Veronika Pilshofer

Born 1965, married, four children, specialist for pediatrics and adolescent medicine, additional specialization in pediatric neurology, current fields of work: Outpatient Clinic for Neuropaediatrics and Developmental Diagnostics, Pediatric Rehabilitation and Elective Surgery for Pediatric Neurology in Linz. She lives with her family near Linz/Upper Austria.
She and her husband are currently the leaders of the Austrian Schoenstatt Family Federation.

Which experiences have formed me as a woman?

Growing up in an extended family with 6 brothers and 6 sisters does not pass you by unscathed, because there it’ s not all just “peace, joy, pancakes.” You have to learn to stand on your own two feet in order not to be overlooked. In dealing with my siblings, however, appreciation and respect for each other and also the equal treatment of brothers and sisters, of boy and girls by my parents was a formative basic message and attitude.
As a little girl, I experienced outside of the family how the beauty of a young girl can be treated in an undignified way and abused, an experience that hurt and burdened my childlike carefreeness. However, out of an inner strength, which today would be called resilience, I was not broken by it and I am grateful and convinced that the security in the family and the deep trust in God helped me to feel as a valuable and beloved child in spite of everything.
A special time began for me in my studies, where after a few detours I finally met my future husband. During our engagement we discovered the natural family planning method developed by Dr. Rötzer, which accompanied us into the years of menopause and became an important school of life for both of us. Through this common attentiveness to the woman’s cycle and the careful treatment of my husband, I was able to experience more and more the dignity of being a woman, of femininity and fertility, which finally led to the deep joy of being a mother. 
A great gift for our relationship was that after five years of marriage we were able to get to know Schoenstatt and the pedagogy of Father Kentenich. The “Monday Evening Talks” of Fr. Kentenich with couples in Milwaukee during the exile time were a great treasure for us, since we felt that he spoke to us personally. Especially in Volume 20, “Marriage as a Path to Sanctity,” Fr. Kentenich showed my husband and I such a beautiful and clear path of perfect love that we could not help but look at our own sexuality and our love for one another. To learn to love with body and soul became a great longing, which we want to work on all our lives. This does not mean that everything is easy and carefree in our marriage, but this path gives security, shelter and a deep trust.

Where have I experienced God in my life?

My relationship with God was first shaped in my own family. I was able to experience a particularly strong, grounded trust in God in my father. Already from childhood on he had to go through many privations and when he was 17 years old, he was imprisoned in World War II. He lost his first wife at the age of 26 after the birth of his fourth child, and barely two years later his farmhouse burned down, where his second wife, my mother, had just given birth to his fifth child two days earlier. He had experienced all this suffering even before he was 30 years old, and great challenges have continued to shape his life to this day. Nevertheless, he was a spiritual, humorous, devout man who was a trusting, good father to his children and gave orientation in life not only to his own children but also to many other people from the parish, community and beyond. “Be what you are, and be it in the best possible form” would perhaps be a saying of Father Kentenich s that he could have applied to himself. Even though he could not learn a longed-for profession due to the chaos of war, he continued his education by reading many books and magazines to absorb the events of the time. And he read a lot in the Holy Scriptures, trying to live the Word of God in everyday life. “In God’s name”, with these words he literally and with deep trust started every new day, all new tasks and new challenges. My brothers and sisters and I will never forget when, at our parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, in the presence of all his children and grandchildren in the pilgrimage basilica in Mariazell, he prayed from the depths of his heart: “Lord God, you know that I ask every day that none of my children be lost.”
My parents didn’t start their marriage out of a romantic love affair, but out of a deep trust in God and a great faith in Providence they tried to live family life and treated each other and their children with respect and dignity, making them an exemplary married couple and wonderful parents for their children. It has been a very long time since they died, yet they still shape our extended family today.
When my husband and I were able to get to know Schoenstatt in the early years of our marriage, the style of Fr. Kentenich was somehow familiar to me in the same way. The way he opened up the faith, how naturally God and Mary had a place in his life and in his heart, was for me a reflection of my father’s life of faith in many respects.  This touched me inwardly very much and opened up the heritage and greatness of my own father anew. In the light of Schoenstatt, my own relationship with God could also grow again as a result.
It was the common Covenant of Love with Mary that powerfully changed my marriage and our family life – after we had struggled a lot during the first five years of our marriage to develop a loving relationship of trust and harmony, and discover the deeper meaning of a Christian family life. The discovery of the Kentenich pedagogy, especially in volume 20 of the Monday Evening Talks – Marital Love as a Path to Holiness – has opened a whole new world to my husband and me. We were both fascinated by the clear view and discovery of this inner world, especially in dealing with sexuality. We were suddenly able to understand so many problems and to look at them anew in a completely different light – in the light of holistic love, so many things have now acquired a different value. What was previously only considered instinctive suddenly became precious.  Marriage as the university of love, as Fr. Kentenich described it, became more and more important for us, so that even today we want to inspire other married couples and tell them about the teachings of Fr.  Kentenich.

What do I see as the challenge for women today?

On the one hand, what woman today would not like to be considered modern, attractive, intelligent, hardworking, innovative, committed and eloquent? But to be so, you have to have a certain career, you have to constantly educate yourself, you have to stay on the ball. In addition, you have to think and act competitively towards other women and especially men. This attitude of always having to prove oneself to oneself and to others and having to be better in order to get to the top puts a lot of pressure and often causes a woman to become unloving and hard.
On the other hand, a woman’s nature is instinctively full of kindness, warmth and motherliness, which she wants to pass on and give away. Many women would not like to miss the experience of having their own children and a family despite their job. To be a mother from the heart and at the same time to be able to exercise her talents at work is often a great burden for us women today, because it is the beginning of a daily struggle between family and career. Even if the partner helps as much as possible, it remains a great challenge. All too often, this leads to an inner struggle and dissatisfaction with one’s own womanhood.
I see it as a great challenge for us women not to want to fight for everything at any price, but as Father Kentenich says, to act according to the law of the open door, to observe where a door opens.  In this way, a much greater scope for the combination of family and work can unfold than one would ever have thought possible before. This attitude gives a woman, just like a man, more inner freedom and serenity. I only started my dream job as a pediatrician when I already had our four children, because suddenly a door opened and I received an offer that I would never have dared to ask for. I did not build on this career before, but on the fact that I was involved as a mother and as a woman where I was needed at the time. During this time, the Blessed Mother had chosen us for various tasks in the Schoenstatt Family Movement in our diocese, which my husband and I enjoyed very much. 
To take pleasure in being a woman is not a matter of course in our enlightened world. But the way I understand and accept myself as a woman is closely related to how my partner sees and treats me. There is probably nothing more beautiful in the life of most women than a man at their side who has decided completely for them, who treats them with reverence and dignity, who simply wants to make them happy. In view of that, material wealth is not important. Which woman would not reflect this attitude in everything to make her husband happy in return? With this attitude you can pull each other up and bring out the best in the other. It releases many creative forces that can show and have an effect not only in the love for each other and for the children, but also in one’s professional work. In this way an inner wealth is created, which sees the greatness of the other and allows that greatness to unfold.

What do I want to change in this world through my life?

At a young age, long before my actual professional training, I had the vision to work as a pediatrician for other women and children as a missionary in Africa or India. My path did not lead me to one of these distant countries, but to my own family with four children and a career as a pediatric neurologist. In my work I am challenged daily and I see the needs of many children, women and families.
In Schoenstatt I have acquired a lot of know-how concerning relationship and educational issues, but I have also learned to see how to deal with suffering from a new dimension. All this has become an indispensable richness for my own family, but also for my work.

Father Kentenich says that the most important thing in the life of a Christian is to learn to love and to do the will of God. This is also what I long for, so that through my life the love of Christ can be felt and experienced by my those around me.