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Unwrapping a thirty­seven year old birthday gift

On November 18, Father Kentenich's birthday is celebrated

16 de noviembre de 1965, celebración de80 años del Padre Kentenich: entrega del Santuario y Centro en Roma
November 16, 1956, celebration of Father Kentenich's 80th birthday: presentation of the International Shrine and Center in Rome
16. November 1965, Feier des 80. Geburtstags Pater Kentenichs: Überreichung des Romheiligtums und -zentrums.
Fotos: Archiv Dr. Peter Wolf © 2002

SCHOENSTATT, mkf. Covenant day, November 18, 2002 ­ Father Joseph Kentenich's 117th birthday. His 100th birthday was celebrated by the International Schoenstatt Movement in 1985; his 80th birthday also – in Rome, with a few (compared to 1985!) top representatives of the International Schoenstatt Work, and on November 16, the day then assumed to be his birthday, and: with him in their midst. It was in 1965, in the Vatican II Rome. The birthday gift he then received is still wrapped, but it was never forgotten and now got a decisive step towards being unwrapped: it's the International Schoenstatt Center and Shrine in Rome. The building permission was granted when many had (almost) ceased to believe in it.

There's a photo of this 80th birthday, of the moment when the birthday gift was presented to 80-year-old Father Kentenich. The Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary present had crafted a cardboard "Rome Shrine".

Excerpts from Bishop Henry Tenhumberg's Roman diary

Bishop Henry Tenhumberg wrote on November 16, 1965, in his Roman diary:

"During the little birthday celebration this morning I gave to Father Kentenich officially the Roman Shrine of the Mater ter admirabilis, and as another symbolic gift I handed to him the memory medal that the Holy Father had given to the Council Fathers as a reminder of the Council. The medal was meant to symbolize the close unity of Schoenstatt history and church history, and at the same time was meant to be a gift of the bishops, especially the Schoenstatt bishops, to Father. Additionally, I gave him a first book for the library of the future Schoenstatt Center in Rome, the biography of Charles Borromeo, a gift of the Holy Father to the Council Fathers. I asked our Father to be the first to sign the book, and then asked all those present to do the same, thus making this book a lasting keepsake of this celebration. At the end, I could give to Father and to the Schoenstatt Family a pretty, little model of the Shrine and the first Schoenstatt Center, crafted by the Schoenstatt Sisters; they had placed it in a neat park. I gave it to Father, and then placed it by the MTA picture…"

Visiting the land

Bishop Tenhumberg continues: "Prelate Schmitz, in the presence of myself and Bishop Bolte, later gave Father a check worth 10,000 DM (app. 5,000 US $) at his disposal. He at once passed it on to me for the Roman Shrine. So the basis exists!

After lunch, an hour of rest was scheduled. However, we had to try hard after the small talk that followed to get Father into his room at least for 30 minutes. He appeared to not be tired at all!

At 3:45 PM, we drove by bus to the new land that all liked a lot. In the middle of the land, we had a little celebration, and again offered to the Blessed Mother the Rome Shrine and the Rome Center; we asked her to accept this piece of land as her property and possession and to bless the future development of Schoenstatt from here. … On our way home, we started singing one song after the other. The mood can only be described as "happy to the bursting-point"!

Contours of a gift

Fifty-eight persons so far, said Monsignor Peter Wolf, booked for the come pilgrimage to Rome early December, that will be marked by the building permission granted. "The architect will mark out the contours of the Shrine on the land," he said in an interview with PressOffice Schoenstatt.

A thirty-seven year old birthday gift is being unwrapped.

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