I am reminded that the Holy Spirit is always at work in the Church by this story of a young Romanian couple, Dan and Julia Calinescu, founders of the pro-life organisation Life Nation, who are bringing the pro-life message to their native country. What is particularly of note in this report is that although the Calinescus grew up in Canada, where their parents had emigrated during the Communist regime under the late President Ceaucescu, five years ago they “felt a call to go back to Romania and get involved in re-building a culture of life.”
Instead of remaining in a rich, free western country, with a high standard of living where they would have enjoyed a comfortable life, they have gone back to a poor, post-Communist country with many social and economic problems, not least a complete disregard for the value of life – not surprising in a country that had been brutalised for years under a particularly unpleasant dictatorship. Yet it is this very challenge that has provided the impetus for Dan and Julia Calinescu. They admit that “Romania has some of the highest abortion rates not just in Europe but in the world, and the pro-life movement is virtually non-existent”, but they are also fired up “because the whole pro-life movement is so new… if we are proactive now we can win the battle up front.”
Seen from this perspective, they are working in virgin territory with nothing to lose and everything to gain. They have just celebrated the third anniversary of the March for Life in Cluj-Napoca and are enthusiastic about the response to it: “It was actually our biggest year. We had over 2,500 participants…and we tried to bring about abortion awareness and alternatives. And the March has really helped us to do that.”
Significantly, the March generated a seemingly spontaneous ecumenical response (making one wonder if the pro-life movement in this country could learn from this?). As Dan Calinescu points out, this fledgling movement was able to reach out “to leaders from the orthodox Church, from evangelical circles and from the Catholic circles.”Wherever there is an ecumenical gathering for a genuine cause, regardless of creed or church, there one senses the Holy Spirit at work.
Inevitably the pro-life initiative of the Calinescus has led to other, related spiritual good works: they have spoken in high schools about the virtue of chastity and have introduced the theology of the body “to whoever is ready to listen” including seminarians, adults, parish youth groups and so on. Recently the young couple have recharged their spiritual batteries by partaking in Italy’s March for Life in Rome where they appreciated being part of the global Church. As Dan admitted, their own pro-life organisation in Romania “is so young, you feel alone and like you are just fighting on your own.”
Now, buoyed up by faith in the pro-life message they want to share with their fellow countrymen, and by the hope that it will bear good fruit, the couple trust that it can transform their society. It’s good to know of initiatives like this. Perhaps countries that have suffered much in recent history, as Romania has done, are likely to be more receptive to the Good News offered to them by courageous young men and women like this couple, than the countries of Western Europe?
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