Schönstatt - Begegnungen

"Our Dachau in Your Dachau" – Your Family is My Family

Open Shrine Dachau Pilgrimage of Single Women, Union Mothers, and Schoenstatt Sisters from six Nations, and three continents

Dachau pilgrims from six nations, and three continents: the roses stand for the experience of heaven touching the earth - then, and in each Dachau situation today
Dachaupilger aus sechs Ländern und drei Kontinenten: die Rosen stehen für die Erfahrung, dass der Himmel die Erde berührt - damals und in jeder Dachausituation heute
"As if Mary wanted to say: here, in this place of horrror, I am present as mother... I want to wlak the streets of Dachau with you!"
"Als wollte Maria saggen: auch hier, an diesem Ort des Schreckens, bin ich als Mutter da...Ich gehe mit euch durch Dachau!"
By the admissions block, where Father Kentenich spent the first months of his stay in Dachau
Am Zugangsblock, wo Pater Kentenich die ersten Monate seiner Gefangenschaft in Dachau verbrachte
On the way back home: visit to Ennabeuren, where Fr. Kentenich in the post-war weeks waited to get a chance to return to Schoenstatt
Auf dem Heimweg: Besuch in Ennabeuren, wo Pater Kentenich in den Nachkriegswochen auf eine Möglichkeit zur Rückkehr nach Schönstatt wartete
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Fotos: POS Fischer © 2002

SCHOENSTATT, Gabriele Sudermann/Alexa Clemens/mkf. The 28 women from six countries in three continents, from four branches, covering an age span of over 50 years, on pilgrimage to Dachau where Father Kentenich was imprisoned from 1942 through 1945, experienced a profound Father and Family experience. As they walked the streets of Dachau joyfully carrying an International Auxiliary Pilgrim Mother and various symbols of childlike attachment to her, to Father Kentenich, to the Shrine, and to each other, they placed their own smaller and bigger Dachau experiences and those of hundreds of persons who they spiritually took along into the Dachau of Father Kentenich. "What we took home," one of the Single Women said, "is the joy in and the co-responsibility of being Family of the Father, as children of one loving Father called to bring Mary and the Covenant of Love into each Dachau situation."

For a moment at the beginning of the pilgrimage through Dachau, while all were getting their things arranged, the Auxiliary stood alone by the entrance, "as if she wanted to say: Here, in this place of horror, I also reign and will always reign, as the Father experienced and proclaimed. There is no place, no reality, no matter how tremendous it may be where I am not present as Mother. In the year of the 60th anniversary of Father Kentenich's decision of January 20, 1942, to freely go to Dachau, and offer his freedom and life as Father for his family, this pilgrimage was not meant to provide a growth in knowledge about German or Schoenstatt history but to provide a prayerful and personal experience of the Covenant of Love being stronger than the hatred and injustice of each Dachau.

Family Experience - Simple, Uncomplicated, Joyful

Friday, June 14, 10:20 AM: the international group ­ most of them saw each other for the first time while boarding the bus, many couldn't speak the others' language ­ is setting out for Dachau: nine Single Women from Northern Germany – this group had organized and prepared the pilgrimage -, two Single Women from Ecuador, five Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary from Brazil, and one from USA (two of them volunteered for the bus cafeteria!), Donna from the USA (Girls' Youth), six Union Mothers from South Africa and Zimbabwe with Sr. Marian. "We quickly had such a good atmosphere on the bus, the conversation started simply and went on," Alexa mentioned. "It was the first time for me to be with such an international group, and it was fascinating – the language barrier was no barrier! We were all so much filled with anticipation and wanted to get to know each other, it just worked!" – "Maybe it was the presence of the Auxiliary in her place of honor on the front seat, a special atmosphere was created – also, when one after the other symbol and treasure appeared there, and suddenly one of the women even brought roses," one of the South African mothers said.

In Weiskirchen, in the Shrine of Everyday Sanctity, Father Balthasar Blumers celebrated Holy Mass with the group; three American Military Women with their children had been invited and joined the Mass – pretty much astonished to see several pictures of the Pilgrim Mother in the Shrine! The women are missionaries in a nearby American base. The Mass was in English, with songs being contributed by the Sisters from Brazil, and songs sung simultaneously in English and German. "It was a great experience, beginning with this Holy Mass: each group contributed in a very uncomplicated, simple way," Alexa Clemens said. "We asked Sr. Simone whether she wants to sing a song in Portuguese, and she answered: 'Of course, and I know which one, and we can also sing more!' There was nothing of a polite hesitance that makes life often so complicated. The Sisters, the mothers, we were all just members of one family!" The uncomplicated way of addressing each other as members of the same family - characteristic feature of the Open Shrine - was "extended" to the American women and their children as well as to Father Blumers who got a crash course in how to carry the Auxiliary as Don Joao Pozzobon did it!

Rosary in Five Languages

To prepare for the day in Dachau, and to ask for many graces for those 28 actually traveling on the bus, and the many who were present with their prayers, their thoughts, their longing, and their prayer intentions, the group prayed the rosary together – in five languages, one language per decade: German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin. Each group also chose a song for 'their' decade, and often the others just sang with, either in their own language or guessing through the unknown sounds! Alexa: "Everybody wanted this pilgrimage to be beautiful and did her share to make it possible, I think that is the secret of the uncomplicated way of traveling with people of four or five languages. Moreover, the Father, of course, who was just present and uniting us. One Father, one family!"

A videotaped testimony of Father Heinz Dresbach, who as a young priest had gotten to know Father Kentenich in Dachau, was an ideal introduction for the pilgrimage to Dachau; in the evening of this Friday, when the group had arrived in Kösching and settled in, most of them (except for the mothers from South Africa who were too tired!) got together to take in the experiences of someone who in view of his time with Father Kentenich could say: It was worth while to go to Dachau only for this experience.

On the way to Dachau, early on the other morning, the Morning Prayer from Heavenwards was prayed simultaneously in four languages. "It was only on this morning that I understood the value of Heavenwards," one of the South African pilgrims said. "We could not talk with each other but we prayed the same prayers, our Father's prayers, our family prayers. At this moment I felt part of one wonderful family!" After the morning prayer, for the whole hour of the bus ride, the pilgrims spontaneously took the microphone and shared what had impressed them most from the testimony of Father Dresbach: the visible and tangible reality of Divine Providence, the Father experience, the hope and joy …"It's this hope that makes us going," said Marlene Peter from Zimbabwe. "We need to spread this hope in our Zimbabwe Dachau of violence, impoverishment, injustice, death."

Walking the Streets of Dachau with Mary

One of the experiences that Marlene Peter, Sr. Marian, and some mothers from Johannesburg had shared about Father Esteban's visit to Johannesburg and Zimbabwe with the Auxiliary had a major effect. "You can't put the Blessed Mother in the trunk, Sister! She deserves a seat in the car!" – Eagerly and enthusiastically the pilgrims took turns carrying the Auxiliary from place to place – more sensing than realizing the impact of this simple doing. "In the other years, when we made the pilgrimage to Dachau, we carried roses - and we experienced that one single rose in the gray desert of the concentration camp makes a difference," one of the Single Women said. "This year, we carried the Blessed Mother. We were walking the streets of Dachau with Mary. I did not think much about it, I only know that I will never forget the sight of the Auxiliary in the barracks, and on the blocks…"

Along with the Auxiliary from Argentina, the Single Women carried the Father Eye symbol for the Dachau Shrine to Dachau; a picture of the Father statue with a bouquet of roses, and macramé rosaries from Argentina. The three Brazilian Adoration Sisters carried the crown from the Old House, their precious treasure; they, and Mónica Cadena from Ecuador also brought a Pilgrim MTA, and the Mothers joined their treasures and symbols: small South African, and Zimbabwean flags, a piece of wood from the Original Shrine.

Not only 28 participants entered the concentration camp with these treasures: in came also hundreds (at least) of persons who were spiritually present or represented during the following hours in heat and burning sun. Gabriele: "With the Auxiliary we carried the Blessed Mother to Dachau, and that meant to bring her into each Dachau situation. Solemnly, we placed her at each station, and with her all our signs of attachment to her, to our Father, to each other, to the Schoenstatt movement in Argentina, and to all those who are welcome in the Open Shrine of Schoenstatt!"

Father, our Heart in Your Heart…

The meditative walk through Dachau, from place to place, stood under the central theme of the Covenant with Father Kentenich: Father, Our heart in your heart, Our thinking in your thinking, our hand in your hand, our life in your life. Yes, Father, your mission is our mission. At each of the chosen places (six planned, due to heat-related delays some had to be combined), the pilgrims looked on Father Kentenich and his Dachau experiences; testimonies from life showed how the different aspects of the Covenant with Father Kentenich become a reality in life. "I still think of the man who traveled several hundred kilometer to place his hands in the hands of Father Kentenich, as this encounter with him in the statue had changed his friend's life", one of the women shared. The confidence of a mother from Argentina who "got Father Kentenich to work for being canonized" when learning about a bad accident of her daughter, the faithfulness of a couple to the Covenant of Love after deep disappointments and slander – these were stories from real life, stories that left a deep impression. "It was just through these concrete testimonies that we understood what the Covenant with our Father and the Dachau Shrine really mean," Gabriele said. She always added an application to the Dachau of today and how, with Father Kentenich's support and following his example, this Dachau can be transformed into a Shrine: our Dachau in your Dachau, a Covenant and hope!

Illumined Rosary on Block 26

After a short lunch on the little parking lot by the Carmelites' Monastery, most of the pilgrims silently returned to the site of the concentration camp for a time of personal prayer and meditation. When at 2:30 PM all came to block 26, they were "greeted" by 400 roses in plastic buckets (carried on the bus from Schoenstatt), candles arranged in the form of a rosary around the Auxiliary, and the many signs of covenant love. The idea of this rosary was to pray for all those who had entrusted themselves or their loved ones to one of the pilgrims or the community, and all those who "are part of the family of God, our Father", and to get them in touch with the special graces of a place where a Father had offered his all for his family, and where the covenant of love had been put to the test of life, of an extremely hard life. To make it short – to bring them into the Dachau Shrine. Five spheres of life were applied to the five decades of the rosary: the persons whom we meet each day; the international Schoenstatt; the world events; the own Schoenstatt communities; the situations when God touches our life. All stood around the rosary of candles, and took turns to pray one Hail Mary, mentioning the person or intention for that this Hail Mary was to be prayed. While then all joined in the prayer, she went ahead, offered a rose, and lit the candle. Hail Mary by Hail Mary, rose by rose, light by light, name by name, a rosary of lights and rosaries was created. The other visitors of the site took photos, some stood for a while… "This is praying from our heart," Gabriele said. "It is uncomplicated, because suddenly it is only important to say the intentions, to bring your people here – and nobody worries about perfect formulation!" All participated, each one named the persons and intentions in her language and also lead the Ave Maria in her language; lucky those who understood all languages, but also for the others it became obvious that really a world of love, sorrows, and most of all of hope and confidence was present in these roses and candles. Of course one rosary was not enough for all those who should have been mentioned, but neither time nor heat allowed to add another rosary! So the last three Hail Mary were offered for all those who had only been mentioned in the silence of the hearts.

Roses for Parents, Husbands, Course Sisters, Co-Workers, and the Victims of the Suicide Bombing in Jerusalem

Then, roses were offered to the Blessed Mother and Father Kentenich – for all those who beforehand had asked to be represented in a rose, and all those, who the pilgrims wanted to be present in these moments. After a hesitant beginning, the grace of the moment "took over": It seemed as if each person named was a reminder of other persons, and at the end, when the buckets became more and more empty and the sea of roses by the visible "Dachau Shrine" grew, the pilgrims became ever more eager to not miss on the rose for their people. Sisters, mothers, Single Women, Girls – all participated in the same way. "It was fascinating to think who was all getting together on this afternoon on block 26", said Gabriele: the older generation of the Women's League, the Schoenstatt Movement of Argentina, Ecuador, Germany, Paraguay, the USA, and Brazil, João Pozzobon, Father Esteban Uriburu, the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign of the Pilgrim MTA, many Schoenstatt Fathers and Sisters, Mr. Arendes, the pilgrims from Trier, husbands, bosses, co­workers, children, grandchildren, the victims of the suicide attack in Jerusalem, a little boy from Goya who would soon have surgery of a brain tumor, and the mother of a group member of one of the pilgrims who was sick with cancer – and who died an hour later, totally in peace, while the Dachau pilgrims had their Holy Mass in the Carmelite Chapel.

Easter Eucharist in the Carmelite Chapel

The day in Dachau closed with an Easter Eucharist in the Carmelite Chapel, uniting the pain and the hope of the Dachau then and the Dachaus today with the crucified and risen Lord. Father Maurer came from Kösching to celebrate this Mass, and interpreted the experience of Dachau in the light of Easter.

For the petition, a representative of each group or country present came ahead with a symbol and said a prayer of thanks and confidence. Marcia from Ecuador had the Father Eye and prayed that all people on earth may experience the merciful love of the Father. Alexa had a rosary from Argentina and thanked in the name of the Single Women from Germany for the discovery of the rosary; Lena had the picture of Father Kentenich, and asked that the Covenant with Father Kentenich would become fruitful for Schoenstatt; Petra spoke for those who on January 20 – the 20th anniversary of Father Kentenich's decision – had their implantation into the Mariengarten; Sr. Rosana brought the crown from the Old House, the precious treasure of the Adoration Sisters of the Original Shrine, and prayed for all those who entrust their needs to the Blessed Mother there; Marlene Peter had the Auxiliary and thanked for the spread of the Schoenstatt Pilgrim Mother Campaign to Africa, and to the whole world, and prayed that the Pilgrim Mother continues to bring the graces from the Shrine to many.

Focus on the Essential

Pretty much tired, all went back to Kösching – and many later that night joined in a get-together with typical candies, sharing, and exchanging of gifts.

On Sunday, after another Mass with translated sermon, and readings and songs in different languages, the 28 pilgrims boarded the bus to return to Schoenstatt and from there home to the Dachaus of every day. They made a stop in Ennabeuren, the small village in the Swabian Alb where Father Kentenich spent four weeks between his release from Dachau and his return to Schoenstatt. The small room where Father Kentenich lived during this time was for the pilgrims a place for silent prayer and meditation. When John Pozzobon was offered to spend a night in this room, he did not touch the bed, and spent the whole night on his knees, praying. "When the others went to visit the church I just stayed in this room and prayed", Gabriele said. It's a message of focusing on the essential, not to miss the central impressions to a load of not so important but maybe loud experiences.

On the way back to Schoenstatt, a review of the pilgrimage in testimonies took place. The testimonies well showed how "Dachau" had become "my Dachau" for many. The gratitude for the father and family experience, the uncomplicated participation of all, and the good and deep community spirit despite language barriers were prevalent. The Adoration Sisters promised to pray during their hours of adoration in the Original Shrine in the intentions of all who had been included in the rosary. A mother from Cape Town who works with abused women said: "I will bring home the message that justice begins with your own rights, that you have to be aware of your own rights and go the extra mile to preserve them. When I was in the barracks and heard that Father Kentenich got up earlier each morning to be alone on the mass bathroom, it was like a clear light: Justice begins with your own rights."

"We really experienced family, a family united in the Covenant with Mary, a family inspired by a Father," said Gabriele. "During our last pilgrimage to Dachau, we discovered the "Open Shrine", this time we experienced it!"

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