The bishop speaks on the Catholicism in the Christ Chapel. Claire Gaudet | Collegian

Suf­fering under reli­gious oppression as a child in the Soviet Union foster a special appre­ci­ation for the impor­tance of Catholic fam­ilies, said a bishop from Kaza­khstan in a speech at Christ Chapel on Oct. 14. 

Bishop Athanasius Schneider described his boyhood exile to a gulag. In the Soviet prison camp, he could par­tic­ipate in the Catholic Mass only via under­ground gatherings. 

“The majority of the priests were imprisoned or mur­dered,” Schneider said. “In my childhood, we rarely had a holy Mass. And if a priest sud­denly came, it was a feast for us. But it had an atmos­phere of silence, because of the dangers of the police.”

Due to the scarcity of cler­gymen and the ille­gality of worship in his youth, Schneider said he developed an affinity for other ele­ments of Catholicism, specif­i­cally the impor­tance of a strong, Catholic family. 

“On Sundays, the fam­ilies gathered,” he said. “But, only in their houses, so as to be quiet behind closed doors and windows. And then, my parents and my sib­lings started to sanctify the Sunday, with bread, praying the rosary, and doing spir­itual communion.”

In this way, the bishop said his family saved his and his sib­lings’ faith lives, despite the dangers of the outside world. 

“In school, they had pro­pa­ganda that was against God,” Schnieder said. “But we had some immunity because my parents pro­tected us with their prayers, and they were teaching us the Catholic faith. And so, this is the mission of the family: to transmit the greatest treasure to the next generation.”

The bishop called young members of the audience to go out and create their own vir­tuous, Catholic families. 

“This is the beau­tiful vocation of the Catholic family: to be a domestic church,” he said. “I see you, so many dear young people, and I hope you will find, in God’s grace, this domestic church.”

The bishop said hope for the future will also aid the Catholic com­munity through times of hardship. 

“Therefore, we have to pray,” Schnieder said, “for coura­geous shep­herds, for teachers who will defend us like they did in the first centuries.”

Schneider said he explains this call to prayer in his new book, “The Spring Time in the Church that Never Came,” which will be released in the U.S. this spring. He said  God is preparing the soil for a new and flour­ishing time of the Church. 

The role of young people in forming this new church is to practice purity, integrity, and chastity whenever pos­sible, and create strong Catholic children who live by those same morals, he said.

Schneider then read excerpts of works by other faith leaders, such as Pope Pius XII, Bishop Fulton Sheen, and St. Philip Howard to demon­strate that faith is a Catholic’s strongest weapon when fighting adversity. 

To close, Schneider asked the mother of God to intercede for those in atten­dance, and blessed the audience members. 

“After all that he said, I was struck by his simple and beau­tiful ele­vation of the Catholic family,” sophomore Caleb Holm said. “That’s what it comes down to: a small group of people where the primary goal is to take care of one another in this life and ensure that heaven is their next. Family is every­thing and it is holy.”

Others said they were drawn to the bishop’s style of speech. 

“Even in both the pre­sen­tation and the content of his talk, Bishop Schieder showed his humility toward faith,” junior Mathias Rhein said. “He authen­ti­cally por­trayed Catholicism as it is. Even the tone of voice which he used showed the rev­erence he holds for orthodox doctrine.”