"The Roads of Argentina - 'Showered' with Schoenstatt Wayside Shrines"
Wayside Shrines - Places to Experience the Presence and Closeness of Mary from her Shrine
(Monina Badano) More than 800 Schoenstatt wayside shrines in Argentina are an expression of Schoenstatt's pastoral of attachment to a place of grace. Most of them came from the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign as fruits of the initiative of a single missionary or groups of missionaries. The longing for the Shrine, the longing for the experience of Mary's presence and closeness from the Schoenstatt Shrine, is the root of all these wayside shrines. Another reason is that those who belong to the Campaign want to feel as a family and want to get together as a family around the wayside shrines, to get to know each other, to build up relationships and to share the joys and pains of lives.
The Campaign is present in many places in the interior of the country, hundreds of miles distant from the next shrine. The economic situation of the people makes it impossible for them to get into contact with the place of grace. Out of this need, the longing of the missionaries of the Pilgrim Mother is strong to make "her own piece of land" a gift to the "Mater," as the people love to call the Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt, the Mater Ter Admirabilis. She should have her own piece of land where they can come and give themselves personally to her, where they bring her flowers and contributions to the Capital of Grace, petitions and thanks. In gratitude, and aware of the meaning of this gift, they care for the beauty and order of these places.
Feeling as a Family, Getting Together as a Family -Especially on the 18th of Each Month
Another reason for the erection of wayside shrines is that those who belong to the Campaign want to feel as a family and want to get together as a family around the wayside shrines, to get to know each other, to build up relationships and to share the joys and pains of their lives. It's impressive to see how attachments grow and deepen through the visits by the wayside shrines. Many people come each day. All of them, however, usually come on the 18th of each month, Schoenstatt's Covenant Day, to pray the rosary and the "Thousand Hail Mary's," to receive the Pilgrim Mother images that will travel among the families (blessed in a Shrine before), and from time to time celebrate Holy Mass together.
"Nothing without you, nothing without us"
Often the missionaries perceive some signs that the Mater wants them to build her a wayside shrine. They are small manifestations but very clear. The unexpected donation of land, the parish priest's request or that of people, up to the Mater "landing" on a piece of property from the sky (after a speedy trip with gas-filled balloons) ... when at another place people out of sheer joy have sent a styrofoam wayside shrine to the skies!
Before the erection, the missionaries promise to conquer the place through contributions to the Capital of Grace. They feel responsible and respond with seriousness to the condition of the Blessed Mother dwelling in their midst and rendering graces: "Nothing without you, nothing without us!"
Reading the books that accompany the Pilgrim Mother pictures often means an impressive revelation of the sincere striving and generosity, not of just a few persons but of many. We have moving testimonies of the commitment and sacrifices offered and given by various people. Next to the Capital of Grace, people offer other gifts – money, construction material, free work on the building, planning and designing of the wayside shrine.
Widening the Shrine - Fruit of the Longing to be Attached to it
The creativity is impressive. Up to this time, we have not seen two identical wayside shrines. Each one of them is a manifestation of a specific place, where the customs, traditions, climate, culture, and religiosity characteristic of their people are expressed. The wayside shrines of the MTA spread throughout the whole country, in all the dioceses of Argentina. In the cities and in the fields, in luxurious neighborhoods and in miserable villages, next to highways and dirt paths, in mountains, valleys and beside the sea, in big centers and in remote towns, the Mater is with their children, giving them her love as Mother, Queen and Educator.
The "Orientation for the pastoral of wayside shrines," elaborated by the Central and the National Team of the Campaign, is an answer to the life inspired by the experience of the missionaries. These experiences are the most valuable contributions to this work, not inspired by a concern about the wayside shrines but to secure for the future the original spirit that created these wayside shrines at a time when we experience an expansion of wayside shrines in our country. Almost each day we get the information about a new one that was erected! It was the urgent wish to guarantee the charisma of Schoenstatt, the attachment to the MTA, to Father Kentenich and the Shrine, that created these guidelines for the wayside shrines as a "widening" of the Shrine, born from the longing to be attached to it.
"Our Mother and Queen wants to stay with us!"
Some testimonies of missionaries of the Pilgrim Mother, expressed during the blessing of a wayside shrine, may help to illustrate the value of these little places of grace for the Campaign:
"Since the Mother and Queen came as Pilgrim, she did not want to visit her children only once a month but to stay with them. 'Stay with us,' said the disciples to Jesus. That happens now with Mary. In many places of our country she has listened to the prayer: Stay with us, our dear Mother!"
"The roads of our country are showered with wayside shrines of the Mater. There we feel as her children, and she transforms us into siblings."
"Since June 27, 1985, the death of João Pozzobon, days, months, and years have passed. His remains rest in the cemetery of Santa Rita. The grain of wheat has to fall to the ground and die, then it will bear abundant fruit."
My Home, my Schoenstatt Land
Recently I remembered a personal experience from my vacation and travels, an experience that demonstrates how all of us, not only those living by a wayside shrine, feel as a family around the wayside shrines. It's difficult to express how one feels when traveling to another place – either for work, for apostolate, or vacation – one soon discovers a wayside shrine of the Mater. At once you feel at home, in a family. Even when you don't know anybody there you feel attached to them because you share the same love, the love for our Mother. Then it begins with looking at each other, followed by smiles, and sooner or later you are speaking and, in the end, we thank our Mother for the meeting and renew our Covenant of Love. It's especially impressive on the Covenant Days when people from all areas come to the wayside shrine. Spontaneously, I remember the words of Father Kentenich: "This is my home, my Schoenstatt land!"
English edition: Joan Biemert, New Franken, Wisconsin, USA
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