A common heritage - a common mission
A festive Mass in the inner courtyard of the "Covenant House" (Bundesheim) on August 17 climaxed the celebration of its 75th anniversary
SCHOENSTATT, mkf. A center of family unity, and missionary wideness, in union with the Original Shrine as source of grace, a center from where Father Kentenich, and his collaborators, gave decisive pedagogical, apostolical and spiritual input to the church and society "once upon a time", that was the "Bundesheim", the "Covenant House", that on August 15, 2003, had its 75th anniversary. Hopefully soon again, that was the challenging perspective given by the Jubilee Celebration, that climaxed in a festive Holy Mass in the inner courtyard of the Covenant House on Sunday, August 17, 2003, with a strong international participation. No concrete plans, dates or projects for a future use of the House could be named yet; but this Jubilee Celebration hat a strong orientation towards a common, organic, missionary perspective of a common heritage to become a common mission.
The "Schoenstatt International e.V.", and the Chilean Foundation "Maria Reina del Trabajo" invited the Schoenstatt Family and all interested in the House to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its blessing August 15, 1928. Some hundred participants from Germany, and Schoenstatt members from Chile, participated in the Jubilee Conference August 16-17, 2003, that counted with two considerable talks about the meaning of the Covenant House in the past (Fr. Dr. Joachim Schmiedl), and its heritage as challenge and mission for the present (Fr. Dr. Lothar Penners).
A house closely bound to the history of Schoenstatt and the mission of Father Kentenich
Hardly any house in Schoenstatt is as closely bound to the history of the Schoenstatt Movement as the "Covenant House", the "Bundesheim"; first ideas to build this house emerged in 1924, ten years after Schoenstatt was founded. It was blessed August 15, 1928.
In the house chapel, the Jubilee Convention began August 16, 2003, with a Holy Mass celebrated by Fr. Gerhard Pfennig, Schoenstatt Institute of Diocesan Priests, who was the moderator of the Convention. The night meal in the inner courtyard awakened memories of the party on May 31, 1999, simultaneous with the celebrations in Bellavista, Chile, on behalf of the Golden Jubilee of the third milestone, and other events when Schoenstatt members from different countries and communities met to share and enjoy each others' presence and experiences, in a casual, joyful way. There was time to meet and greet Schoenstatt Fathers from the General Chapter, and congratulate them for their new General Superior and Council, time to meet Schoenstatt members from Puerto Rico, Chile, Argentina, Portugal…, people who so far had only known each other via e-mail or reports on schoenstatt.de, time to sit at the same table with General superiors… Time to experience family, united in the house of the Father.
From here: widespread effects of Father Kentenich's teaching
Father Dr. Joachim Schmiedl's talk made his audience react with wonder, and at times smiles and laughter, to the testimonies of the decision-making to build the Covenant Home - especially when he advised the listeners that the daring priests and laypersons who voted for the construction of the big house for the then still very small Schoenstatt Movements and it's (future) apostolic activities were very young - Father Kentenich just 42, Sr. Emilie 35, and most of the others in their twenties (younger than anybody of the audience, probably!). In the thirties, Father Kentenich's retreats for priest, and the Educational Conferences, attracted a third of the German clergy, and a big number of lay persons especially in pedagogical professions.
The House, however, is also the place, where Father Kentenich united the different communities of Schoenstatt in common projects and common work for Schoenstatt.
The day ended with a prayer time in the House Chapel based on the prayer of the dedication of the Covenant Home to the MTA on November 21, 2003. Afterwards, Fernando Arrau in the name of the Foundation "Maria Reina del Trabajo" invited all to join in the crowning of the MTA as "Queen of the mission of May 31", that is, to work from this house and in this house for the mission that Father Kentenich was called to live for, and for which he searched and found allies - and searches and finds allies.
The room where Father Kentenich lived and worked during the many years he spent in this house hosted at this evening the MTA picture that normally is in the little Adoration Chapel; Sister Anne-Meike and the women who in two rooms of the Covenant Home hold the offices of the Schoenstatt Mothers' Initiative in support of pregnant women in need, had decorated the picture beautifully with colorful flowers. After the crowing prayer, all processed to the Chapel, with two members of the Foundation, from Chile, carrying the picture.
Afterwards, some stayed long for extended conversations…
The Covenant Home, the Original Shrine, the Schoenstatt family - chances and challenges
A sunny, clear Sunday morning saw the participants of the Convention gather in and around the Original Shrine for a morning prayer. The Original Shrine, so small down in the valley, "crowned" with the big Covenant Home high on the slope of Mount Schoenstatt, is the "why" of the Covenant Home - and of all that Schoenstatt does.
The Covenant Home, in the thirties, had a radiation and importance in Germany like Burg Rotenfels, where Romano Guardini taught, or like Maria Laach with Abbas Ildefons Herwege - that means, it's impact reached far beyond Schoenstatt.
Father Dr. Lothar Penners, in his talk, named six aspects of the heritage of the Covenant House that now is to become a mission, at times a challenging one:
The unity between Original Shrine, and Covenant House
The challenge is: Does Schoenstatt, the place of origin, radiate? Compared to other Schoenstatt Centers, like Tuparenda, Florencio Varela, Bellavista, Atibaia - is there enough life around the Original Shrine? This is a question to all of Schoenstatt. What do the "mountains" (Institutes, Federations, League) do for the Original Shrine? Do we have a "Shrine Pastoral" for the Original Shrine?
The Covenant Home stands for the family unity of Schoenstatt
This House was a place where "all Schoenstatt groups lived and worked under the same roof. Could it became a meeting point of the Schoenstatt family, where the members of the different groups meet in family unity?
It was a House of Formation in view of Schoenstatt's trio of spirituality, pedagogy, and apostolate
The originality of Fr. Kentenich's mission is pedagogy as a bridge between spirituality, and apostolate. Other Ecclesial Movement often note this "bridge" as something they need and ask Schoenstatt to share.
This House stands for working in wider dimensions
How do we do that today? Do we reach out to wider circles of our society, and what is our message?
The House also stands for project-orientated work.
Then, it was spreading the book "Every Day Sanctity", for example; how do we work for common projects of Schoenstatt today?
The House stands for strategic work.
Father Kentenich motivated, united and at times also corrected his co-workers here, but most of all it was about working along and for a common strategy. What is Schoenstatt's strategy on an international, European, German level?
It was a place where Father Kentenich stated his view on current ecclesial and social issues. At the end of his talk, Father Penners again pointed at the Original Shrine, and Schoenstatt as place of grace, place of origin, advocating for a common, general concept. Could the Covenant Home become a workshop for a pastoral of the Original Shrine?
Workshops - several ones in German, one in Spanish - followed; the participants were invited to share what had set them afire in these days, which chances and challenges they see and how they think to respond to the heritage.
A fresh breeze
During lunch time, the participants of the jubilee convention along with a bigger number of visitors who came for the festive Holy Mass that would climax the celebrations, shared comments, insights, plans and thousand ideas. A big number of Schoenstatt Fathers had come from the Chapter, including the newly-elect council members Fr. Mario Romeo, Fr. Patricio Moore, Fr. Angel Strada, and Fr. Paul Vautier, as well as the General Superiors and Council members of the other Institutes, and leaders of Federations and branches. A fresh breeze downed the music sheets of the band Esperamor as well as parts of the flower decoration - a sign for the fresh breeze that with this jubilee is to blow in this old house? It became clear that this jubilee day would not bring answers to the many questions on the future of the house, but was more meant to be an impulse and the opening of a wider perspective in view of the place of origin, and Schoenstatt's missionary unity as prerequisite for the fulfillment, or more, continuation of what Father Kentenich and his allies had worked from this house, before National Socialism, and the Exile time of the Founder, put an end to a period of fruitful apostolic work that made a difference not only in German Church and Society.
Talking about God - relevant to the present day, relevant to actual life
"It was a happy crowd of friends celebrating a common mission, and a common Father," Martina Rasch, who had come from Düsseldorf to participate in the festive Holy Mass, "it was family". The big number of priests processing into a courtyard, the many Schoenstatt members filling the wide space between the wings of the time-honored building, the joyful, spirited music and songs provided by the band "Esperamor" - all that made for a motivating religious family experience that crowned the day.
Readings were read in English by Hilda Pagan, Puerto Rico, and Spanish by Juan Eduardo Fernandez, Chile. A Schoenstatt pioneer who brought Schoenstatt to a new country, the artist of the Father statues that in many countries stand for the lasting presence of the Founder and his mission, a call to become his allies: a program.
In his sermon, Monsignor Dr. Peter Wolf spoke about the Covenant Home as a Home of "life knowledge". What was Father Kentenich's recipe for success with his retreats and conferences in this house, he asked: "He talked about God, relevant to the present day, relevant to the actual life". Such a talking about God would be needed today as much as in the thirties, he stated. But to do this, we, as the allies and instruments of the Blessed Mother in the continuation of Father Kentenich's mission, need to know the questions that move people, need to know the tendencies and issues of time, and need to "know about God", not in the abstract terms of theology but from personal experience.
This house should also be a center and central house in the literal meaning of the words - a place where "the waters from the mountains flow together". In the modality of an offer, an invitation, Schoenstatt needs a center for the stream that flows back from the different Schoenstatt Centers in the world, bringing their riches and experiences.
A first step
This jubilee celebration could mark a first step of a new period in the history of this house, Fernando Arrau, President of the Foundation "Maria Reina del Trabajo", said at the end of the Mass, expressing his wish that all hearts on this day may be filled with the "fire from the heart of our Father and Founder".
Before the house can be used, a profound renovation must be done.
The love for the common place of grace and the commitment to work for its mission may also be renovated - this was the hope, and challenge transmitted on this day. "We came to celebrate a time-honored house, a historical building, and go home with a new commitment to fill the Original Shrine and this whole place of origin with life, with people, with contagious missionary spirit," someone said. "Maybe that is what our Father wants to share and give from his house."
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