One blessing in doing pro-life and pro-family work around the world is that you meet the greatest human beings and Christians. In many ways they are all alike in their convictions, their opposition, their persecution, their problems, and, I might say, their consolations.
— Father Paul Marx, Faithful for Life
Human Life International and the global pro-life movement have lost a good friend and a dauntless defender of human life. On August 7, after a short battle with cancer in Moscow’s Orthodox St. Alexei Hospital, Galina Maslennikova passed into eternal life and was laid to rest at Perepierzinsky Cemetery near Moscow on August 10. Galina was 68 years old and the mother of two daughters, Oksana and Aleksandra.
I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.
— 2 Timothy 4:7
Galina fought the good fight to the very end of her life and sacrificed all for love – love for her neighbor. Her last mission was to Latvia in June where she trained future pro-life leaders. For more than 20 years Galina, a woman of deep faith with an unwavering devotion to defending life and family, represented Human Life International (HLI) in Russia. Her pro-life efforts began when abortion in Russia was the most popular method of family planning, and the average woman had seven abortions. She inspired many to see the inherent dignity of the human person and to defend life from conception to its natural end. Many pro-life leaders in Eastern Europe began their work under Galina’s tutelage, continuing to build on what they have received.
Galina was a convert to Catholicism, not an easy choice to make in Orthodox Russia. As a Russian and a Catholic, Galina successfully used her personal experiences to build bridges within the pro-life community, and became an expert liaison between Catholics and Orthodox seeking to build a Culture of Life. As a family psychotherapist, having earned a postgraduate degree in Family Studies at Catholic University of Lublin, Galina counseled those suffering from post-abortion syndrome, and saved many marriages from divorce. She taught natural fertility methods, becoming the first natural family planning instructor in Russia.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
— John 15:13
As a dedicated pro-life missionary, Galina was constantly on the road, not only in Russia but also throughout Central and Eastern Europe. She was tireless in her proclamation of the Gospel of Life. Her first devotion was to her own people, but her desire to proclaim the Gospel of Life brought her to other nations. She taught in Poland, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine, and even in Germany. She trained thousands of pro-life leaders, seeking through them to cast a wider net of influence in order to transform hearts and minds, and to save lives from the death peddlers.
For many years Galina directed the Pastoral Ministry of Families of the Catholic Church in Moscow. She organized numerous conferences, symposia and various workshops for families. She was an excellent lecturer and indispensable expert in her professional field and in bioethics. Through Galina’s assistance, many couples that were considered infertile were blessed with the gift of children. She also founded and directed the Independent Institute of Family and Demography. She worked long hours for God, life and family, often with little or no pay, and lived a very simple life – serving and not being served.
Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.
— Matthew 25:21
We will greatly miss Galina, and are most grateful to the Almighty Father for the gift of her life and the legacy she leaves behind. She was a unique and unrepeatable person whose tremendous contribution to the Culture of Life will never be forgotten. Because of her dedication to life and family, the pro-life movement is blessed with a litany of leaders throughout Central and Eastern Europe, making a difference and transforming cultures.
It is difficult to imagine the total impact pro-life missionaries make every day. HLI’s pro-life missionaries, for example, have touched lives and hearts in 159 countries, over nearly five decades. Many of our leaders began their work under Father Marx’s tenure – some working in this great campaign for nearly 40 years. Each day, they engage in various programs and projects with a single-minded devotion – to protect human life and families from the assault waged by the death peddlers. Their sacrifices are often unseen or unnoticed by the general public. They stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable and rejected, oftentimes under the harshest of conditions. In love and charity they endure inclement weather, vulgarities, public outrage and hostility, while at times finding disapproval and a lack of support from family, neighbors, friends and sadly their own faith communities. In spite of such overwhelming obstacles, nothing stifles their determination or devotion.
Tens of thousands of lives are saved each year because of their interventions and acts of sacrificial love. Marriages are saved from divorce; women and children are saved from the violence of abortion; women and their children are given aid through countless centers dedicated to their care; the elderly, the poor and the dying are loved, served and treated with dignity; youth are provided sound guidance in pursuing chastity and purity as virtues; families are supported; abortion facilities are closed; and hearts and minds are converted every day because of these passionate people committed to cultivating and building a Culture of Life. They are the unsung heroes transforming our world one person and situation at a time.
And who is my neighbor?
— Luke 10:29
Millions of children and their families have no idea how fortunate and blessed they are because of selfless servants witnessing in love on behalf of their brothers and sisters – their neighbors. Imagine what things would look like without these unsung heroes. How many more women and families would be suffering from the assaults against life and family? I dare not imagine.
I wish I could share with you the names and stories of every person I have met in my journeys or tell you more about HLI’s global pro-life leaders. They truly deserve recognition for their heroic witness and sacrifices – but of course they do not seek glory or praise. Please remember these servants of life in your prayers, as well as the soul of Galina and all pro-lifers who have gone before us in faith.