Faith, Love and Thankfulness – Vision and Mission for the Future
Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary Celebrating their 75th Founding Anniversary
(mkf) Seventy-five years ago, two young teachers who had asked for a year off from school arrived in Schoenstatt, where the bells rang for their welcome. It was October 1, 1926, the founding day of the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, whose approximately 2,600 members work today in over 30 countries on all continents. On September 30, the Schoenstatt Sisters in Germany celebrated a feast of gratitude with the Schoenstatt family, and representatives from the Church and local government. On or around the same day, the 75th anniversary of the first secular institute of the Schoenstatt Movement was celebrated in all provinces of the international community. In Schoenstatt, the Apostolic Nuncio to Germany, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, presided over a festive Holy Mass in the Adoration Church that was followed by a presentation on the Schoenstatt Sisters' history and mission for Schoenstatt, Church and society.
"Heartfelt thanks" was resounding in Kirundi and Portuguese, Russian and Croatian, English and Hungarian, Italian, Spanish, French, Polish, Tagalog when the photo reporter of the regional newspaper came in. The picture that he took may well represent the atmosphere that marked the 75th anniversary of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary -- gratitude, commitment, vision and mission for the future.
"Mary's words can also be said by you: My soul glorifies the Lord…"
Schoenstatt Sisters from all provinces of the Institute, representatives of the Schoenstatt communities, church and local authorities, and those attached to the Sisters through professional or volunteer work had gathered in the Adoration Church on Mount Schoenstatt, when at 9:30AM the Apostolic Nuncio to Germany, along with Auxiliary Bishop Jacoby of Trier, Father Michael Johannes Marmann, chairperson of the General Presidium of the Schoenstatt Movement, and over 40 priests, and seminarians of the Schoenstatt Fathers, postulants and Mass servers solemnly processed into the Church. The Schoenstatt Sisters had assembled a choir and orchestra with members from all German provinces to provide the music and songs for the festive Mass. Monsignor Zimmerer, Director General of the Institute, welcomed the Apostolic Nuncio, and all who concelebrated.
In his sermon, Archbishop Lajolo spoke about the Gospel that had been read – Mary's visit to Elizabeth and her song: "My soul glorifies the Lord…" Like Mary, he said, today the Sisters could look back into their history and see how the hand of the Lord has marked the path of the Institute and of each individual sister. God's word that was imbued in Mary and bore fruit in her, he concluded, was also directed to all humankind, and was especially directed to Schoenstatt, and to the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary.
A Rosary – Sign of the Prayers for the Victims of Hatred, Violence and War
This gratitude and commitment became visible and tangible, then, in the prayer of the faithful that was combined with the offering of the gifts. Sisters brought different signs of gratitude for the 75 years of their history: The Covenant Book from the Original Shrine, in gratitude for the Covenant of Love of the first generation and all those who followed. A crown and scepter in gratitude for Mary's powerful intercession. A chalice –used by Father Kentenich – as a sign of thanks for him and his love for the Church. The Holy Constitutions of the Institute were brought with the promise of faithfulness to the spirit of the Founder. A young sister from the Philippines brought a bouquet of lilies and ears of wheat for all the deceased Schoenstatt Sisters who have lived their vocation in faithfulness, especially for Sister Emilie. A picture of the Pilgrim Mother was brought in gratitude for all apostolic fruitfulness. The rosary, brought to the altar by a Schoenstatt Sister from New York, was a sign of the prayers for all the victims of hatred, violence, war, and terror. This is of special significance in view of the terrorist attacks of September 11 that united Schoenstatt in worldwide prayer and solidarity.
At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Lajolo asked the congregation to join in prayer for the Holy Father in view of his peace appeals – that his words would be heard and accepted especially in this moment of crisis: "God has to open the hearts, as the hearts of men are in his hands."
Sr. M. Jacoba Kesselheim Called by the German Bishops' Conference to Serve on the Commission for the Universal Church
At the end of the Mass, Auxiliary Bishop Karl-Heinz Jacoby, Trier, substituting for retired bishop Spital who was not able to be present due to health problems, thanked the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary in the name of the diocese of Trier for their work and commitment in the diocese "and from here, in the whole world!" The attachment of so many people to the Schoenstatt Sisters, he said, would be a sign for the "radiance" of their work, their centers, and their community. Highlighting the good results of last December's meeting between the representatives of the diocese of Trier and the General Presidium, he thanked for Schoenstatt's love for the church and cooperation with the local church. Spontaneous applause responded to his announcement that the Superior General of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, Sr. M. Jacoba Kesselheim, had been called on September 27 by the German Bishops' Conference to serve on the Commission for the Universal Church.
After a break when refreshments were served outside, a music piece performed by Schoenstatt Sisters playing flutes, violins, and piano, opened the presentation in the aula beneath the church. Monsignor Zimmerer welcomed the guests – the members of the General Presidium of the Schoenstatt Movement and all Schoenstatters, the representatives of the Pallottines with the assistant provincial, Father Weber SAC, the representatives of religious orders and Ecclesial Movements, local politicians, a delegation from Sr. Emilie's home parish, and "all who are here to celebrate with us."
The Love for the Church – Trademark of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary
Father Michael Marmann expressed the Schoenstatt family's gratitude and joy in the Sisters' jubilee, quoting Father Kentenich who had called the Sisters a model case for all Schoenstatt communities. The Schoenstatt Sisters, he said, were "the charismatic gift for all of us" to whom Schoenstatt owes the model of the "new community" -- with minimum legal bindings and maximum spiritual attachment, the double structure of official and free communities (courses), the actualization of ideas and ascetical goals in streams of life, the model faithfulness to the Founder and the interwovenness of fate with him that brought them closest to him in times of trial, and last but not least the International – which began to develop with the sisters who had set out to other countries and who made the development of the Schoenstatt movement possible outside of Germany.
The applause for his dedicated speech rose when Dr. Inge Birk, Superior General of the Ladies of Schoenstatt, brought a huge bouquet of flowers to Sr. Jacoba. As a special gift, Monsignor Ewald Nacke then read a letter from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, directed to the Apostolic Nuncio of Germany extending the Holy Fathers congratulations and greetings on behalf of the Sisters' jubilee. Love for the Church, the letter read, is a trademark of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary.
The Name – a Program
The following presentation was dedicated to the history of the Schoenstatt Sisters, to their mission and vision of the future. The name – Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, and the logo of the community, a globe with a Shrine on it, and the Sisters’ MTA symbol in the middle, was the guideline for short views of the foundation history. Videotaped testimonies from sisters of the first generation, and a "tour" of the different tasks of the sisters in education, social service and work for the Schoenstatt Movement and the mission of Mary from her Shrine were presented. Young sisters offered flowers to the leaders of the Women’s Federation in gratitude for this community that had been the "cradle" of the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary.
A highlight was the testimony of Sister Rosequiel from Santa Maria, Brazil, who came to the stage with a picture of the Pilgrim Mother. She shared about the visit of Joao Pozzobon and the Pilgrim Mother to her parents’ house: "We all sensed, when he came, that he did not just bring a picture, but Mary herself with her Son. Whenever she came, God was present to us - and this is what I have experienced as long as I have worked with the Campaign as a Sister. It was always the same experience that I had when I was a child and Don Pozzobon brought the Pilgrim Mother. "Mary means: God is with us – the best description of the Schoenstatt Sisters' mission and vision.
Concept and Gift for Present and Future: Mary
The multilingual "thank you" was followed by Sr. Jacobas’s talk, who presented the mission and vision of the Schoenstatt Sisters with the statement: Our concept and gift for the present and the future is Mary.
Faith, love and thankfulness, as basic attitudes have led the community in the past and will lead them in the future. Answering to the constant call for total surrender – in times of persecution under the Nazi regime in Germany or under Communism in the former Czechoslovakia, or now in the tribal war in Burundi – have brought fruitfulness, Sr. Jacoba said, and prepared the ground for the vision and mission of the future. This mission would become concrete responding to the special needs and challenges of the time, in the different countries, cultures, and social settings where Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary live and work, ready to serve the local and universal Church.
Spontaneously, members of the Schoenstatt communities congratulated the sisters whom they met on the way to the Mother House, or House Marienland, where the guests were invited for lunch. The words of gratitude and joy continued during the meals, creating a joyful family atmosphere.
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