Has Europe lost its Catholic roots? Opinions are constantly being emitted on the question “What is happening to Europe?”, and while I think there is a need for realism, I don’t think there is reason for pessimism. It is said that although there are new struggles for the Church in every time period, God also raises up new people in his Church as beacons of hope and these ten European Catholics are a testimony to that. These Catholics aren’t more important than the everyday European Catholics that seek to live the Gospel, as my wise friend Dora pointed out to me. The true power of Christians is in their love, service, poverty, self-giving, humility and not the world’s criteria of money, success, fame, influence, visibility or number of books sold. However, not only do I think these Catholics inspire hope for Europe, but I also think they deserve a little publicity!
1. Father Duarte da Cunha, Portugal
Father Duarte da Cunha was a much-loved parish priest and spiritual father to many in Lisbon, Portugal before being nominated secretary of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences in 2008. He specialized in St. Thomas Aquinas and was a pioneer in spreading John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in Portugal. He founded a ministry that gives aid and support to pregnant women, called Center of Support of Life. Now, he lives in Switzerland and travels to meet bishops or their representatives, promoting more synchronization among them and with Jesus Christ. Following John Paul II’s example, he seeks to focus on the family, and in protecting and promoting this important foundation of society. Despite his busy life, he has always made mass and prayer a daily priority and believes that great, heroic acts of saints have behind them years and years of small and daily moments and sacrifices.
2. Mother Verónica María Berzosa, Spain
The convent of Lerma in Spain has existed since 1604, but when Veronica entered this convent the youngest sister was 40 years old and no one new had entered in 23 years. Then, what is referred to as “the miracle of Lerma” happened. At just 28 years of age, Veronica became Mother Superior and now she is spiritual mother to a thriving convent about 200 young women called Iesu Communio. Yet she doesn’t credit this to herself. When asked how she feels being the mother of so many women, she responded, “Much joy, for the love for Jesus burns here. I am very in love with him. They have given me life. Motherhood comes from God.”
3. Dr. Phil Boyle, Ireland
A general practitioner and European pioneer of Natural Procreative (NaPro) Technology, Dr. Phil Boyle has been fighting against the odds since the beginning of his career. He studied in America with Dr. Thomas Hilgers in Omaha, Nebraska and was the first doctor to bring NaProTechnology (an alternative to IVF, consistent with Catholic ethics) to Europe. Now, he is director of the Fertility Care Centres of Europe (FCCE), gives conferences and publishes in this area. His clinic in Galway has treated thousands of infertile couples, many of whom had failed attempts with IVF before.
4. Kathy Sinnott, Ireland
A true Pro-life politician, Kathy Sinnott was a member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2009. Mother to nine children, she is a known for her work in defending the rights of the disabled and is secretary of the Hope Project. She says, “I have always just voted prolife. Someone might have a better policy on shipping or whatever, but I will still vote prolife” (at 31:20 here).
5. Rocco Buttiglione, Italy
Rocco Buttiglione is a university professor, member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Science and politician. He was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2004, has served on the Chamber of Deputies in the Italian Parliament since 1994 and helped form an Italian political party, the Christian Democratic Union. His openness in defending his Catholic views has resulted in much controversy. In his speech, translated here, he says, “I don’t know if God would give me the courage to offer my head for my faith, like St. Thomas More. I hope I am never in a position to find out. But offer a seat on the commission—yes, that I can offer.” He also says, “Europe is not Christian, but neither is it non-Christian. Europe, like the Italian young people, is looking for its path. In order to discover this path, in order to discover Christ as an adequate response to the desire of the heart of man, it is necessary that there be Christians who give testimony, who have the courage to be that which they are.”
6. Delia Smith, England
This Catholic TV chef converted to Catholicism and found her love of cooking at the same time, when she was 22 years old. Now she’s sold 21 million cookbooks and appears frequently on BBC, not only to cook but also to share about her faith! On a BBC program, images of her house appeared with her crucifixes and she was even filmed in mass. She’s written cookbooks for Lent and Advent and a book about prayer, Journey into God. She’s been married for 40 years and her parish priest confirms that she takes yummy treats to the parish. (Her site here and an article in Spanish here)
7. Sandro Magister, Italy
A journalist and writer for the magazine “l’Espresso”, Sandro Magister specializes in Catholic news. He’s written two books on the political history of the Italian Church and helped publish three volumes of Pope Benedict XVI’s homilies. He also produces the program “Sunday with Benedict XVI”, which includes the Pope’s homilies, art and Gregorian songs for each Sunday’s readings. His website Chiesa reaches readers from all over the world.
8. Fernando, Kuki and 6 children, Spain
This is not your typical missionary; this is an entire missionary family that moved from their native Spain to Japan. Fernando, Kuki and children are one of the hundreds of families belonging to the Neocatechumenal Way that have been sent out by the Pope to places in which the Church is struggling, to be a living sign of faith and family. Kuki says, “Since we’ve been in Japan, I can tell you we have never had a lack of anything. The entire process of our mission is full of details of God’s love. God truly gives 101% and our entire family has experienced this. That’s what my husband and I want for our children: for them to know that whoever trusts in God won’t be misguided and that their parents one day left everything they had materially speaking to do something much more important: our Father’s will.”
9. Giuseppe Noia, Italy
An outspoken doctor and prolife activist, Giuseppe Noia is a pediatrics surgeon at Gemelli Hospital and professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome. He’s written several books and articles, one of which he is coauthor and is called “The terminal son”. He says in this article about the morning after pill, “One of the most widespread and rooted theories in the medical world and in popular culture is thinking that voluntary abortion is less traumatic when it is practiced during the first weeks of pregnancy, that it’s safer and more acceptable than abortion, with fewer consequences for the woman…The physiological effects are similar to surgical abortion with anesthesia: contractions, expulsion of the fetus and placenta, hemorrhage; but with RU468, the woman faces this all alone, without any type of assistance – and maximum psychological responsibility.”
10. Gudrun Kugler-Lang, Austria
Gudrun is a young theologian and founder of Europe 4 Christ and Kairos Consulting, which focuses on charitable initiatives. She has been involved in many initiatives including being the first director of World Youth Alliance-Europe from 2001-2004, starting the first Catholic online dating service (www.kathtreff.org) and being elected a member of the advisory panel of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency. She’s taught at the the International Theological Institute near Vienna for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Vienna since 2008 and won an award from the “Ja zum Leben” (Yes to Life) Foundation.