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The Life & Loss Institute, the educational branch of Elizabeth Ministry, helps women and their families in times of birth, death and other times of transition. By Joseph Pronechen.
BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN
Elizabeth Ministry International began in the Diocese of Green
Bay in 1991 but quickly spread and grew to today’s 700 chapters from the United
States to Korea.
year and a half ago, the time was ripe for founder Jeannie Hanneman to create a
companion apostolate: the Life and Loss Institute.
Elizabeth Ministry (ElizabethMinistry.com) focuses on women supporting,
mentoring and spiritually nourishing women and families during pregnancy, and
through medical and infant-loss situations, its Life &
Loss Institute blooms as the educational branch.
& Loss offers consultations, workshops and seminars on a myriad of
topics related to human sexuality and relationships — everything from chaste
living to Natural Family Planning to reproductive technology, miscarriage,
infant or child death and healing sexual sins.
explains what led to the new apostolate. For years she saw the need for proper
information on things like prenatal testing and reproductive technologies. So
Elizabeth Ministry put out books with facts, figures and Church teachings. Recently,
she wrote the “Infertility” segment for the U.S. bishops’ website to nurture
Hanneman and her husband Bruce, a college instructor, teamed for “what we
lovingly called the Mad Scientist and the Church Lady,” she says. “We both had
a passion to study the bioethics of the sexuality, and we blended that with
John Paul II’s theology of the body in creative presentations.” Bruce explained
the scientific technology and she the relevant Church teachings.
result: the launch of Life & Loss Institute in Elizabeth Ministry Life and
Loss Institute Resource and Retreat Center, a former convent. People can walk
in off the street or find on their website lots of links and printable handouts
from sources like the U.S. bishops’ conference, the Paul VI Institute and the
Homework Done? Check
in November the bishops came out with their “Catechetical Formation in Chaste
Living” document, and the Institute was working on its new Intimate Issues
Initiative, Hanneman finds the timing exciting. “God is the one who was putting
this together,” she says.
connection deals with pornography. In this area the Institute focuses on
support for wives with addicted husbands. Says Hanneman, “There’s a high
incidence of pornography addiction because of the Internet. So many women are
overwhelmed and in desperation.”
not all. This summer the Institute will complete both a CD and DVD series
covering every aspect of the bishops’ document on chastity.
spiritual adviser over the years, Auxiliary Bishop Robert Morneau of the
Diocese of Green Bay believes Hanneman is making a major contribution helping
build informed consciences.
culture in terms of sexuality is quite distorted and there’s so much
misinformation of there,” he says. “The more clarity we can have on that the
makes a complicated matter clear, and what people can do or not do in those
areas of conception,” he adds. “She’s done her homework.”
late summer the Institute will be podcasting 24-hour help and information.
Hanneman gives one scenario: Someone learns her baby has Down syndrome and at 2
a.m. wants to talk. The office is closed? No problem.
can go to the website and listen to a podcast of a mother whose child has Down.
Our whole goal is to hone in on the context of the Visitation. We’re following
in the footsteps of Elizabeth when she offered Mary encouragement, wisdom and
Dignity and Worth
outlook reflects the compassion, passion for life and servant-leadership
qualities Bishop Morneau sees in Hanneman. She brings out the best in
volunteers like Amber Yost, a 20-something who left a successful job to serve
fulltime with the apostolate.
runs events for young adults on theology of the body, and speaks and teaches
about NFP in diocesan parishes. At the Institute she’s bringing together
families who support NFP for discussion and socializing.
couples using NFP feel alone in that decision,” Yost says. “It’s important to
bring them together so they feel they’re part of a community.”
illustrates how the Institute gives practical, everyday applications to Church
have to respect the babies from the moment of conception,” she says, “so we
created burial vessels for miscarried babies. The corporal works of mercy say
to bury the dead. My challenge is if we believe at the moment of conception
there is a human life, they have the dignity and worth of being buried
Jill McNamara, family service adviser for the Gary, Ind., diocesan cemeteries,
learned of the vessels, she obtained them immediately. She finds the vessels
and funeral-burial service helps to heal grieving mothers who miscarried.
burial vessels weren’t something we thought of years ago,” she says, “but this
is a Church teaching, and we must respect the dignity of the human person at
every stage and put this into practice.”
at the Institute, the chapel becomes a place of blessings for healing and for
fertility. Its whole design is based on the theology of the body. The statue of
the Holy Family shows how we turn to God’s plan. That’s what Life and Loss
Institute helps people do every day.
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.
Life& Loss Institute
120 West 8th St.
Kaukauna, WI 54130