"This is a living and moving church … and joyful faces everywhere!"
Fifty years Schoenstatt Shrine Liebfrauenhöhe - A feast of faith, gratitude, and joy with 4,000 participants
GERMANY, mkf. In brilliant sunshine, 4,000 persons celebrated a feast of faith with the motto "to live with you", on behalf of the 50th anniversary of the Schoenstatt Shrine Liebfrauenhöhe, diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart. "That is a living and moving church!"- one of many comments. To live with you, God; to live with you, Mary; to live with you, Shrine; to live with you, Father Kentenich; to live with you, person at my side, at my workplace; in our church, in our world: workshops, presentations, prayer services, music, and many personal encounters and talks made alive what preoccupies people – and what Mary has worked from this Shrine during fifty years; all that in a climate of joyful, lively, spontaneous faith and family unity. The feast climaxed in a festive Mass with diocesan bishop Dr. Gebhardt Fürst who was impressed by the commitment and liveliness of the Schoenstatters and thanked for the Liebfrauenhöhe as "important spiritual center for the entire diocese".
Saturday morning, 8:00 AM, rain is forecast for the Northern and central parts of Germany after weeks of heat. "It won't rain here," said Sr. Anika, one of the many who for more than a year had helped prepare this day. "It (almost) never rained when we had a feast here at Liebfrauenhöhe!" She was to be right! The cloudy skies of the early morning turned brighter and by 9:00 AM, radiant sunshine gilded the area where up to 4,000 persons celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Shrine. Joy and anticipation was in the faces and gestures of all those who arrived by car, bus, or walking. The warm welcome – with chocolate, candy, and most of all the smiles and words of the "receptionists" – made the day of many of the participants. "What a marvelous feast will that be when already the welcome is so special," one woman said, looking with astonishment at the chocolate bar in her hands – wrapped in paper with the logo of the feast. Of course. The multicolored flower with the words "To live with you" can be found everywhere – on the T-Shirts of the jubilee servers, on the souvenirs that are available in the "jubilee shop", on each brochure, pamphlet, signpost… And sunflowers everywhere, seemingly the trademark flowers of the feast! A climate of joy and anticipation dominates. "Finally it so far, the feast has come!"
"Our feast": Approximately 800 persons involved in the preparation and organization
It was a feast prepared by committed laypersons from the different branches in the diocese, who had made this feast, the jubilee of the Shrine, their own. "What impressed me were the many young people who worked here during the past week, with joy and enthusiasm," said Ursel Baur. She was in the team for the children's program and spent a good part of the past week here. Approximately 800 persons were involved in the preparation and organization of the feast. From those who coordinated and inspired all – the members of the central committee (call them the crack unit) – to those who prepared cakes, decorated the tents, or lead workshops: all worked for "our feast", and all enjoyed "our feast" as their own.
The central team, explained Father Georg Egle, diocesan director of the Schoenstatt Movement in Rottenburg-Stuttgart, was formed not formed by persons in leading positions, but by persons who "had potential, and some free capacities". The central committee was composed by members of the different communities of Schoenstatt. Gerhard Gruber, Family League: "Only the experience of the central team was worth while the efforts. We got to know each other; we grew in enthusiasm as we started to work. During the meeting of the diocesan leaders past November, we succeeded in passing on the enthusiasm and vitality that marked our team. Indeed, we got them going! I hope that this will happen through this feast in view of the whole diocese – that this enthusiasm and vitality is contagious! My personal experience – for us people here in Swabia, working together gets us going much more than only praying together!" The central committee created sub-committees of experts for certain sectors: technical and logistical organization, children's program, decoration, workshops, and public relations… Father Georg Egle: "The creativity of these sub-teams was enormous!"
The feast begins – the message of the brightly colored flower
Long files before the Shrine -beautifully decorated with sunflowers, inside and outside-, and a prayerful atmosphere throughout the whole day were a witness of the source and reason of this feast: the small shrine, the power house of the Mother and Queen.
Many smaller tents all around the Liebfrauenhöhe, and behind the Shrine, a big marquee, with benches for all… at least in theory. As people kept pouring in for the common opening of the feast, it soon became clear that some had to stand. "Better than empty places," a young jubilee server whispered. Father Georg Egle and Sr. Sonngard Mikeler took turns welcoming the guests and giving details of the feast and it's meaning – the Shrine, built and owned by the Sisters (it is the center of the Southern German Province), is the diocesan center of Rottenburg-Stuttgart. The mayor of the city of Rottenburg, Klaus Tappeser, and the chairman of Ergenzingen, Hans Beser, thanked for the presence and work of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, and the "spirituality radiated from this Center" that would have a positive effect for the town and the region.
Father Michael Marmann, chairperson of the General Council of the Schoenstatt Movement, was present; also, Fr. Peter Wolf, director general of the Schoenstatt Institute of Diocesan priests; the National Council was represented by Fr. Heinrich Walter. Several Fathers and Sisters had come from Schoenstatt, as well as representatives of the neighboring dioceses. Father Egle read an address of Father Beller, movement director, and Sr. Sonngard shared an address of the Superior General of the Sisters, Sr. Jacoba Kesselheim.
In a profoundly expressive way, short scenes, accompanied by texts and music (Riverdance, World Youth Day 2000 song…), displayed the different aspects of the motto – "to live with you", to live in covenant in the organism of attachments, with God, Mary, each other, with the Shrine, Father Kentenich, and all creation. Each dimension was related to one petal and color of the logo flower, which was being created on the stage. Applause answered to special moments of this presentation – for example in the scene of young people instead of competing with each other stood on each others shoulder to switch on the light on a high pole, or when in the scene that described the gratitude for "the person at my side" in marriage and friendship, Maria and Harry Wolf hugged each other and danced on the stage, or when, in the scene that stood for the covenant with each other in the 'new community', a child was carried in the net created while balls of wool had been thrown to the others on the stage. To the words of Father Kentenich about the Shrine, the Shrine symbol was attached to the flower, completing the symbol that stood for the idea and objective of this feast: "to live with you" – God, Mary, friend, family, Father Kentenich, Shrine, co-worker, church…
"To live with you" – enfolded in workshops, forum discussions, discussions groups, creative activities…
Workshops, forum discussions, discussion groups, and various creative activities were then offered – most of the events twice or even thrice – in almost all of the rooms of the college, retreat house, and Father Kentenich center. Each participant could chose from plenty offers - described in the program, sponsored by a variety of speakers - "celebrities" of the Schoenstatt world side by side with persons who "simply" were experts of life and/or profession for a certain area. A exhibition in the Father Kentenich center, video about Father Kentenich's stays at this place, a written guide for individual exploring of the footsteps of Father Kentenich, singing-along, concert…all that was like a colorful bouquet of flowers tied together with a band that said "to live with you".
All of the workshops and forum discussions were filled to capacity. Subjects of the workshops were the history and mission of the "Co-founder Shrine", experiences with the Pilgrim Mother, the pedagogy of Father Kentenich, prayer life, religious education, marriage style, home shrine, biotech… The three forum discussions were testimonial; the subjects were vocation, experiences with Father Kentenich, and what the Shrine means and how to live with the Shrine, and in Covenant with Mary.
Meeting friends, talking, walking …
In between, noon meal, coffee, cake, ice cream were offered. The benches around the tents were always filled with people – people who obviously enjoyed talking with each other in the relaxed and joyful atmosphere. Also always filled – the many paths winding through the area of the Liebfrauenhöhe. A "moving", a walk-talking church under blue skies, accompanied by the sound of music, and laughter. "I was volunteered to help with the distribution of cakes," Christian Glöggler from Blaustein said. "That's fun, and that's my program for today. What I enjoy most is meeting friends and talking with the people. I had some conversations that simply made my day, they were uplifting and inspiring!"
"All these happy faces, and this joyful climate, that is really a gift," said Rosa Maria Wieland. "When we lived in Peru, we did not know that Schoenstatt existed there, but we saw the MTA picture displayed everywhere. They just love her…" shared a Peruvian-German couple. "Here, we knew that Schoenstatt existed, and today, this feast, shows us the natural and spontaneous way how we in Germany also simply love her!" Johanna Storz, Women's Federation, living in Schoenstatt, and her sister Hildegard Barth were present for the dedication of the Shrine 50 years ago. "We of course had to come!" Is this feast different to the experience of 1952? "Of course! But it is as beautiful and inspiring!"
The children enjoyed their program with riding ponies, crafting, playing…
Festive Holy Mass with Bishop Gebhardt Fürst
"The most precious moments for me were when you could witness the reality of God's presence in this feast," one of the members of the central committee said, obviously moved. "I saw a small child entering the Shrine and standing for some seconds, just looking at the Blessed Mother, with a face that was like a display of a talk in heaven. On the other hand, a woman who during the presentation this morning wrote one word on a notepad and underlined it repeatedly. Or the smile, the childlike smile of an old priest during the entrance procession of the Holy Mass – a dream come true …"
The Schwarzhorn Band provided the songs and music for the festive Mass, the climax of the Feast. Bishop Gebardt Fürst, Rottenburg, was the main celebrant and gave the sermon. He expressed his sincere joy of participating in this jubilee celebration. This celebration would be a testimony of faith. He was impressed by the commitment and liveliness of the Schoenstatters and thanked for the Liebfrauenhöhe as "important spiritual center for the entire diocese". He spoke, based on the Gospel of the visitation, about Mary as model of confidence and faith. "She learns about something that is impossible, and that gets her going," he said, urging all to trust in God who can work the impossible, but not without us. The motto of the feast, he said, should be a life's program for all – to live with you, with God, and with each other.
For the offering of the gifts, various symbols were brought to the altar: a globe, a Shrine. Children brought sunflowers as sign for the gifts and joys received, a jar with the contributions to the capital of grace, the unity cross – a profound and intelligible display of Schoenstatt's spirituality and life.
At the end of the Mass, the bishop invited all to renew the Covenant of love… and 4,000 persons joined in praying: My Queen, my mother…
At the end, Sr. Sonngard thanked the bishop and all for the gifts of this feast, directing all gratitude to the source of joy, the Shrine!
For a long time after the end of the Mass, people kept sitting in the tent, singing, or, outside, sharing and enjoying a good glass of beer and what had remained of the cakes, pizzas, and French fries…
"It was a great feast," a very tired young man said, radiant with joy. "I love the Shrine!!!"
Based on the report by Birgit Baumann, Central Committee Public Relations
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