A new Visit of Mary: Bringing the Graces from the Shrine to Houses and Hearts
João Luiz Pozzobon Servant of Mary, Small Student of Father Kentenich
(mkf) A series of conferences in the Father Kentenich House in Schoenstatt, on Schoenstatt personalities whose process of beatification has begun, was opened on June 23 with a presentation on the life and mission of João Luiz Pozzobon, the "servant of Mary", who carried her picture to thousands of families, and who, as "small student of Father Kentenich" initiated the Schoenstatt Pilgrim Mother Campaign, that presently reaches out to approximately four millions of families in over 80 countries. Hermann Arendes, of the Institute of the Schoenstatt Brothers of Mary, who knew Don Pozzobon for years, shared about his life and mission.
Approximately 100 150 persons had come, among them the participants of the first meeting of responsible persons in the Schoenstatt Pilgrim Mother Campaign in Germany. The presentation opened with the video "Heroe today", produced in Santa Maria, Brazil, on behalf of the 50th anniversary of the Campaign. As the video has not been synchronized so far, the German text was read while the original tone was cut off. Despite of this improvisation and the black and white result due to the different video formats, the pictures and historical comments gave an impressive view on this simple layperson who dedicated himself totally to the mission of Mary from her Shrine. A short biographical sketch on the life and mission of Don Pozzobon was given to all. On September 10, 1950, the "poor deacon and pilgrim," João Pozzobon, "small student of the Father and Founder" and "the Mater's donkey", as he loved to call himself) assumed this mission, carrying it out in faithfulness for 35 years up to the time of his death on June 27, 1985.
The texts and a number of pictures related to the life and mission of Don Pozzobon were also displayed in the entrance hall of the Father Kentenich House and will remain there for about one month.
A Song That He Knew In German: I Am Her Servant in Joy and in Pain
Hermann Arendes had at the beginning invited all to sing a traditional German Marian song: "Maria zu lieben ist allzeit mein Sinn" (To love Mary I strive all time), because this was a song that João Pozzobon knew in German; 200 years after the arrival of German immigrants in Brazil, this song is still sung in German in these places, and when he brought the Pilgrim Mother to them, he heard this song so often that he could sing it in German. "He knew this song, and he liked it, " said Hermann Arendes, "because the old version that these people sang had his ideal in the first verse: 'I am her servant in joy and in pain.'" Already in March 1952, only 1 ½ year after the Joao Pozzobon accepted the mission to bring the picture of Mary to the families, in the German Men's League's newsletter, the first notice about his apostolate was given. Hermann Arendes brought copies of these newsletter, containing a letter written by Sr. Terezinha from Santa Maria, where she shares about Joao Pozzobon: "He is a second Joseph Engling, dedicating himself totally to the MTA and her work These days, he told me, that he found out that one does not need a great science to be an apostle, one only had to not be ready for sacrifices and being selfless, then people would follow The Blessed Mother also today is forming her saints." Two letters written by Don Pozzobon to Sister Norberta, where he shares about the visit in Cidade de Meninos, a home for boys, follow this testimony. When the Pilgrim Mother arrived, and the beginning of the Covenant celebrations on the 18th of each month there; a second letter, signed with:"a simple but faithful member of the Apostolic Movement" contains a report about a pilgrimage of many persons to the Shrine in Santa Maria; as the farmers suffered from a drought, the pilgrimage was made for rain. Pozzobon: "In the week before the pilgrimage, I asked the Blessed Mother to not send rain now but to use pilgrimage to strengthen the people's faith. And she did as I wished the rain came on the day of the pilgrimage." In the Men's League's newsletter from 1952, a priest comments these letters: "If we only had a dozen of such Joao Pozzobons we could make a difference!"
"He Brings the Blessed Mother to All, and She Has to Work"
In a second part of his talk, Hermann Arendes shared about the conversation he had in April 1968 with the founder of Schoenstatt, Father Kentenich, about the apostolate of Don Pozzobon. Father Kentenich listened for a long time, and then acknowledged this work, stating that Pozzobon would do what Schoenstatt had always wanted to do: to bring the Blessed Mother to all, and she has to work. It is not about the work of the human instruments first, commented Hermann Arendes, but on the work of the Blessed Mother, the great Missionary, who works miracles. Father Kentenich invited Hermann Arendes to speak to priests about this initiative. When he said, that the people would first greet the Blessed Mother and then Don Pozzobon when he brings the picture, a priest commented: "I cannot imagine that to happen in Germany." The second reaction had been: "That does not work in Germany". This was the end result; Father Kentenich, said Hermann Arendes, had obviously expected more from this presentation. The spread of the Campaign in Germany thirty years later had proved Father Kentenich right: it works in Germany. And in over 80 countries in all continents.
"She entrusted herself to me, and now it was upon me to not disappoint her."
Two quotes from don Pozzobon from the early time of the Campaign were the leitmotif of Hermann Arendes' further sharing: "She entrusted herself to me, and now it was upon me to not disappoint her." With the openness and simplicity of a child, Joao Pozzobon observed the miracles worked by Mary, and therefore continued the work, when the initial project a preparation for November 1, 1950, the dogma of the Assumption -, expired: "When the visits to the families are so much blessed and bear so much fruit, one must not cease to do that, it must got on."
Testimonies of the blessing and fruit of the visits conversions, reconciliation, return of a teenage son to his family followed. Up to 1959, it was only one picture the Original Pilgrim Mother -, that don Joao brought to the families, again and again experiencing the strong impact of the Blessed Mother's visit. From life and for life, the small pictures were "born" in 1959, as don Joan realized that "once in the year is not often enough." On one evening, about 30 families were present for the reception of the Blessed Mother's visit. He realized that if he had one picture for them, each family could be visited once in a month. He brought a small replica of the Original Pilgrim Mother picture to them, more families joined, a second group with a second picture began, and the Campaign for families was born, growing slowly at the beginning 300 pictures in 1968, when Hermann Arendes spoke with Father Kentenich, 1,000 pictures in 1977. Joao Pozzobon sent the 1000th picture to Original Schoenstatt, from where the stream of life and grace set out and where all flows back. This 100th picture is visiting in Schoenstatt until it will be sent back to Santa Maria, according to don Pozzobon's wish, after the beatification of Father Kentenich.
Children's Wisdom: Not a Picture but a Person
Especially the children, Hermann Arendes continued, would love the Pilgrim Mother. When a child would hug the picture and say: "Maezinha de ceu, I love you so much," the personal relationship with the persons of the supernatural world would be prepared. A family was gathered around a dying child, when the doorbell rang, and the neighbor's girl said: "I bring you the Pilgrim Mother, because today is your day!" The mother: "In this moment you come to us!" And, to her family: "Now the Blessed Mother is here, now we pray together, with hope " Soon after that, the boy opened his eyes and asked for water the beginning of his unexpected recovery. "Did you notice? Nobody said: 'the picture', said Hermann Arendes, summarizing. "They said 'the Mother', 'you', 'Maezinha'. In an organic thinking, they know and experience: the Blessed Mother is present, she is visiting with them!" Not a picture, but a person is working the miracles of grace that made the Campaign grow and become international.
More than 100,000 groups exist in Brazil meanwhile, more than 200,000 in the world. "Recently I had a letter from Father Ribas in Córdoba, Argentina" Hermann Arendes shared, "He proudly said that in the diocese of Córdoba they now have 6,000 pictures." In Atibaia, Brazil, each month more than 1,000 new groups begin. In Paraguay, a country of five million inhabitants, the Campaign aims for 10,000 groups for 2004. A bishop from Paraguay recently said: "In Paraguay, the church can't do without Schoenstatt anymore." Asked, how many persons might be in contact with this stream of grace from the Shrine, Hermann Arendes calculated it to be approximately 18 20 millions.
In the Family and from the Family
When Hermann Arendes had closed with a number of testimonies of the Pilgrim Mother's work in Brazil, and time was set for questions and comments, a man stood up and said: "and said: "I have only one point in which I disagree and want to say that! You said that the Pilgrim Mother works all these miracles in Brazil. That it not the full truth. She works in the same way, in exactly the same way here in Germany, and I am witness of her working! I saw a four-year-old boy hugging the picture and say to her: Mother, I love you so much! And I know a woman who was sick with cancer who begged for the Pilgrim Mother to come to her and who now is healed. She is not only for Latin America, she finally came to us!"
A woman asked how Don Pozzobon, belonging to a Movement that emphasizes so much on family and family life, could do so much being a father of seven children and a husband; did he neglect his family for his apostolate? Hermann Arendes answered, that for Pozzobon family had always priority. To illustrate this, he brought two testimonies. When Pozzobon returned late night from his visits, his wife always awaited him with a coffee; in return, he brought her a "Cafezinho" to her bed each morning. Visiting Germany, Don Pozzobon was also invited to a Boys' Youth Camp; the boys preformed a theater about St. Nicholas von deer Flue, which was translated for Don Pozzobon. In the end, he simply stated: "That's not my mission. I have always worked for the family, and from the family."
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