Visiting a Place of Graces for a Missionary Family
The first pilgrimage to Schoenstatt in the year 2001 - from Chile
(mkf) A group of Schoenstatt members from Santiago, Chile - married couples, mothers, and professional women - were the first of more than 25 pilgrimages to come to Schoenstatt from South and Central America, Spain and Portugal in the course of the year. The Chileans stayed in Schoenstatt February 12 -18, experienced the place where Schoenstatt began as a "place of grace, a holy place, a place of deep attachment as missionary Christians, a place where we found a Father and Founder who is alive, who is present."
"With Mary in the footsteps of Jesus and of our Father and Founder" – this motto set the tone for the pilgrimage of the twenty Chileans to the Holy Land and to Schoenstatt. Fear of the violence in the Middle East? "No way," says Fr. Jaime Echagaria Valdes, who accompanied the group. "We wanted to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and we were always very calm. And more, being almost the only pilgrims there, we felt spoiled - the holy places just seemed to wait for us." >From the Holy Land, the pilgrims arrived in Schoenstatt on February 12. They had brought along from Chile two Pilgrim MTA pictures; they arrived in Schoenstatt with one. The other one remained in the Holy Land. A Schoenstatt mother gave one to Franciscan Father Emerito Marino, who led the group, along with some prayers and information about the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign. "We feel that the people in Israel and Palestine need peace, and we want to ask Mary to work miracles of grace there. We promised to pray ten 'Hail Marys' each day for Father Marino so that he may be an instrument of the Pilgrim Mother."
Visiting The Original Shrine For The First Time
In Schoenstatt, two young women from Paraguay joined the group. Both are studying German, one in Austria and one in Germany. Upon their arrival at House Sonnenau in Schoenstatt, loaded down with backpacks and heavy bags, they said, "Finally at home." Dropping their baggage, they headed for the house chapel. "We need to see our Queen, we are her living crown!" They sat there, singing songs. Six weeks after her arrival in Germany, Maria Verónica was happy to have finally made it to the Original Shrine. "Then I was at home. When I entered the Original Shrine and looked at the picture of my Mother, my heart was lifted above. It was like heaven!" Both were glad that they could join the group from Chile. Adriana Ortíz said, "What I sensed here in a very special way was the experience of the international family. All who work in Schoenstatt create this family spirit - from the heart of the Founder." Like them, most of the pilgrims from Chile were in Schoenstatt for the first time. Visiting the Original Shrine was the highlight of their stay. "I have belonged to Schoenstatt for thirty years," said one of the participants from Chile. "And during that time, I have been dreaming this dream - to eventually go to Schoenstatt, to once pray 'My Queen, my Mother' in the Original Shrine. We had to face so many difficulties before we could come here. I'll never forget what I experienced here."
"Father Kentenich - alive, very near, tender, for ever here"
"In the footsteps of our Founder" was the theme of the pilgrimage, resulting in many very personal encounters with the Founder. Visiting the site of the concentration camp in Dachau, where Father Kentenich was imprisoned (1942 - 1945); a tour of Gymnich, Father Kentenich's home town, and the renewal of baptismal vows in St. Cunibert's church where he was baptized; and visiting the places where he lived and worked in Schoenstatt climaxed in the private hour in the Founder Chapel, where Father Kentenich died on September 15, 1968, and where his tomb is. Gustavo Aguirre said, "I came longing for a deeper encounter with Father Kentenich. It will be an experience of the heart." A new and deeper relationship with the Founder, says Alicia, will make a difference in her daily life when back in Chile. On the last night, Mariano Jacque Román and his wife, Pelusa, from Campanario, tried to summarize the experiences of the past days: "Father Kentenich - a father, alive, very near, tender, forever here."
Schoenstatt - a Beautiful Place for a Missionary Family
"I am impressed by the many different Shrines," said Josefina Fernandez (36). "God gave holy places here," added Mariano Jaque Román the 55-year-old engineer who came to Schoenstatt for the first time. "I will take home a firm conviction that Mary will always care." Joy, peace, new excitement and strength, a rekindled mission zeal, says Pelusa, is "in our suitcase." Repeatedly, the Chileans emphasized the hospitality received, the warmth of the welcome wherever they went. They were also excited with the natural beauty of the place and the Rhine Valley. "It is simply a beautiful place," said Manuela Garcia. "Where's the Rhine River?" This was one of the first questions when the group came to Mount Schoenstatt, with a view of the valleys around. The exceptionally sunny and mild early spring weather added to their joy. "We saw the first snowdrops and crocuses!" and a boat trip on the Rhine River became a "must".
To be united as a group with a strong missionary zeal made Maria Jimena O'Ryan's day. Adriana Ortíz brought a Pilgrim Mother from Paraguay. As long as she was in Schoenstatt, the picture sat in the Original Shrine. "I want to take the Pilgrim Mother to the people in the Klagenfurt area where I will be for six months," she explained. "Also, people in Europe love Mary; I feel that. At home in Paraguay, tens of thousands come to the Shrine because they love Mary so much. Here, the Blessed Mother has to come to tens of thousands and love them, so they find a home in her!" The experience of being united with each other and the whole international Schoenstatt is strong; family spirit is experienced despite the language barriers. Martia Villalobes was one of the few from the group who had come to Schoenstatt before. How did she experience Schoenstatt? "Like coming home."
In the course of the year, more than 25 pilgrimages will come to Schoenstatt from South and Central America and Iberia – from Mexico, Chile, Spain, Paraguay, Argentina, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Portugal, and Brazil.
English edition: Joan Biemert, New Franken, Wisconsin, USA
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