Bishop Says Family is Heart of Catholic Faith
By Pat Szpekowski, Observer Correspondent
March 1, 2018
BATAVIA—Bishop Athanasius Schneider from the Diocese of Mary Most Holy in Astana, Kazakhstan, has traveled the world defending the family and its true place as the seed of the Catholic faith.
On Feb. 21, he brought his message to Holy Cross Parish in Batavia where more than 650 people attentively listened to the soft-spoken Bishop Schneider, who was suffering from a bit of a cold.
His invitation to the parish resulted when Holy Cross pastor, Father James Parker, and several staff and parishioners attended the Catholic Citizens of Illinois annual dinner where Bishop Schneider spoke in October last year. 
“We were touched by his childhood stories and all the adversities his family had under communist Russia,” said parishioner Simone Romanos. 
Father Parker added it would be “good for our parish to hear him because those stories make us realize not to take our faith for granted.”
After a rosary and Mass, Bishop Schneider talked about “The Family as the Original Place of the Beauty of the Catholic Faith.”
“I am grateful to be born to a Catholic family,” he said. 
He was born in the Soviet Union to German parents who after World War II were deported by Stalin to forced labor in the Ural Mountains. His parents survived, he said, through the support of their Catholic faith. 
While practicing their faith was not allowed and priests were either being killed or leaving the church, Bishop Schneider said the family was the domestic Church. 
“The Soviets can destroy buildings,” “but faith remained alive,” he said.
He recalled stories of his parents secretly holding Sunday Mass in their home, closing their doors and shutting windows so no one would see. “Be faithful to the beauty of the Catholic faith and transmit it to the children,” he said. “Large families are the most splendid flower base in the garden of the church. It is the breeding ground for vocations. The family is the first seminary.”
“Catholic families will strengthen the faith and provide a new generation of zealous priests and archbishops to give their lives to the church and the Holy Family.”
Many people met with Bishop Schneider during a reception held afterwards where he blessed them and their rosaries. Denise Garcia was among them with her husband Jason and their seven children, ages 5-18. “I have heard Bishop Schneider before and wanted my children to hear and meet him,” she said. “When he spoke about his family taking a train for an hour one way to Mass, my children looked at me smiling, since we drive an hour each way for Mass, too.” In their excitement to meet him, she regretted not telling Bishop Schneider that he is included in their daily family Rosary offering.
The evening began with the rosary and Mass, concelebrated with Father Parker, Holy Cross deacons Larry Motyka and Raymond Martin, and Bishop Schneider. “Prayers of adoration and thanksgiving are the most important expression and the first duty of man,” said Bishop Schneider during his homily. “We should pray always as it is the best way to connect and receive the gifts of God,” he said.