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 published: 2006-07-14

schoenstattsummer"If we love our Founder, we should love what he loved"

2nd World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities: An Interview with Juan Enrique Coeymans


Congreso Mundial de los Movimientos en Rocca di Papa

World Congreso of the Movements  in Rocca di Papa

Weltkongress der Bewegungen in Rocca di Papa


Wenige Tage nach seiner Bischofsweihe feierte Erzbischof Sanna in Belmonte die Heilige Messe

Misa durante el congreso

Mass during the congress

Messe beim Kongress

Wenige Tage nach seiner Bischofsweihe feierte Erzbischof Sanna in Belmonte die Heilige Messe

Centro: Mons. Rylko, Mons. Clemens

Center: Bishops Rylko, and Clemens

Mitte: Erzbischof Rylko, Bischof Clemens

Wenige Tage nach seiner Bischofsweihe feierte Erzbischof Sanna in Belmonte die Heilige Messe

Congreso Mundial de los Movimientos en Rocca di Papa

World Congreso of the Movements  in Rocca di Papa

Weltkongress der Bewegungen in Rocca di Papa

Wenige Tage nach seiner Bischofsweihe feierte Erzbischof Sanna in Belmonte die Heilige Messe

Juan José Coeymans: bendición en el Santuario Original

Juan José Coeymans: blessing in the Original Shrine

Juan José Coeymans: Segen im Urheiligtum

Fotos: Vinculo © 2006


ROME, Octavio Galarce B. The 2nd World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, convened by Benedict XVI, was held from May 31st to June 2nd in Rocca di Papa on the outskirts of Rome near Lake Albano. The main theme for the Congress was: "The beauty of being a Christian and the joy of communicating it".

Juan Enrique Coeymans, who is from Chile, is a member of the Federation of Families and served as one of four representatives for the Movement, helping to explain Schoenstatt’s mission and contribution to the 280 delegates. The Congress began with a round table discussion on the first two days, after which the delegates from the Movements and the Communities could comment for up to three minutes on the subjects that had been discussed. Because of the overarching importance and significance of this Congress, we wanted to interview Juan Enrique about his experiences and the results of his involvement.

How was your participation in the Congress arranged? Who extended the invitation?

-I do not know how my participation was arranged to represent the Movement. The only thing I know is that Father Ivan Simicic, National Director of the Movement in Chile, told me that the General Presidency of the Schoenstatt Work, which is the highest collegiate body of the Schoenstatt Work in the world, had decided that I was to be one of the four representatives. He asked me if I was willing to assume this role of representative. The truth is that I did not hesitate one second in saying "yes," even though it was an honor I did not deserve. Because it was also a great opportunity to make contact with people from other Movements, living Founders, and so forth, and it was an event that simply could not be missed.

Schoenstatt was represented by Father Michael Marmann, former General Superior of the Schoenstatt Fathers; Sister Nurit Stosiek, from the German Headquarters; Cecilia Sturla, a professor from Argentina and member of the Institute of Families; and myself, from the Federation of Families from Chile.

What is the origin of this encounter?

-In 1998, on the eve of the Jubilee, Pope John Paul II called for the "First Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities," as well as an "Encounter of Prayer," to be held on the Vigil of Pentecost that year. The Congress was small, but close to 100,000 people attended and participated in the Encounter of Prayer event.

Both encounters in 1998 were beautiful and unforgettable ecclesial experiences; thus, it was a blessing when last year, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his desire to have a 2nd Encounter at Pentecost and a 2nd Congress. The Pontifical Council of the Laity, which is like the "Ministry" of the laity in the Church’s governmental structure, was in charge of both events.

The 1st Congress served to clarify many of the aspects of the Movements that can be problematic for the Episcopate. In that Congress, the participation of the then-Cardinal Ratzinger was fundamental in placing the Movements in their true roles as realities of the Church, as well as seeking to end the antithesis and contradiction between the two primary precepts: between Charism (the Movements) and the Hierarchy. In fact, many times there is a creative tension between both; however, both constitute the Church, and they are not separate and antagonistic realities.

In this 2nd Congress, the subject was to see how much the ecclesial maturity of the Movements had advanced, as well as to begin to understand and to reflect on new ways of drawing close to the heart of Christianity through the theme of: "The beauty of being Christians, and the joy of communicating it."

Speak to us a little about the atmosphere that prevailed as the Congress progressed.

-We were in Rocca di Papa, in front of Lake Albano in the south of Rome. The Congress was in the Migliori World Center, a huge retreat house and event center for 500 people, that was built in the ‘50’s by the "Movement for a Better World" of Father Lombardi, a famous Jesuit that was very close to Pius XII. It was a movement that attracted thousands of people, but now, as far as I know, there is practically no one left. We Schoenstatters, as a senior or older Movement, have seen many spectacular developments within the Church, but then it is lost when the founder dies, because there are no communities who are responsible for continuing the founding and building of it.

The general atmosphere was one of much camaraderie, fellowship, and of brotherhood. There was no protocol. It was joyful and like a family: we approached each other as equals, whether it was a famous archbishop, or a simple and holy founder, or the leader of another Movement from Germany, or a priest from a Brazilian Movement, or some very holy, humble, and simple Frenchman. The people from Movements that originated in France particularly impressed me. There was a great spirit of prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. However, that was not unusual, because among these 280 people, I calculated that there were at least 20 that could be canonized as saints, just to start with…thus, you understand that it was an atmosphere of God.

In your role, what was the main thing you presented?

-Each day of the Congress there was a presentation by a cardinal, who was a theologian, followed by a panel that would theoretically last one hour (i.e. 10 minutes each for 6 people on the panel). After the panel, they took open comments from the public with up to 3 minutes allowed per comment.

On the first day, the panel went longer because the panelists spoke for 20 minutes instead of 10. Instead of keeping to the subject presented by the Cardinal, they tried to give a mini-conference, which did not leave time for comments from the public.

The second day there was time for five comments from the public. I was the fourth to comment, but it was not three minutes; rather, it was five minutes. I had asked backstage if I could speak because there was no Schoenstatt representative on the panel, and at a previous meeting, the participants of the Movement asked me to speak during the public comment.

Cardinal Quellet, Primate of Canada, had given me the topic for my comment during his morning presentation by saying that the synthesis of the beauty of being Christians is summarized in Mary, the one full of grace, the "tota pulchra." So he had placed the ball in my court, enabling me to speak about the Marian aspect. Because of that, I proposed that we should take the essential implications and the existential projections of the beautiful truth about her. On the other hand, Mary was a layperson, and we should debunk the idea of a "nun" with which some Christians approach her: her life was one of a layperson, and as such she became holy. For the Movements, she is our archetype. Like the servant of God, Joseph Kentenich, we have to see Mary not only as the Mother of the Lord; rather, we also have to see her as his "Companion and Collaborator in the work of redemption." This implies that we not only approach her in a devout manner, but we also need to make use of her role as the educator of the Christian people, hence of all the Movements. Saint Augustine would say—this is how I said it—that the one who educated the Head should educate the Body of the Lord. And this education is a task for all the Movements.

The second thing that I commented on was related to the panel of the second day, which was about the beauty of being a Christian in the media, in politics, in the formation of the youth, and so forth. However, the organizers did not mention the beauty of being Christians in the family.

Thus, I proposed that this subject was left out, and yet it is far more important than we imagine because in the family, the initial and most vital foundations of the faith are laid. The family, as the shrine of life, the basic cell of society, and a communion of persons and of the domestic Church, is the first evangelizer; there, in the experience of mutual love and love freely given, the faith of the people of God is built. I insisted that we have to remove the subject of the family from the exclusive sphere of ethics and bioethics. The family is not the area of the moral problems of Christianity; rather, it is the area of moral solutions and of faith. We should see it more positively—as a source of evangelization and as a joyful message of the beauty of being Christians.

I concluded with a very short testimony about my paternal family. In spite of my parents’ poor and weak religiosity at a given point in their lives, the example they gave of mutual love as spouses and their clear loyalty to their first love over the course of almost 60 years, had made it possible for their children to be committed Christians. Faith is also transmitted by love.

Judging by the comments and congratulations that I received afterwards from several of the participants, including the Archbishop of Barcelona and other Bishops, leaders of Family Movements, and leaders of Charismatic Movements who participated in the Congress, my contribution was appreciated, and they felt they were well represented. I was happy, although I am usually hypercritical of what I say. I prayed about it two days before, and I asked strongly that the Holy Spirit would accompany me.

In the context of what you experienced, what do you think is Schoenstatt’s most relevant or specific contribution?

-Our contribution, other than that we should accomplish our three aims, can be condensed to: taking the experience of the God of life to the daily lives of Christians in a pedagogical manner; living a Covenant spirituality with that God of life through Mary and the Covenant of Love, specifically in our Shrine, and allowing ourselves to be educated by her; and in the third place, placing primacy on our pedagogy, our ascetics, and our spirituality of love, that is to say, the attachments.

What relationship do you see between this encounter and one of the specific aims of Schoenstatt? We are referring to the "Universal Apostolic Confederation".

-As I told you, to carry out the three aims is our main contribution. The second aim of Schoenstatt, something that unfortunately is not recalled very much, is to accomplish the Universal Apostolic Confederation. This is the aim that comes to us from Saint Vincent Pallotti. Let us recall that our Founding Father was a Pallotine during almost all of his life, and he had a great affection for Saint Vincent Pallotti. It seems that we as Schoenstatters forget this, and it bothers me when I do not see the figure of Saint Vincent Pallotti in some of our Shrines. If we love our Founder, we should love what he loved; the rest is just idle talk. This aim, UCA, consists of struggling and working so that the apostolic forces of the Church work together, obviously with each one maintaining its own identity. In Chile, there are many missionary initiatives that work along these lines without us saying that they are Schoenstatt works, because that is not important. What is important is that this work by people from different Movements develops.

Take for instance the Catholic Family Missions and the University and School Missions, in which there is a silent and hidden participation of many, many Schoenstatters; these missions absolutely go along with the second aim of Schoenstatt. Encounters like the one I attended in Rome allow us to create ties between the Movements that will help in accomplishing the second aim of Schoenstatt if we also carry them out on the diocesan or national level. The Schoenstatt aims are not utopian summits; rather, they are very concrete aims that while difficult, we should be accomplishing little by little, but also tenaciously.

In regard to this, do you believe that in the interior of the Schoenstatt Family, this is a subject that is assumed and known by all?

-I believe that it has been assumed rather unconsciously, but it is not something that I see being talked about in order to accomplish it or that we have proposed in order to go about building it. I do not think it has been assumed by everyone. As long as we relegate Saint Vincent Pallotti to a fourth place, I would say that symbolically we still have him as a piece of furniture…at least in the general sphere.

What aspect of our task should we stress as a Family to accomplish our Father’s desire to be "Heart of the Church," and in this way fulfill his promises to the previous Popes?

-The most important thing of all is that we live as Schoenstatters. We do not have to proclaim it very much. It may sound haughty. We have to be the love in the Church; that is, we have to love. And this must be noted in my love of my course brothers or group, passing through my own branch and going out to all my Schoenstatt brothers. If we do not love each other in our Schoenstatt Family, if we live struggling for our own autonomy and do not see everyone as brothers, no matter where we belong, if we do not see each other with merciful eyes, if we continue with a rigid federative schema, (one becomes a federation to empower his charism, not to do what one wishes…), if we do not overcome these things, which I am saying so strongly because it hurts me deeply, then we will never be Heart of the Church. Above all, we should be love wherever we are or wherever we go. Each one has to be an incarnation of effective and affective love, of loyalty, of service, of simplicity and humility, the love of Mary among people is the love of Mary and Joseph who taught Jesus love, the Love of the incarnated love, to love like man…

In conclusion, of the Movements, Pentecost, the Holy Father, and so forth, what impressed you most out of all that you experienced during the weekend in Rome?

-What impressed me the most was to feel the smallness of Schoenstatt, the immensity of the task, the enormity of what we have to do to penetrate and impact not only the world, but also the Church. And when I look at my life, I don’t have many years left. But when I was there, I thought, "Although I will die, if the mercy of God permits it, I will spend eternity working for Schoenstatt." There is no greater gift in life than to have been called, through the pure generosity of the Father, to be a member of this small and humble Family, marked by grace, that in spite of all its weaknesses, is full of holy, noble, and pure people with an immense heart.

The interview with Juan Enrique Coeymans was published in Vinculo 7,2006

Translation: Celina M Garza, Harlingen, TX, USA / Amy Peebles, Austin, TX, USA

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