My journey to becoming a volunteer at Mater Filius

by Veronica Schaedler

I think my journey to Mater Filius began with my mother – my mom was an amazing woman with a strong commitment to her faith and a devotion to our Blessed Mother, but I didn’t learn how strong her faith really was until it was tested. On August 26th, 2007, after a relatively minor diagnostic procedure, my mother was left paralyzed from her waist down. In my eyes, that day changed everything for her – she loved swimming, golfing, riding her bike, she traveled all over the world, had a beautiful home in Florida and all that was suddenly taken away. What amazed me was that to my mom, it didn’t change everything – it didn’t change mattered most to her. She told my four siblings and I, as we cried at her hospital bedside in Florida, that she still had what she valued most, her faith and her children surrounding her. She courageously accepted this new life.

Over the next four years I learned what trusting in God really looks like. I learned that you can still have joy when everything is ripped away from you, and that suffering can be something powerful and healing if you choose not to fight it, but instead offer it up for the good of someone else.

Those lessons would be necessary for me because in January of 2011 my own world felt like it was being ripped away from me. My brothers, sisters and I found out my mom had lung cancer that spread to her spine and she would not have long to live. That same week my husband of 30 years said he no longer wanted to be married.

Over the next nine months, as my mother suffered with intense pain and was transferred to hospice care, she taught me how to forgive, how to suffer with grace and how to love without expectations. Every day as I walked from my car to my office at the hospital, I would repeat over and over – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, hoping that I would believe those words and somehow get through the day without falling apart. In the evening I returned to the assisted living center and helped my mother get ready for bed as she would tell me, “This too shall pass….God will use this for something good.” She told me she was offering up her suffering for us five kids and that if her suffering helped me, or anyone else grow closer to God, every moment of it was worth it.

On October 18, 2011, my mother took her last breath while my sister and I prayed at her bedside. Over next several years, my life felt like it continued to fall apart, sadness was my daily companion as I struggled with a series of medical problems – from thyroid cancer in 2012, to months of vertigo in 2013 and a then a rare spinal cord tumor was diagnosed in 2015 that threatened to leave me paralyzed. And yet, when I look back now, I can see that God put everything in place to prepare me for those difficult years. He knew my storm was coming and put exactly the right people in my path to carry me through. He gave me the incredible gift of four years with my mother who taught me how to really trust in God – it was the most important lesson of my faith journey. Without those lessons I never could have gotten through my own pain. I grew closer to my family and my children who I had to depend on. In fact, God even provided me with my own personal nurse and physical therapist – I have identical twin daughters and a son– my three angels– one of my daughters is a nurse and one a physical therapist. If anyone needed a good nurse, a PT and a strong man of faith it was me, and God provided.

And that brings me to Mater Filius – In October 2016– after completing a 30 day devotional to Mary and asking her to use me for something good, Dr. Perez, one of our dedicated neonatologist at our hospital, stopped me in the hall and told me that his wife Carmen was going to call me to see if I could help young pregnant mothers at a Mater Filius. The organization needed someone to teach the mothers about childbirth, breastfeeding and baby care. I am still amazed that Mary answered my prayer so specifically – how many volunteer opportunities come up for a registered nurse who is a lactation consultant.

What I know without any doubt is that God and His Blessed mother have put us here at Mater Filius, all of us, to serve these mothers with Gods love and support.  I have often heard Javier and Martalicia Burkle say: “Mary opened this home – against all odds”. They explained that every time the founding directors tried to plan something, it would change and things would seem to fall apart, but somehow God would provide.

I know God honors his mother, who was also homeless and afraid, by having a home like Mater Filius. I am so grateful to Martalicia, Javier and all the directors who never stopped listening to God and Mary’s call to open this home.

What we do matters – there is so much suffering today and so many places in need of our help and I know when we serve a mother and a child, we give hope to the world for a better future.

By helping these beautiful young mothers see what can happen when they put their trust in God, especially after everything in their life has been ripped away, we give them the only thing that is stable to hold on to – faith in a God who knows what storms lie ahead for us and has already prepared to get through them.

I am so grateful I was called to this work.

I can tell you first hand that everything you give, whether it is your time or your donation to Mater Filius, will go directly to help these mothers and their babies.