October 21, 2011

Women's Conference

Pro-life advocate inspired by Medjugorje and immigrant parents’ courage

Pro-life activist Eva Muntean, left, of San Francisco hugs her mother, also named Eva Muntean, who is a member of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, following her keynote speech at “God Alone,” the 2011 Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference, on Sept. 17 at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Pro-life activist Eva Muntean, left, of San Francisco hugs her mother, also named Eva Muntean, who is a member of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, following her keynote speech at “God Alone,” the 2011 Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference, on Sept. 17 at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

By Mary Ann Garber

From an impoverished childhood in communist Hungary during the 1960s to a new life of faith and freedom in America, Eva Muntean has expressed her devotion to God and the Church by defending human rights through pro-life activism.

The co-founder of the West Coast Walk for Life in San Francisco was a child when her parents, George and Eva Muntean, fled from government persecution in Budapest then miraculously escaped with their three small children across the Hungarian border.

During her keynote address at “God Alone,” the 2011 Indiana Catholic Women’s Conference, on Sept. 17 at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Muntean said she is inspired by her parents’ courage in the face of great danger.

(See more from the conference: Theology of the body expert encourages women to ‘radiate God’s love’  |  Connect faith with femininity, speaker tells conference participants)

“Coming from a country where [the practice of] faith was persecuted and public prayer was dangerous,” she said, “I’d like to start this talk by joining together and thanking our Blessed Mother for this great country that we live in.”

Muntean, who also helped found the Cinema Vitae pro-life film festival in San Francisco, described life behind the Iron Curtain as extremely harsh and fearful even though her parents were educated as engineers by the state.

In 1967, they were able to escape from communist oppression after selling all their possessions so they could pay an Austrian man $3,000 to bribe a guard and smuggle them across the border in the trunk of his car.

“I still remember the elation my parents felt, jumping up and down and hugging and kissing,” Muntean said. “… My father immediately started applying for a visa to immigrate to the United States.”

The Muntean family settled in Columbus, where her father worked as an engineer for Cummins engine company.

“The people in Columbus were wonderful,” she said. “They were great. … The teachers took time every day to teach us English. We got donations of food and clothes and, most importantly, time. People really took the time to help us out. … Once we arrived in Columbus, we started attending Sunday Mass.”

In 1972, the Muntean family became U.S. citizens.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in aviation administration and a master’s degree in business at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Muntean worked in Midland, Texas, for several years then moved to San Jose, Calif., to pursue a career in commercial real estate.

She had quit practicing her faith during college, and rarely thought about God.

“It was during this time that one of the most profound experiences of my life happened,” she recalled. “It was 1988 and my sister, who lives in Houston, and I were visiting our parents in Columbus.”

Her mother was watching a TV documentary about Medjugorje, she said, “and that one hour completely transformed my life. … When I got back to San Jose, I immediately went to my local church and asked the priest to hear my confession.”

Her mother and sister also returned to the regular practice of their faith and began praying the rosary again.

“The three of us had the great privilege of going to Medjugorje the next year to thank our Blessed Mother for her many graces,” Muntean said. “… During the next few years, I grew very much in the love of God and his Church. I became a Third Order Carmelite, attended a weekly prayer group and took pilgrimages. I lived and breathed my faith.”

After searching for a job that would give her life more meaning, Muntean found a position in the marketing department of Ignatius Press, which she describes as “one of the greatest blessings of my life.”

In 2000, Muntean and a friend, Dolores Meehan, decided to participate in the March for Life in Washington.

“It was a profound experience,” she said. “I’ll never forget the sea of people walking and supporting life. … It stayed in my mind that it would be so great if people on the West Coast could have something like that.”

In 2004, Muntean and Meehan organized a peaceful rally and march in defense of Christian marriage in San Francisco because the mayor was endorsing marriage licenses for

same-sex couples.

“The outpouring of support for our rally was beyond our expectations,” she said. “We only had three weeks to organize it, and we had 1,500 people come to walk in the rally. After that was a success, we decided … to bring the March for Life to the West Coast because San Francisco is ground zero for the culture of death.”

Ten days before the first pro-life walk, the city’s board of regents issued Resolution #4405 designating Jan. 22, 2005, as “Stand Up for Choice Day.”

“Their press release urged people to demonstrate in opposition to our walk,” she said. “Because of what they did and because of their rhetoric, the media picked up on it, and to this day we give all the credit to them for the coverage of the Walk for Life. … That first year, we had 7,500 people show up.

“Even though Planned Parenthood and NOW [the National Organization of Women] and all the other abortion organizations did their best to get demonstrations against us, all they were able to bring out was about 3,000 people,” Muntean said. “… They were so vile and crude and rude, and even the media picked up on it.”

The West Coast Walk for Life continues to grow every year, she said. “The walk has grown … from 7,500 people the first year to 50,000 people this year.”

Muntean also is helping to organize an annual rosary rally in San Francisco.

“Fifty years ago this year, [Holy Cross] Father Patrick Peyton had a rosary rally in San Francisco and 550,000 people came to pray the rosary,” she said, “so we’re trying to bring the rosary back into the Bay area.

“When I look back on my journey, I realize that the walk has been for me both a fulfillment of the promise of America and also a chance for me to repay the gifts given to me by this great country,” Muntean said. “America welcomed me and allowed my family to build a new life.”

But it is horrific that abortion is legal in the land of the free, she said, and thousands of unborn babies die every day because of freedom of choice.

“Roe vs. Wade is not only a violation of our Catholic faith, it’s a violation of the deepest American understanding of the very first right enunciated in our Declaration of Independence, the very ground upon which America rests—the right to life,” Muntean said. “If we are to be faithful to our American heritage, we must welcome those [unborn] children yearning to be free.” †

 

See the whole keynote address here

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!