Geni Maria Hoss (1961), born in São José do Cedro, Santa Catarina, Brazil, has a degree in Theology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná, in Curitiba, Paraná, and a PhD in Theology with an emphasis on bioethics from Faculdade EST, in São Leopoldo, Rio Grande do Sul. She has published a book and several scientific articles on the theme of bioethics: ethics in the debate on issues of human life and environmental care in the light of the Christian faith. She teaches bioethics in theology courses. She is an expert in academic books on theology and bioethics. She is a translator and member of the commission of Movements, Associations and Ecclesial Services of the Catholic Church in Brazil.
Schoenstatt Women´s Federation.
The first experience that marked me as a woman was in the context of family tradition. According to custom, the conquest of autonomy started early, naturally as much as this was possible for a child and adolescent. In the environment of Catholic families it was related to the day of First Communion, which included a kind of rite of passage to a phase of life with more autonomy. This fact was all the more relevant for living, at the time, on the border between two countries (Brazil / Argentina), a region declared a safe zone by local totalitarian regimes. The consequence was to look to an unpromising future in a space directly controlled by the central government, as an adolescent, I followed the path of most young people in the region who left home to continue their studies in other cities. It was precisely this decision that confronted me with the reality that awaited me as a woman. It opened the gap between boys and girls who had not yet realized the future. If, on the one hand, the girls were the princesses of the house and, therefore, they received more attention to highlight their personal beauty, on the other, boys were braver and it was natural that they could follow their own path. The first fight for my right as a woman to decide my own future began. As a teenager, I left home to study in another city, and my family suffered the social burden of being irresponsible for agreeing with my decision, because girls so young would not be able to turn in life alone. It was in this change that I came to know the Schoenstatt Movement that was very important both for its support and for its spirituality that has since played an important role in my experience as a woman. Along with the experience of spirituality, I learned and assimilated the value and mission of women, which was very important for the choices regarding studies and professional activities, and above all, a life project in the sense of a unique personal mission in the world today.
The awareness of my mission helped me to defend the acceptance of the woman in her own way in different environments, such as in the administrative sector of a large factory, such as in the university and ecclesial environment, particularly in discussions of dialogue between theology and bioethics. In my experience as a woman I have realized that there is still much to be achieved in order for women to be accepted in their own way of being and that the greatest achievement will be harmony, balance and reciprocal respect between men and women. In my reality, I realize that the legal prescriptions for women’s respect and non-violence are not enough. Women have fought and struggle for their dignity, but it has been forgotten in this process that this is a deep-rooted and complex social problem that is overcome together in a long and constant process.
I cannot say that my experience of God ever had or has today something extraordinary. It is the simple everyday life that has made me experience how God is present in all the hours of my life.
My experience of God today is the fruit of a journey of faith. Initially it was impacted by the faith of simple people who in my early years of life prioritized a more just than merciful God. Therefore, learning to do the right things to deserve God’s love was fundamental.
The Covenant of Love helped me to find a new way of relating with God. I learned to trust, with much serenity, in the guidance of Divine Providence, without imposing conditions on God. Many things were quite different from what I had thought, but my faith tells me that they are in God’s plan. I trust in God, I can even manifest my desires, but I always remain open for God to surprise me. When I remember Jesus’ phrase, “but not my will but yours be done,” this gives me strength and patience to follow that path that God has foreseen for me. I don’t make promises, but I offer my self-education effort and I feel a lot of gratitude, because I can see God in the little things of daily life and this is enough for me.
In my opinion, one of the greatest challenges is for women to be recognized in their own way of being women. If she is not aware of this, she may become a slave to social determinations that condition her recognition to her ability to adapt to a masculinized society. For example, delicacy and human sensitivity are not incompatible with management and action in decision making instances of great impact. On the contrary, it is these environments that need the presence of women. It is a great challenge to recognize and promote spaces for sharing between men and women with the recognition of everyone’s contribution to the whole.
It is also a great challenge for women today in the field of human life. There are groups of different spheres that propose to help conquer the space due to women in society. In fact, they have managed to draw the attention of governments and their female colleagues to a great process of change. However, there are also those groups that, with a well articulated discourse with expressions of impact, present only proposals of life ready for women to follow, if they want to be modern. In this context, it takes a lot of personal strength to actually decide on the ideal of life that leads to self-realization as a woman. Considering the strong impact of narratives and the unfavourable family and financial conditions in which many women find themselves, decisions in the field of life cannot always be considered, in fact, free and conscious decisions. The challenge is to have a broad debate and formation that allows a response of its own, born from the “sanctuary of conscience” of each woman, of the couple, based on consistent values, and to favor the family and social conditions so that it can be realized.
I can dream of great changes in the vast world, but I can make my dreams come true in the world around me and according to the instruments I have at my disposal: the inner motivations that arise from vocation and sense of life and human and professional formation. My sphere of action is study and debate groups on bioethical issues and work in groups to help vulnerable people. They offer me the great opportunity to do my part to change the world. In the context where I work, many challenges are presented today in the area of health and human life. This field not only affects women but also has the massive presence of women who are at the forefront of projects for the promotion and care of life. The challenge is to promote respect for human dignity in unfavorable socioeconomic conditions. To change the world is, in this field, to make people aware of their dignity and their right to be respected. This activity is for me the concrete expression of the Gospel lived and the Covenant of Love that includes all the people that God puts on my path and who need help in what I can and know how to do most.
As service to life can be exercised both in professional life and in the Church and in Schoenstatt, I understand that this is my main mission to change the world.