Gerti Schindler

Gerti Schindler, born 1953, married, 3 children, 4 grandchildren. Trained as a tax clerk, working in a tax office full-time, part-time and home office, depending on the family situation. 2000 car accident of her 19-year-old daughter, who has been severely disabled ever since. From 2001 to 2017 main responsibility for the home care, support and encouragement of the daughter. 2010 the house was enlarged to a multigenerational house with the family of the son and the handicapped daughter. Mrs. Schindler belongs to the Schoenstatt Movement Women and Mothers.

What experiences have formed you as a woman?

The circumstances into which I was born certainly influenced me. The consequences of the war were still noticeable, but there was a new beginning in the whole country. In our family business, too, the focus was on building up the store and working.

In these years, it was a matter of course that children would cooperate to the best of their ability and be obedient. School usually came in second place and education was replaced in many areas by personal experience. Nevertheless, we children, often with a certain ingenuity, could meet to play and take our freedom. For me, my childhood was beautiful! Our village was Catholic and the faith was a natural part of life.

At the beginning of the 60’s in a rural area, it was still a common opinion that education, especially for girls, was not important because they would soon marry and have children anyway. It was a stroke of luck that I was able to complete secondary school. This opened up a new world for me and it was clear to me that I wanted to learn a profession and get a job. I was and am still very grateful for this opportunity.

In my subsequent apprenticeship I often reached my limits, but through the experiences of my childhood I learned to struggle through.

For more than 32 years I enjoyed and successfully worked in a tax office. This was only possible because of my husband’s positive attitude towards my professional activity and his support at home. In addition to the necessary expertise, I needed a good way of dealing with people of different income levels and characters. I learned to argue objectively, as well as to be assertive, fair and accepting of different opinions. From my professional knowledge I can still offer some help in tax matters today. Often I am surprised about the personal things that are shared with me on these occasions.

Of course, my marriage with the right man has had a significant impact on me. We got married very young (at the age of 20), were very much in love and carefree, full of plans for the future and thirst for action.  It was clear to us from the very beginning that we would stay together for life and grow old together. In this natural trust, we were able to bear heavy blows of fate together without breaking.

I became a mother for the first time at the age of 24. When our youngest daughter was born, I was 28, and often overburdened with the three small children. I had not learned to be a housewife and mother. Together with my husband and a lot of trust in God, we managed this time without “major damage.” Only now, as a grandmother of four, do I realize how much I have learned through and from my children and what a wealth of experience I have received through beautiful as well as painfully difficult situations with my children. I am grateful for all of that.

In addition to family and career, volunteering in the parish in various tasks was important to me and – together with my husband – participating in family liturgies and the family circle, to which we owe many formative experiences over many years.

The years in the Schoenstatt Girls’ Youth have certainly also formed me. At a time when “Oswald Kolle” and the “Bravo” were in vogue, I got to know other values during the meetings in Schoenstatt. In my parental home and in our parish there was a great helplessness after the Council. Familiar things had suddenly lost their value and one could not really make friends with the new. Suddenly God was no longer the “punishing God” but the “loving Father.” Commandments were regarded as guidelines and no one told you what to do or not to do. Decisions of conscience and formation of conscience were required – but how does that work? It is thanks to Schoenstatt that I know that I am loved by the “loving God” to this day and that I can trust in Providence.

Where have you experienced God in your life?

Because of the Christian environment into which I was born, faith was always part of my life. The fact that the right people always crossed my path at the right time was providence and grace for me.

Thus, in my youth, through a priest in our parish, I came to Schoenstatt and to the volunteer positions in our parish. Here my faith could grow into the depths. Before “tricky” discussions and difficult tasks, prayers to the Holy Spirit were part of my equipment.

When I was 25 years old, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer and died within a few months. That was the first big stroke of fate in my life. Nevertheless, I never prayed that my father would get well again (which was obviously impossible), but always prayed that the best would happen for him and all of us and that God would give us the strength to carry on. Of course, my grief for my father was very intense and I was in deep sorrow.

The biggest challenge for me was when my 19-year-old daughter was seriously injured in a car accident. From the moment the police called us, I was somehow beside myself. During the first few weeks, when it was a matter of life and death on an hourly basis, I was given a lot of strength. I had the sensation of “footprints in the sand” – where you see only one set of footprints, that is when I carried you! During those weeks, I was the support of our shaken family. We were totally torn out of everything we were used to. After four weeks, our daughter was flown to the vicinity of Lake Constance for further treatment, and one of us, her parents, had to stay there. Our two, just grown up children at home had to see how they coped with their pain and everyday life.

In the 20 years since the accident of our now severely handicapped and dependent daughter, we have experienced many little and bigger “miracles.” In the beginning, the question often came up: “How do you manage, how can you stand it? Perhaps a miracle will happen after all!” My answer was then and still is today, “A miracle happens to us every day, in that we are given the strength to endure, that we enjoy being together as a family and can still laugh!”

During this time, we received help from people or through fortunate circumstances. For example, the place in the clinic and later in the day care center became available just when we needed it; the professional association came into play as the cost bearer; my sisters and their families were often there to help us, as well as nursing staff who could competently support us in home care. Exactly 17 years after our daughter’s accident, we were offered a place in a home, it was on a Tuesday after Easter when we had just run out of “air”; there were priests who accompanied me and had time for me; many people who faithfully accompanied us with their prayers, etc.

The next challenge for further growth is the fact that 3 years ago we had to place our daughter in a home for health and age reasons.  Also in this case, faith in Providence has really helped me to take this difficult step and to give up what I have lived for almost exclusively for 17 years of my life.

Through the Corona crisis with the ban on visiting homes, I once again became aware of my helplessness and powerlessness. This challenge has only been bearable for me by trusting in God and the knowledge of his help.

What do you see as the challenge for women today?

I will mention a few key points:

The feminist image of woman in the sense of, “The woman is the better man,” instead of accepting the strengths of women in their individuality and promoting them for the good of society (our educational policy is now very much geared to serving the economy). Decisions that do not correspond to “common opinion” are often not accepted – for example, if a well-educated woman decides together with her husband not to work for some time because of children and family.

Of course, it is also not very appealing that after studying or training and hard-won recognition on the job, one has to step back for the sake of the family.

Personally, I have always enjoyed working and, with the help of my husband, I have done everything I could to meet my professional requirements on a part-time basis. Professional recognition was important to me and my adult children assure me today that it has not hurt them. But the connection between family and career has many pitfalls. A little fever of a child can become a problem, also for the employer who has to buffer losses. The Corona time has shown all of us the limits very quickly and clearly.

Another challenge: Marriage, especially in the Christian sense, is being called into question. I know women who would like to marry their partner. Sometimes they even have children together, but the partner does not find it necessary to marry. Society attaches great importance to security in case of separation. I would wish that couples would be given at least as many tips for a good partnership, including advice for difficult phases.

I also see the push for constant availability (always online, otherwise I miss something essential), the dependence on modern communication technology, and the flood of information with a tendency to panic-mongering as additional challenges. There is no time and peace to develop your own thoughts.

What do you want to change in this world through your life?

For me, strong, loving women who are firmly rooted in Christian values are important. They can significantly shape their families and their environment and create a positive climate.

Despite all the problems and difficulties in the world, I would like to encourage people to see what is good and uplifting and to use their own minds.

For my children and grandchildren I like to be a reliable “rock in the surf” and I would like to pass on my belief that there is always a solution, even if it is often different than I would like. And over us all is a loving God who does not abandon us if we are open to him!

Prayer to the Holy Spirit takes away the “pressure” in difficult situations and lets us see things more clearly. Perseverance, honesty and faithfulness (also to oneself) are not always easy, but they are the path to inner contentment. My mother often said, “He who plays with life never gets along. Whoever does not govern himself will always remain a servant!” This wisdom of life is not easy to live, but it protects against dependencies and makes you happy and satisfied in the end.