Scotland Meets the Exiled Father
Completing the Picture of Fr. Kentenich´s Life - Milwaukee Pilgrimage of the Scottish Schoenstatt Family
USA/SCOTLAND, Vanya Gobbi. "We are the first generation who do not know Fr Kentenich directly but we have some people who do. A door into Fr. Kentenich is opening here for us. We will see his charisma." Fr. Michael Savage. A group from Scotland made an historic first pilgrimage from May 19 – May 29, 2006, travelling across the Atlantic to experience Father Kentenich in the country of his exile years. Through 12 days of prayer, testimony and encounter, the pilgrims grew to know the exiled Father personally, spending time in the various Shrines, Centres and homes throughout Wisconsin and Chicago. Accompanying the pilgrim group was the Holy Spirit icon for the Scottish Shrine. This symbolic white dove joined the pilgrimage as an extension of its journey around the shrines and homes of Schoenstatt members before it will be placed above the Sanctuary in Scotland´s Shrine.
Sr. Petra´s personal experience of Fr. Kentenich's exile served the pilgrims well in putting this period of the movement's history into context. Sr. Petra's first talk outlined in detail the timeline of Father's years in exile. She presented this history from the very beginning, with his journey from Germany in 1951 through Switzerland and South America, until at last he arrived in Milwaukee. This talk was followed by a walk to the Father House, which was the original farm house when the land was still a pig farm back in the early 1960´s. The group here experienced a special connection with the exiled Father Kentenich through his personal articles, such as the original phone which took the crucial phone call for Fr. Kentenich to return to Rome.
Meanwhile, outside the Scottish group could hear the girls´ youth gathering for their crowning celebrations. The girls were standing as a guard of honour bearing flowers as the MTA picture was carried into the house. For the newly arrived pilgrims, watching the girls laugh sing and pray gave life and form to what the centre is trying to do.
Next the pilgrimage went to the exile shrine in Milwaukee city. Situated beside the former Holy Cross Church and Pallotine house, it is much the same as it was in the 1950's and 1960's. The group processed slowly up the avenue to make this initial contact with the exile shrine, which proved effective in providing a sense of the significance of this shrine and exile period that they had travelled so many miles to experience. Seeing the buildings and the general environment in 3 dimensions and understanding how one place stands in relation to another helps flesh out Fr. Kentenich's. The pilgrims also went to the movement house where the German and American family groups would often meet with him, especially on Monday evenings. The Scottish Holy Spirit symbol came with the group to spend some time at all these places.
At the International Shrine Sr. Petra gave a short talk, explaining that on 18th October 1964, the Golden Jubilee of the Schoenstatt Family, Fr. Kentenich said Mass in this shrine. That day the church also separated Schoenstatt from the Pallottines.
Mass with Fr. Kentenich
Fr. Savage then celebrated Mass in "St. Michael's" in the basement of the Father House. The original furniture was brought from the basement chapel in the original St. Michael's in downtown Milwaukee, where Fr. Kentenich had celebrated Mass every Sunday. The pilgrims were told of Father's sermons, "his Sunday sermons were a special feature. Fr. Kentenich knew how to present the central truths of faith. They were instructional, clarifying and educational, aimed at mastering life out of Christian faith and providing practical guidance for their lives."
Fr. Savage said, "We are the first generation who do not know Fr. Kentenich directly but we have some people who do. A door into Fr. Kentenich is opening here for us. We will see his charisma."
The Scottish pilgrim group also visited Johnson Creek, the home town of Gilbert Schimmel, a member of Schoenstatt during the exile and now a candidate for beatification. Afterwards the group was greeted with bagpipes at the home of Chuck and Lucille, who had joined the Scottish Pilgrimage to Rome. After this visit, Fr. Deiter Haas of the Schoenstatt fathers provided an in-depth talk about why Fr. Kentenich was sent into exile. Sr. Petra reminded the group of Fr. Kentenich´s certainty that "without the shrine I can do nothing - from the shrine she works miracles."
Past and Present Unite in the Shrine
The group was met in Madison by Sr. Elizabeth as they prepared to experience the Founders Shrine, the first shrine on North American soil. She explained that, as a postulant, Fr. Kentenich had told her that if Schoenstatt was to grow a shrine would have to be built. Sr. Elizabeth shared her own personal encounters with Fr. Kentenich, including her first impression of the elderly priest that, "he walks so young and is so very alive, so warm." This shrine was physically moved to its present location in 1979, and it continues to provide an outlet for many graces and ministries, recently providing a camp in which 26 families and 80 children took part and two mothers made their consecration into the Mother’s League.
The pilgrimage also took in Schoenstatt Heights, so named because from it one can look down upon the city of Madison. Sr. Petra shared that both shrines, the one in Schoenstatt Heights and the one in Milwaukee, were built by the priestly hands of the Pallotine Fathers.
Father´s Ministry Changes Lives
The exile pilgrimage included visits to families with personal experiences of Father Kentenich, sharing the life-changing presence that Father had in his years away from his originating Schoenstatt. The first visit was with Hank and Dorothy Gemeinder, a founding couple of Schoenstatt who have been leaders in the Family Movement for 25 years. Mrs. Gemeinder told the Scottish group about their first encounter with Father in spring 1953 when she and Hank weren’t talking and she was refusing to talk to Fr. Kentenich. Father, in a kindly way asked her questions, and she eventually poured out her whole self to him. She said it was like talking to Jesus Christ himself.
The pilgrims were also warmly received by the Horn Family, inspiring the Scottish group with their generous hospitality and profound witness to the impact of Father Kentenich. The Horn family were part of Father's family group, working with him for many years in this capacity. They first met him in 1960, coming to know him as a pastor and friend who worked untiringly for the many families struggling to settle in the United States. One of the gifts he left them was the appreciation of the home shrine where the families were asked to give Mary a special place in their homes. Mr. Horn provided the group with some wood from which he adapted the altar in the Exile Shrine post-Vatican II, which the pilgrims hope to incorporate as eyes on the Holy Spirit symbol, so, in a manner of speaking, they can see through the eyes of the exile too.
A visit to the Fenelon/Yank family in Brookfield, proved to be yet another wonderful pilgrimage experience. The family are home schoolers who first met Fr. Kentenich through Joseph & Mae Wacker at the Monday Night Couples meetings in 1958, and later on Fr.Kentenich visited the Fenelon\Yank household to bless their home shrine in 1959.
Opening the Heart to God
Back in Milwaukee city, the pilgrims followed in Father's footsteps by going to the shore of Lake Michigan. Although the image of Father standing by the lake side is almost iconic within the movement, visits to Lake Michigan very rarely happened as Fr. Kentenich rarely treated himself to the pleasure of such an outing. Still, the visit was meaningful, and one of the pilgrims, John Shalloo, was able to fulfill his wish of standing at the water's edge where Fr. Kentenich stood and walked, looking out across Lake Michigan.
The group from Scotland included a silent retreat within their pilgrimage experience. Sr. Petra explained to them that people of great longing are people of great prayer and people who pray a lot have a great capacity towards God, listening to the cry of one´s heart as one continues the journey towards the heavenly Father. Several of the group went to the Father house to write letters to the founder expressing their thoughts and their feelings. Later in the day the group prayed the rosary on the road to Holy Cross where they walked for a short while through the nearby graveyard where Fr. Kentenich often took a walk.
Tears and Celebrations
Two couples on this pilgrim trip, Susan and Ian Millar and John and Mary Wallace, made their membership covenant with our Heavenly Mother, promising in a special way to live the Catholic ideal of marriage with love and faith forming their family and home into a living shrine. It was a beautiful Mass, and the consecration of the two couples was moving and quite emotional for those who attended. Upon return to the Centre at Waukesha after the Mass the group was in for a great surprise: the Waukesha sisters treated the Scottish pilgrims to festive celebrations where candles were on the table, wine and a delicious meal was served and Scottish country dancing finished off the night.
Crown of Roses
The pilgrim group gladly accepted an invitation to join the Hispanic Procession and Holy Mass to mark the MTA ‘crowning’ on what in America is the feast of the Ascension. The Holy Spirit symbol joined the procession along with the many banners and flags marking the celebration. Everyone carried a red rose to present in the making of the "Crown of flowers" and several sisters speedily and artistically made the Crown as the flowers were presented. The Scottish Ladies had also prepared a beautiful crown of flowers, that was in fact used to crown the MTA Picture later in the day. The Mass was concelebrated by three priests, Fr. Michael, Fr. Robert Mueller and Fr. Dieter Haas. The countries which were represented were Mexico, Puerto Rica, Hungary, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Germany, USA, and, of course, SCOTLAND. Each year we crown the Blessed Mother, and this year she is crowned Mother of Hope and Queen of Peace. Peace at Home, peace in the Church, and peace in the World. We also crown her Queen of Life, as life is so very precious.
The content of this article has been derived from the daily journal entries of the Scotland pilgrim group, with much of the text taken verbatim from the entries composed by various pilgrims on the exile trip. See: http://www.schoenstatt.co.uk
Vanya Gobbi, Canada, is short-term volunteer of PressOffice Schoenstatt.