MENASHA — Wendy Fischer has been on the front lines of the abortion battle for decades. “The topic of abortion is what got me through my high school speech class,” she recalled. “I would never speak in public, but that was very easy for me to speak about because I was passionate about it.”
She attributes her strong pro-life stance to the influence of her family. “There were five kids in our family, but our little brother died when he was 6 weeks old. He was born on Dec. 8, which was the feast of the Immaculate Conception. He died on my birthday, which I share with my older sister — Jan. 21. I was only 3 when Kurt died,” Fischer said.
She said she believes her brother’s death brought her family back to church.
“When kids are young, it’s easy to not go to Mass. After that, my parents made sure that we went,” Fischer said. “Mom always taught us to be respectful and to love life and to appreciate life because it can be gone in an instant. Being brought up that way, and the abortion debate was really raging at that time, so we would talk about that at home.”
Fischer’s home parish, where she celebrated all her sacraments, was Sacred Heart of Jesus in Appleton. She and her husband, Michael, and their four children were active pro-life volunteers there. “At Sacred Heart, we were part of the Respect Life group. We sold roses on Mother’s Day — my husband and I brought that back and we were doing that every year,” she said.
In 2006, the Fischer family moved to Menasha and joined St. John the Baptist Parish. Wendy also joined the Neenah-Menasha Respect Life Committee. Any chance she had to help out with the pro-life movement she did, from fundraising and participating in the Bowl for Life to volunteering at Womankind, which she did for a number of years.
Several years ago, Fischer heard about 40 Days for Life, which is a pro-life campaign held annually around the country. The movement had gone dormant in the Fox Cities, but four years ago, Bishop David Ricken asked the Neenah-Menasha Respect Life Committee to revive and lead the event in the Fox Cities. “Our group took up that job to get it going again. A lady who was with our group came up with the idea to have each parish or church in the Fox Valley area be responsible for a couple of hours each week,” she said.
This year, 40 Days for Life runs from Sept. 26 through Nov. 4. From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., volunteers gather at the Planned Parenthood facility in Appleton to peacefully picket or pray. The shifts are one-hour long. “We would like every church to take two or three shifts throughout the week,” said Fischer. “We contacted them all but it tends to be Catholic churches that respond. For some reason, we can’t get the other ones to be involved.”
While 40 Days for Life is the biggest initiative the Neenah-Menasha Respect Life Committee undertakes during the year, is also sells the roses on Mother’s Day and candy bars on Father’s Day at parishes to raise funds for the pro-life movement.
“We use the money to pay for things we want to do, like buy more signs for 40 Days for Life,” she said. “Last year we had two speakers to St. Mary High School in Neenah talk about Humanae Vitae (the encyclical written by Pope Paul VI in 1968). They talked about natural family planning and how Humanae Vitae was really kind of a prophecy and how people aren’t listening.”
Several years ago, her pro-life stance was put to the test when someone in her family faced a crisis pregnancy. But, she held to her convictions and the situation turned out to be a blessing for their whole family, she said.
“I heard it said that God is going to be more concerned not about the things we did in this life but of all the idle time,” said Fischer. “For all those people who say ‘I’m pro-life but I’m so busy,’ get out there and participate in 40 Days for Life. This is an hour a week. You can come whenever you can during the day but if you truly can’t get there, spend an hour in your home praying for this. There no excuse to not participate.”
For those people who say they are pro-choice, Fischer has something for them to consider. “It doesn’t matter what stage we’re at in life, we’re still human beings and created by God and we all have a purpose,” she said. “We have to fight for these little ones because no one else will. We love them (mother and child) both. Anybody in these situations, we just want to help.”