‘Never tell God never’

Family commits to be missionaries

Coming out of Littleton’s Columbine High School, Ben Schumann, now 31, entered the seminary. After two years of discerning the priesthood, he “discerned out.” It wasn’t God’s call for him.

He spent the next year torn between going back to school or moving to California with hopes of an acting career. He settled on acting.

Before launching a future in Hollywood, he chaperoned a 10-day mission trip to Mexico for the youth group at his parish, St. Frances Cabrini.

“I fell in love,” Schumann told the Denver Catholic Register, “with the people, with the poverty, and with bringing the Gospel message to people.”

It was then that he knew what God’s call was for him.

“Within a week I quit my job, sold my condo and bought a ticket to Louisiana,” he said.

There he completed missionary formation with the lay apostolate Family Missions Company (FMC), based in Lafayette, and committed to two years of service. His first year, 2005, was spent on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent feeding the poor, physically and spiritually; followed by a second year in the Philippines.

“Missionary activity is the greatest and holiest work of the Church,” he said, and that desire never left his heart.

Ultimately he returned to Denver, and met now wife Natalia, 29.

“I told him I would never be a missionary,” she relayed with a laugh. “Never tell God never!”

The two started their life together marrying in November 2010, and welcoming daughter Raeleigh in October 2012. Ben worked as a youth minister at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Longmont, and Natalia in the Office of Priestly Vocations for the Archdiocese of Denver.

Last October, Ben had a desire to attend a conference offered by FMC in Louisiana, and Natalia agreed—though she still had no inkling of a missionary call.

“I told God ‘this is for Ben,'” she said. “This is what Ben needs.”

During the trip, their future experienced a dramatic shift.

“It felt like a homecoming,” Ben said of reuniting with friends. “I was overwhelmed with peace.”

At the same time, he could see Natalia was wrestling with something.

“During praise and worship, I kept hearing ‘Drop the wall,'” Natalia said, and then she asked herself: “Is missionary work something I can do?”

The conference proceeded and at one point a basket was passed around for everyone to draw the name of a country to pray for.

“Ben, let’s pray for the country where we’re supposed to be missionaries,” Natalia said before drawing a paper from the basket.

“Don’t you toy with my heart,” he responded, not sure if she was serious.

“I’m serious,” she said. And their new future launched.

After months of praying for God to “remove obstacles,” along with the practical preparations of finishing coursework, paying off debt and finding renters for their home, the couple along with 19-month-old Raeleigh will leave for formation with FMC in Louisiana and Mexico Sept. 11. Their missionary team is growing as well, with recent news that they are expecting a baby in April.

“I feel a great sense of peace with the call,” Natalia said. “I’m excited to see how the Lord will show up in the poverty.”

They will receive their assignment in January 2015 and have made a commitment of at least two years.

“I feel so strongly this is what God is calling our family to,” Ben said. “It’s very humbling. God is moving mountains to make this possible.”

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Mission Family

Who: Natalia, Ben and Raeleigh Schumann
Commitment: 2 years
Assigned country: To be determined January 2015
Missionary salary: $0
Funds needed for formation: $7,000
Monthly support needed: $1,000
More info: SchumannFamily.FMCmissions.com

Donations are tax-deductible through Family Missions Company

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”