Faith Amid the Terri Schiavo Ordeal

Interviews With Relatives and Family Friends

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PINELLAS PARK, Florida, MARCH 20, 2005 ( The case of Terri Schindler Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman whose life is now in danger, has triggered signs of faith amid the tragedy.

On Friday, food and medical treatment was withdrawn from the 41-year-old, at the insistence of her husband and over the staunch opposition of her parents, who want to take care of her.

Here, some of the people close to the situation spoke with a special ZENIT correspondent in Florida, on Friday and Saturday.

Below, Michael Vitadamo, the husband of Terri Schiavo’s sister, Suzanne, spoke.

Q: How is the faith life of the family holding up?

Vitadamo: We are not shaken. We know that the Lord has the last word and whatever his will is we know it’s going to be the right thing and we will be able to rest with that, we’ll be at peace with that. But we’re not giving up.

Q: Is there anything that you want people to know about this situation?

Vitadamo: I just want the people to know that Terri is disabled. She’s brain-damaged. She’s not in a «persistent vegetative state.» She tries so hard to vocalize and to speak with us. And it’s not serendipity.

I’ve visited Terri probably 200 times in the time I have courted Suzanne, and it just can’t be coincidence all this time. People need to know that the death march is on. And I guess until it happens to someone that these people care about, they’re not going to be receptive to this and actually understand what is going on.

* * *

Here, Mike Tammaro, an uncle of Terri Schiavo’s, and a brother of Mary Schindler’s, Terri’s mother, spoke with ZENIT.

Q: Tell me about your faith life during these difficult times.

Tammaro: My wife and I are born-again Christians, and we believe the Lord has a bigger purpose in all this than just saving Terri.

There’s a lot of things going on in the world today and specifically in Florida that need to be cleaned up and we believe Terri is a big part of that cleanup because the Lord doesn’t make mistakes. We firmly believe the Lord is going to have his will through this.

Q: How has her life affected your faith journey?

Tammaro: Being around Terri and the family and the strength that they’ve had through all this has to strengthens anyone’s faith.

Because we’ve tried to lean on the Lord all through our lives, when something like this happens, the choice comes in anyone’s life to get closer or further away.

If you draw closer to the Lord, it’s always proven in our case, in our lives, he will never fail you. This is one time where you have to continually draw on your faith because it’s the one thing that can sustain you through all this.

Q: Was there one incident that pushed you in that direction?

Tammaro: I don’t think there is anyone particular point like that. I think if it’s a constant day-to-day journey throughout the Lord’s word; you are ready for anything because he has you ready.

It says in his Word he’ll never give you anything you can’t handle. We believe and the family believes that we can handle this and Terri can handle this. As long as the Lord’s will is being done, we can accept it.

Q: How is Terri’s brother, Bobby, who has been recently lobbying on behalf of his sister in Washington, D.C., doing?

Tammaro: Bobby has devoted his entire life to this ordeal, and 24 hours a day he is working on, and constantly thinking about, this situation. He has for years. I know he is growing in his faith because we’ve had many discussions.

We’ve traded books. He’s reading the Bible now, and there’s a lot of things happening in Bobby’s life, and it’s all for the good.

Bobby right now is torn between being here with his sister and his family and being in Washington where he can do some good. He’s been speaking — in fact, I saw him on two shows live on TV.

He has dates set up with almost everyone up there. He’s been meeting with a number of congressmen, as well. I know he is torn because he knows he’d love to be here, but he knows he should be there.

Q: How are his spirits?

Tammaro: His spirits are great. He is very concerned about his parents and how they are physically because [his father] Bob [Schindler Sr.] has a history of high blood pressure. And we’re always concerned about that. So every time I talk to him on the phone he asks how they’re doing and how they’re holding up.

* * *

The following is according to Brother Hilary McGee of the Franciscan Brothers of Peace, a religious community in formation based in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who, along with two other brothers, have been helping the family cope spiritually.

Q: How is Mr. and Mrs. Schindler’s faith journey going?

Brother Hilary: Being so heavily involved in standing with the mother and father of Terri Schiavo, we must remind each how we must hold on tight — not just holding on — but holding on tight for Terri, as she has held on for us for 15 years.

We too are in the boat, watching Christ walk on the water. Christ is amongst us as well as Christ is inside with Terri right now. But we must have faith that Christ is going to get us through this terrible tragedy that has taken place.

Q: How does this relate to the Passion and how does it affect your faith life?

Brother Hilary: We are always tested in our faith. Our love for Christ is extremely very strong as always.

We cannot be discouraged because Christ is amongst us. He’s in our hearts and in our minds and never let go of Christ for he doesn’t let go of us.

In our Lenten season, as we come to a close very soon, we must rejoice in the Resurrection and also pray that we will have the victory and resurrection of Terri being released from here and being brought home to her mother and father.

Q: How does the group of supporters who are here for the family impact Terri’s parents?

Brother Hilary: I know that her parents, when they come out to see these beautiful people in support of their daughter, what strength they both receive. Always expressing to us brothers what a great lift and support it gives them.

That’s their strength, seeing these beautiful people saying, «We love your daughter. We want you to have Terri back.»

The parents have said to us numerous times how grateful they are to see these beautiful supporters in the rain and in the heat of the day, at night, all night long.

It’s so incredible to see these beautiful people do this for them — strangers — but yet brothers and sisters in Christ with them.

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