Champions for Life winners moved by story of baby found at German church

| October 19, 2018 | 0 Comments

Susan Hildebrand reacts to remarks made by Father Joseph Kuharski during the St. John Paul II Champions for Life Awards Oct. 18 at St. Peter in Mendota. Hildebrand was a winner in the adult volunteer category, Father Kuharski was one of this year’s judges. The two got to know each other when Father Kuharski was assigned at St. Stephen in Anoka. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

St. John Paul II Champions for Life award winners and their guests heard a concrete reminder Oct. 18 of what their work means.

Kathy Schneeman, former respect life coordinator for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, shared her story of a baby found at a German church 300 years ago and how that impacted her family. Relatives of Schneeman’s in-laws in Germany learned of the baby when researching their family tree and found he was the first Schneeman. A mom who felt she couldn’t take care of the baby left the child at the steps of the local Catholic church and knocked on the priest’s door before disappearing. The priest came out and took the baby into his home.

“It’s amazing to us from that one unplanned, adopted baby, there have been, just off the top of my head, doctors, nurses, teachers of tough inner city schools [and] businessmen who have been honored for their honesty and integrity,” Schneeman said of her in-laws’ family. “Every life is precious. Every life counts.”

Schneeman also spoke of how she had twins at age 43 years of age after already having seven children. She talked about how it blessed her family and others instead of creating more challenges.

“I enjoyed that she had a lot of personal examples about how God impacted her life,” said Gabrielle Brounstein of St. Paul in Ham Lake, one of the award winners.

Her group, the Pro-Life Youth Ambassadors, won the youth and young adult Champions for Life award. The awards go to pro-life groups and individuals recognized for their work in defending human life. The archdiocese Office of Marriage, Family and Life hosts the annual luncheon, which took place at St. Peter in Mendota.

“I am fully aware there are so many others who do far more than what I have done,” said Susan Hildebrand, the volunteer award recipient, when she accepted the award.

Hildebrand, a parishioner of St. Stephen in Anoka, volunteers with Birthright, a pro-life pregnancy assistance organization, and local senior homes. Father Joseph Kuharski, who handed out the awards, shared how Hildebrand was appreciated for her work when he served at St. Stephen. He helped at the same nursing home a few times in lieu of another priest at the parish, who told him about how well Hildebrand served the people there.

“And that was my experience, too — the tremendous compassion, the patience and just the love that came from her and how she personally knew people,” said Father Kuharski, who handed out the awards in place of Archbishop Bernard Hebda.

The archbishop couldn’t make it because of the Oct. 18 episcopal ordination Mass of Auxiliary Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt Torres for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut. Bishop Betancourt had been serving in St. Paul before his appointment.

The pro-life professional award recipient, Nancy Blom, also couldn’t attend Champions for Life because of her ministry’s midweek retreat. Blom, the executive director of Rachel’s Vineyard, established the local chapter of the ministry in 1999 to help post-abortive women and men heal and seek forgiveness from God. Fe Mahler, board of directors president for Rachel’s Vineyard, accepted the award on Blom’s behalf.

“For the past 20 years, she has been a tireless servant and a beacon to those lost and devastated because of abortion,” Mahler said.

More than 80 people attended the 10th-annual luncheon.

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