May 18, 2012

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

A view of a pro-life ministry from World War II

Shirley Vogler MeisterAs a child growing up during World War II, I knew a little about the war through newsreels at, movies, reports on the radio and from my dad, who worked at a war plant. But there was one part of the war I didn’t understand much about until near the end when concentration camps were exposed.

I had not thought about those years for a long time until I recently received an e-mail from a friend that brought back memories of one of the great heroes of that time. It was an e-mail about Irena Sendler, and her work to help save children and infants from the Holocaust.

Sendler took dangerous chances while helping others during World War II. She had permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto as a plumbing and sewer specialist.

Being Polish, she knew what the Nazi plans were for Jews. Sendler became a pro-life advocate before the term was known. She brought her dog in her truck, and trained him to bark loudly when Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The barking covered the crying of the children. During this time, she smuggled out 2,500 children and infants.

When she was eventually caught, the Nazis broke Sendler’s legs and arms, beating her severely, but she survived.

Sendler kept records of the children’s names. She smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box that she carried, and used burlap bags for larger children to help them escape. She kept their names hidden in a jar buried in her back yard.

After the war, she tried to locate the parents that survived, and she reunited the families. Most parents, however, had been killed in gas chambers. The children without parents were placed in foster families or adopted.

Sendler’s heroic efforts were once considered for the Nobel Peace Prize, but she lost to former United States vice president Al Gore for his work on global warning.

I knew none of this before I read the e-mail from my friend. That spurred me to research the truth about Sendler’s holy mission. Books written about her can easily be found, but it boggles my mind when I think about Sendler not winning the Nobel Prize.

Who among us could have done what she did?

The e-mail that I received from my friend was a memorial chain in honor of the millions of Jews, Christians, Russians and Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, burned, starved and humiliated. May God have mercy on our planet.

Today, there are selfless pro-life ministries that save unborn babies from abortion. Such pro-life ministry is God’s work in action.

May that ministry thrive. May we also honor the legacy of a woman who was willing to sacrifice her life for the lives of children.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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