Visiting the Shrine to Greet the Mother and Queen – Even If Only For a Minute
Dedication of the Shrine in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, with 15,000 Participants
(Sr Maria Regina Viera, Santa Maria) "We could not leave our successors a more precious legacy than to urge our Lady and Queen to erect her throne here in a special way, and to work miracles of grace." Once again, the reality of Father Kentenich's prophetic words from Schoenstatt's founding hour was experienced on March 25, 2001, the day of the dedication of the Schoenstatt Shrine in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.
The dedication was preceded by three days of intensive spiritual preparation, provided by members of the Movement and the sisters. On Thursday night, the history of Schoenstatt in Bahia that began 14 years ago was presented in a very profound way. On the second day during a Holy Mass, more than 100 persons from the Schoenstatt branches and the Pilgrim Mother Campaign committed themselves to be guards of the Shrine, ready to take turns in praying there so the Shrine can be open all day. On the last day, the theater group of the St. Joseph's School of the Franciscan Sisters performed, with a lot of creativity and beauty, the Announciation, the Visitation, Bethlehem 2000 years ago, and Bethlehem of the new time – the Shrine.
Attracting Thousands of People from All Walks of Life
Joy and great happiness could be sensed in the people of Bahia and of all those who joined in the celebration of the Holy Mass by the new Schoenstatt Shrine on the day of it's dedication. It's always amazing – the Blessed Mother, with the gentle power of the Covenant of Love, attracts thousands of people to her Shrine. About 15,000 persons participated in the hour of grace on March 25.
Already early in the morning, caravans from the all over the state of Bahia began to arrive, as well as from other states of the Northeast. There were participants from almost all of Brazil. The several groups arriving from various parishes had their own identification signs – most of the time T-shirts with an image of the Blessed Mother, with the Shrine, with the writing 'Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt', etc... They also brought their flags and a lot of strips to express a greeting to the Mother and Queen and to the Shrine.
The Schoenstatt Shrine – a Source of Grace for Bahia
Presiding at the 9:30 AM Holy Mass was Auxiliary Bishop D. Valmor Azevedo of Salvador; concelebrants were Auxiliary Bishop D. Gílio of Salvador, and the Auxiliary Bishop of the military Archdiocese of Brazil, D. Augustinho Petri, and more than 20 priests.
In his homily, Dom Valmor spoke about the Shrine, the great grace that it means for Salvador. He did so with a lot of enthusiasm, and thanked especially for the presence of the sisters and their work. He said that this Shrine should and would increase the faith of the people from Bahia. Referring to the Gospel of the day - the Prodigal Son - the Bishop compared it with the Mother of God who always welcomes her children no matter how sinful and miserable they may be. She is the Mother who helps and cares, and this, he emphasized, would be her work form this new Shrine.
And then the bell rang for the first time ...
After the homily, the Bishops and the priests went to the Shrine to give the solemn blessing and to invite the Mother of God to dwell in this Shrine and work miracles of grace from there. The ceremonies were performed with solemnity. Finally, at the end of these ceremonies, the bell of the Shrine rang for the first time. It was a moment of great emotion, the people broke out in a vibrant round of applause. Before leaving the Shrine the Bishop greeted each sister, congratulated each one and wished a lot of blessings.
Holy Mass lasted about three hours. It was impressive to see that all of the people stayed in spite of the heat and the lack of any shelter or shade. The love for their Mother made them not care. Instead, the people manifested an immense happiness because now they have the Shrine.
"I'm exploding with joy!"
The members of the Movement, families and mothers who were tireless in the building of the Shrine and who worked hard preparing for the dedication, were particularly happy to see their dream come true. "That's such a big happiness," exclaimed one person, and another one said: "Seems that I will explode with joy!" and "I can't bear with more emotion." These and other expressions of happiness were shared continuously.
After Holy Mass, the whole crowd wanted to enter the Shrine to visit the Blessed Mother and to give her their requests. It took a lot of effort to organize this entrance. With the army personnel's help and that of some volunteers, a "living chain" was on both sides of the line to contain the crowd and to maintain the order, so that all could enter the Shrine once on this day. The people of Bahia have a natural religious sense and are not too shy to manifest their genuine love for God and the Blessed Mother. As they entered the Shrine, some kissed the ground, others cried with happiness and emotion, others begged to stay there for a longer time, but the visit of this day should be a quick one to give everyone a turn to be in the Shrine. The pilgrimage lasted until the evening.
Guards of the Shrine
Early in the afternoon, Father Antônio Maria Borges presented a brief program and inspired all with his music and messages. This was also a hour of great enthusiasm and, in spite of the heat, the people of Bahia participated with heart and soul. They forgot their fatigue and the heat of the sun. They sang and they danced, and none of them left as long as the show lasted.
After the celebration, many people of the city and of the neighborhood still came to know and to visit the Shrine, already asking for the schedule of Holy Masses and whether the Shrine would be open each day, whether the sisters would live nearby. They were interested in everything. Thanks to the over 100 persons from the Movement and the Pilgrim Mother Campaign who enrolled in the circle of the guards of the Shrine, the new Shrine will be open each day from 8:00 AM – 6:00PM.
Working Miracles of Grace
The Mother of Salvador, the Mother of the Redeemer, already began to accomplish her mission from the Shrine. A man in his thirties, who was responsible for the acoustics, was deeply touched by the celebration. He admitted that he was not baptized, and that he now would like to prepare for this sacrament. He said that he felt so well and would love to stay for ever close to the Shrine.
The youngest visitor that the Mother of God received on this day was Rafael, just 16 days old, who was dedicated to her on this day by his proud parents.
The Blessed Mother also worked miracles in the hearts of the Schoenstatters who worked for the preparation of the feast. They were organized in 14 committees to do the work, and all was done with happiness and love. For them, it was a honor to work for the Mother and Queen and her Shrine. They were tireless. They worked hard getting the local media involved, getting lighting, preparing the land and the infrastructure, and, during the day, medical care, feeding, and more because nothing but the Shrine exists in that place. "Everything was a true victory of our dear Mother Thrice Admirable," one of the team said.
At the end of the day, all joined in thanksgiving for the grace-filled hours and the new place of grace. With this new Shrine, the mission entrusted to Schoenstatt in Brazil by Father Kentenich, will ever more be accomplished – that all of Brazil and all of the areas where Portuguese is spoken are transformed into a Tabor of Christ's and Mary's glories.
English edition: Joan Biemert, New Franken, Wisconsin, USA
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