr. Emil Toldy-Schodel welcomed us at the hospital, declaring that the sacredness of life is the main focus. Though this is unusual for much of the West, it is not so surprising as several hospitals in Central and Eastern Europe create abortion-free wards. It is a hopeful sign that the eugenic ideologies of Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes, which have long infected Europe, will eventually be defeated.
During one of the talks, Father Boquet reminded those present of the stakes in confronting eugenic abortion. “Every abortion is unjust, because every abortion is murder. Yet subjecting unborn children to a late term abortion — which is particularly cruel, painful, and inhumane — just because they have a disability is painfully and sickeningly wrong.”
The next day, Fr. Boquet celebrated Mass in Budapest’s Cave Church. Rededicated in 1992 after it had been desecrated and closed during the communist regime, the church stands as a symbol for breaking free from the Communist establishment. There, a Pauline priest Fr. Antal Puskashas has begun a new pro-life initiative to serve parents wounded by abortion. Through the sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest hears confessions which reveal people’s pain associated with the ugly evil of abortion. He hopes to launch a Rachel’s Vineyard ministry in the near future to bring healing to those who chose abortion.
Later in Szekszard, where we gave a presentation to local health professionals, we also received an invitation to visit the abortion-free children’s hospital. There, the director enthusiastically agreed to work with us to bring pro-life formation to all healthcare workers!
God’s providence led us to the high honor of meeting with Mr. Tamas Schneider, Vice President of the National Assembly in Parliament. Discussing current issues affecting life and family in Hungary, Fr. Boquet highlighted how HLI can be of assistance. A meeting with pro-life and pro-family activists in Budapest showed their interests of the global role of the US concerning the issues of life and family and the impact of the Trump administration.
Fr. Boquet also had the honor of baptizing Dr. Imre and Mrs. Edit Teglasy’s youngest daughter, Laura Julia. As her godfather, I pray she will grow up to continue the global pro-life mission!
Romania, our next destination, has been fighting for years against the abortion agenda. Though Romanians as a whole claim high levels of religious belief and about 90% affirm their belief in Jesus Christ, why do they have so many abortions?
It’s because this troubling question that the Gift of Life Association, our HLI affiliate in Romania, exists. They create short-term and long-term solutions for their dioceses, offering counseling to pregnant women. Gerda Chiserau describes God’s blessing as love which never runs out and that life will always have the last word. This HLI affiliate has experienced incredible success on many different levels because pro-lifers share well developed arguments in the public square. Furthermore, many Romanians are waking up to the demographic reality, showing the need to build a better future.
Simply put, the pro-life movement’s recent success in Eastern Europe is based upon constant reliance on God through prayer, joy and trust even through suffering. One particular practice in which HLI affiliates find success is the establishment of Perpetual Adoration chapels, as well as frequent public demonstrations of faith through prayer marches and vigils. These deliberate acts of faith combat the rampant selfishness in society that is evidenced by the promotion of abortion and contraception.
One thing is certain, said Fr. Boquet: “In all the surveyed countries, there is a clear relationship between abortion and use of contraceptive methods: the more a society accepts contraception, the higher the level of abortions.”
Sadly, the average number of abortions of Romanian women in their lifetime is between two and three. In response, the Gift of Life Association shows concretely what can be done for pregnant women in need by opening their first mother’s house, Mater Misericordiae. This home now welcomes pregnant women who plan to keep their babies despite difficulties.
Another cause for celebration was the success of pro-life marches organized simultaneously in 300 cities across Romania and Moldavia. This is no small feat as thousands of people attended the marches with government officials present along with members from all Christian denominations. Speakers emboldened all Romanians to serve in ways that defend, respect, and cherish life.
Lastly, Fr. Boquet visited five major seminaries in Romania, discussing the global life and family issues at stake, and the importance of seminarians’ and priests’ involvement in the pro-life movement. New energy and ideas are needed, along with a commitment to read and share Church documents and magisterial teaching concerning life and family, and to combat the threats and challenges of our times.
One might think that just a week traveling around Romania is not enough time to accomplish anything, but the results are overwhelming. Together with Fr. Boquet and Fr. Joannes Chiserau, we drove over 2,000 miles around the country. Here the pro-life movement is on the cusp of great developments in building a Culture of Life and Family.
Please continue to pray for the success of this most important work and for the resources necessary to further pro-life activities, which are so desperately needed.