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 published: 2004-07-20

Remembering Mario in Milwaukee

Celebration of the 40th anniversary of Mario Hiriart's death in Milwaukee

P. Jonathan Niehaus: presentación sobre la vida de Mario Hiriart

Fr. Jonathan Niehaus: presentation about the life of Mario Hiriart

Präsentation zum Leben von Mario Hiriart


Misa en la Capilla del St. Mary's Hospital, Milwaukee

Mass in the Chapel of St. Mary's Hospital, Milwaukee

Messe in der Kapelle des St. Mary's Hospital in Milwaukee


Charla: P. Jonathan Niehaus

Talk: Fr. Jonathan Niehaus

Ansprache: P. Jonathan Niehaus


Durante la Misa

During Mass

Bei der Messe


En camino al cuarto donde murió Mario Hiriart

On the way to the room where Mario Hiriart died

Auf dem Weg zu dem Zimmer, in dem Mario Hiriart gestorben ist


El cuarto hoy es una cocina chica para familiares de pacientes a morir

The room is now a small kitchen for relatives of terminally ill patients

Das Zimmer ist heute eine Teeküche für Angehörige von Sterbenden





Fotos: Fenelon © 2004




USA, Margaret Steinhage Fenelon. On this 40th anniversary of the death of Mario Hiriart, nearly 75 people solemnly gathered in the chapel of St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee for Holy Mass. They came to pray, to give thanks, and to remember this life that has given so much to our International Schoenstatt Family and ended valiantly in room 251 of this wing of the hospital. The main celebrant of the Mass was Father Gene Pocernich, chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital; six Schoenstatt Fathers from USA, Germany, and India concelebrated.

The celebration took place at the invitation of Father Pocernich, who had become acquainted with Mario during Schoenstatt Youth-Milwaukee’02, the international pilgrimage that attracted nearly 500 youth from around the world on their way to World Youth Day 2002. At that time, a group of Chilean university youth approached St. Mary’s Hospital administration about placing a plaque in the hospital commemorating Mario’s life and death. Permission was granted and the plaque now hangs just outside the chapel and near to the chaplain’s office.

A memorial plaque in the hospital where Mario died

It reads, "God gives me the grace of feeling as if I am on the road back to him. Little by little, here I begin to see the sunshine among the last trees of the woods. Mario Hiriart, 1931-1964. Young Chilean engineer of the Schoenstatt Family died as a holy man at St. Mary’s Hospital July 15, 1964. Offered his life close to the Founder in exile in Milwaukee. Consecrated lay man in the Institute of the Brothers of Mary. He is a life example for many young people today, he is in process of canonization."

Mario’s life has been an inspiration and aid for Father Pocernich in his work with hospice patients, and so he enthusiastically suggested the idea of holding a commemorative ceremony to the Milwaukee Schoenstatt Family.

That the Catholic faith may not be confined to the Cathedrals…

In his homily, Father Jonathan Niehaus explained the charism of Mario’s life. First, he said, is the way Mario connected faith and life. His personal ideal, "To be as Mary, a living chalice, the bearer of Jesus Christ," describes his desire to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground while being at the same time open to God and his Divine Providence. Secondly, Father Niehaus pointed out Mario’s quiet zeal for the lay apostolate. Mario had a deep desire that our Catholic faith not be confined to cathedrals and moments of prayer, but that it penetrate everyday life, especially into the crucial work of the laity. Finally, Father Niehaus examined the slow and steady organic growth of Mario’s spirituality – the factor that led him to becoming one of Schoenstatt’s heroes.

"It is especially beautiful," he said, "in the way his relationship with the Blessed Mother unfolded [throughout his life]. It took years, but there gradually awoke in him the realization that the Blessed Mother is really near, a part of his life. That is when he began to call her ‘Madrecita’ or ‘Dear Little Mother,’ she became so tender to him."

A pilgrimage to the room where Mario died

After Mass, the Schoenstatt Family was invited to the conference room downstairs for a brief but inspiring slide presentation on the life of Mario Hiriart given by Father Niehaus. One of the anecdotes that stood out was from Mario’s life as a young man during the time he met with his Schoenstatt group, "Knights of the Holy Grail." His friend and group member, Rudolfo, was preparing for marriage and suddenly became frightened that he had not fully considered his vocation to the priesthood; he wished to cancel the wedding. Mario prayed for Rudolfo, asking the Blessed Mother to take the troubles Rudolfo was experiencing and place them upon him instead. His request was granted, Rudolfo was happily married and later Mario experienced troubles of his own.

Father Kentenich was impressed by Mario’s charism. During the last days of Mario’s life, he visited him in St. Mary’s Hospital. On the way out, Father remarked to Father Gunther Boll, "I didn’t think it went so deep in him."

Before the group disbanded, Father Pocernich invited them on a small pilgrimage to the room in which Mario had died. The wing in which it is located is now a hospice unit and the room itself has been made into a small kitchenette area for the families of the dying patients. In two months, that wing of the hospital will be demolished in order to make way for new construction. However, the section containing the chapel and plaque will remain standing and has been designated a historical landmark because it is 156 years old and one of the oldest buildings in Milwaukee. It will be used for office space and for the hospital’s school of nursing.

Silently and prayerfully, the Schoenstatt Family made its way down the long corridor to the room in which Mario had given his life in 1964 as ransom for the life of a young Schoenstatt boy (Peter Horn) who was a patient in the burn unit at St. Mary’s Hospital at the same time as Mario, for the construction and dedication of the International Schoenstatt Center in Waukesha, and for the freedom of Father Kentenich from Exile.

Father Niehaus led a final prayer, once again thanking the Heavenly Father for the life and example of Mario Hiriart. For perhaps the last time in this room, the Schoenstatt Family consecrated themselves to the MTA by singing, "My Queen, My Mother." As an act of farewell, all the Schoenstatt Fathers gave those present and all whose lives have been touched by Mario Hiriart the blessing of our Father and Founder.

In the evening of Mario's death, news spread from Chile: the closing of the process of beaitfication on the diocesan level has officially been scheduled for August 12, 2004.

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