She’s only 26 years old, but Maria Grundberger has already helped rescue more than 230 children from abortion. The Catholic midwife and mother of a 1-year-old is one of the most successful pro-life activists and sidewalk counselors in Pope Benedict’s homeland.
Grundberger is also the main figure in the German documentary Maria und Ihre Kinder (Maria and Her Children), which promotes pro-life action and shows the consequences of abortion. Produced by the independent Berlin filmmaker Fritz Poppenberg, the film has sold several thousand copies since its DVD release last September — and inspired many pregnant women in crisis to give birth. (The movie’s promotional website, in German only to this date, is mariaundihrekinder.de.)
She spoke with Register correspondent Robert Rauhut in Munich.
Can you describe your involvement in sidewalk counseling?
I spend several hours in front of an abortion clinic and try to talk to the women who want to go to the abortion clinic in order to abort. We use a flyer with the inscription “Pregnant — Desperate — We want to help you!” We want to inform the women about abortion and its consequences, to offer help. Generally speaking: “What can I offer you so that you decide to keep your child?”
How did you get involved in this kind of work?
I was 17 years old when I went to a lecture with Msgr. Phillip Reilly (the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based founder of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants). I always had been against abortions; I was, let’s say, endowed with that from birth. Such an attitude was given to me by my parents. We are many brothers and sisters (nine altogether) and so abortion was never a topic. I first had that wish to go into the Third World in order to work there. But then I thought: There is enough to be done here in Germany.
The person who triggered your interest in the protection of life was…
Msgr. Reilly. I was totally fascinated by him, especially by his kind and humble appearance. He was able to fill me with enthusiasm for that undertaking. He showed me that you can do a lot with fairly little expenditure.
I started that sort of work very idealized. There were holidays at school and I went to Vienna in order to take a first glance at that sort of work. A section of Human Life International is active there. I took a course of training and then I went out onto the street, just to try out what I had learned. There are usually two persons; one talks and the other prays. First, I was a “prayer.”
The first women were very closed. Days passed by without the success of even one conversation and then I thought: The way Msgr. Reilly talked about it, it is not possible to realize it in the same way here in Europe. There [in the United States] it works, here it doesn’t. That’s what I thought at the beginning. But two to three hours after my doubts, there she was, the first woman, who kept her child after she had talked with me. And then I thought: For that one child it is worth standing 10 years!
Today I am mostly involved with the biggest German Pro-life organization ALfA (Aktion Lebensrecht für Alle, Action Right of Life for all, online at alfa-ev.de), which is interdenominational.
Let’s return to your motivations.
I worked a lot with younger and smaller children. First there was this life-affirmative attitude, not that much the wish to work in that field. And in time I have realized that I have a talent for such work, a good understanding for the women in need. However, my major motivation was to see the children which I had helped to survive, especially the first time when I had such a baby in my arms. That motivates the most.
What role does your faith play?
Actually, I had a few “faith-yes” and “faith-no” crises. But I would say that the motivation for the protection of the life of unborn children was even independent of that. But through the work, through those occurrences I have experienced in my work, I have found my way back onto the path of faith. … I got the impression, the feeling, that many of the women I met had been warned about their abortions in a supernatural way.
Naturally I also ask the women, “Do you believe in God? Could you take responsibility for your planned action in front of him, in the way you understand him?” But I try to leave the persons free. I do not try to impose my religion on them because, in the conflict situation they are situated in, they are often already under an immense pressure.
It must be challenging work.
Every two to three weeks I have a supervision with a Christian psychiatrist who has got 40 years of work experience, Dr. Klein. For instance we talk about certain cases and certain situations: How do I get a healthy distance from the women I have given advice to? Or how should I react in the case of a [possibly mentally ill] person? I have such a case but was not sure how to act. He gives me plenty of advice. This is totally encouraging.
There is also Father Bennet Tierney of the Legionaries of Christ, an Irish professor of bioethics. Certainly the ALfA as organization, the Life Center Munich with Wolfgang Hering. And Auxiliary Bishop Andreas Laun of Salzburg, he is my best supporter. He has even baptized some of the rescued children.
For me it is very important that I do not have that feeling that I am alone. And I am not the only one who does this work.
Robert Rauhut is based in