By Adriana Gonzalez
What happens when one individual, in prayer, feels the tug of God and dares to step out of the boat and onto the water? This is the story of María José Mansilla, a woman from Madrid, Spain, who felt God leading her in a new direction in Spain’s pro-life movement and is now being used as an instrument of God to help awaken His people.
In 1985, abortion became legal in Spain. Since that time, the pro-life efforts have been led by non-religious organizations. The individuals leading the organizations have been Catholic, but the strategy has been to separate the Church from the battle. After working many years in the non-religious pro-life movement, Mansilla felt God leading her in a new direction. She describes it as a faith walk: “I began to realize that only God saves. If we do not fight against the culture of death with the weapons of faith, we have no hope.”
MJ Mansilla then founded a faith-based organization called Spei Mater, an affiliate of Human Life International, and began her work of battling the culture of death under the Christian banner. Spei Mater exists today as a ministry of the Catholic Church in Spain to promote the Gospel of Life and to live and share the Gospel of God’s mercy.
Mansilla’s idea of placing the Church in the front lines of the pro-life battle was enthusiastically received by Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla, whose diocese is in Alcalá de Henares, just outside of Madrid. For years, Bishop Reig Pla’s desire was to involve the Church in the battle for life. So when Mansilla approached him with the idea of organizing a Church-sponsored pro-life conference, Bishop Reig Pla was 100% supportive. The weeklong conference, called The Catholic Church for Life: Offering Concrete Solutions, began to unfold that day.
In their fervent desire to launch effective efforts and programs, the conference organizers invited Spanish-speaking pro-life organizations from the United States to share about their work and experiences. Mario Rojas, director of Human Life International for Latin America, the Caribbean, and Spain participated in the conference, sharing about population control and abortion. Aurora Tinajero, the director of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee of north Texas, and Ingrid Meyer, Angel Gabriel Coordinator, also attended the conference to share their knowledge and experience as Respect Life Coordinators. Lastly, I was also invited to share the experiences of Catholics Called to Witness and the new project that will launch on Pentecost, Catholic Witnesses in the Public Square (CWPS). CWPS is designed to provide a specific, yet flexible, plan of action, encouraging the laity to do as Christ taught us when He said, “Go out into the world and make disciples of all men, teaching them to obey the commandments.”
During the conference, we were greatly blessed by Bishop Reig Pla’s bold, unwavering proclamations of the culture of life. He is a cause for joy and hope. His leadership is visible and audible. With great humility, he places himself in the front line of the battle, a battle that he says will be long and will require martyrs. For his pro-life work, on April 13th, Bishop Reig Pla was given the Von Galen Award from Human Life International. This award is granted to those leaders in the Church whose work on behalf of the culture of life rises above the rest. Monsignor Enrique Barreiro traveled from Rome to grant the award.
This is a historic moment for the Church in Spain. In a nation immersed in secularism, the people of God are renewed. And it all began with the humble response of one woman to God’s plan for her life. In America, we should be encouraged. God’s promise of His presence and of His power in us is alive today. It all begins with prayer, in sweet communion with our Lord. Action born out of prayer.