What’s New?

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When asked about her thoughts on Schoenstatt, Anna Marie Gappa (age 10) said:

“I like Schoenstatt because, you don’t just sit in a classroom and do nothing, and you also can go on retreats every year! It’s not just because it’s fun, but I like it because you can learn something, I think I learned a lot more about Mary than I knew two years ago and I feel that I much closer to her!”

-Anna Gappa age 10
A member of the Girl’s Branch in Keller Texas

When asked to write a little response about our celebration the fiftieth jubilee of Father Kentenich’s return to eternity, I, at first, was more than happy to do so. It was already the second time that week I was asked to write about something Schoenstatt related that others would see, and it humbled me to be able to give testimony to the movement most near and dear to my heart. When I sat down to write this; however, major anxiety and writer’s block set in. What, of everything that took place that day, could I possibly write about? How was whatever I wrote supposed to compare to the three testimonies given that day? Looking back on that day, realizing that authenticity is what really matters gave me the peace to write this.

Up until this day, Father Kentenich was nothing more than Schoenstatt’s founder to me. Sure, I’d read some of his writings, but I had never tried to apply any of his writings to my life. Sure, I’d heard testimonies of his works from people who either knew him personally or have been inspired by him and I’ve been in the Father House, but it never went further than merely wondering “How is this man not a saint yet?” and forgetting most of what I’d heard and seen by the next week. The three testimonies I heard on this day; however opened my mind to a different perspective on Father Kentenich.

The three testimonies had one common theme: It’s not enough to just know about Father Kentenich. If we want him to be a saint, if we want to be witnesses and missionaries to his legacy, we must know him. We are in charge of his canonization, so we must approach him like someone who is in Heaven–never ceasing to ask for his intercession and developing a personal relationship with him. If we are to be effective missionaries of his legacy, simply knowing about it is not enough. After all, how inspiring is a missionary who just rolls facts off their tongue? (Oh right, there’s no such thing). If we are to be effective missionaries of Father Kentenich and his legacy, we must have been inspired by it–we must be deeply rooted in it, and there is no better way to be deeply rooted in a legacy than to be deeply rooted in and personally connected to its founder.”

Virginia Curcio

by Erica Carlson

Do you like history?  You might be thinking: Ugh, no, not me…History was/is a nightmare in school, especially when it came to remembering all those dates…  

But not all dates are so bad.  In fact, I bet there are a couple dates that bring you a great sense of joy just thinking about them.  For example, your birthday, or December 25, or other special anniversaries in your family or personal life.  What makes these dates special?  Fond memories, receiving beautiful things that show you that you are loved, days that bring people together…  Lots of reasons could be present.  If you have a special love for your family, all your family’s birthdays and anniversaries are days that you look forward to.  

What’s the point of celebrating a birthday?  Just a day to get spoiled and showered with gifts?  Obviously not.  It’s a celebration of LIFE, and life is a beautiful gift from our Heavenly Father.  When God speaks, he creates something new.  When God said, “Let there be light,” there was light.  When he spoke your name, you came into existence in your mother’s womb.  When God speaks, something beautiful happens.  We can’t help but stand in awe before these days in which God has created something new.  Each new life is a mystery of God’s love.  

On October 18, 1914, God spoke.  In this case, I’m not talking about the birth of an individual person, but rather a family.  This was the birthday of the Schoenstatt Family.  

I don’t know about you, but I love to hear my mom talk about the day I was born.  What were my parents thinking?  How were they feeling?  Was there anything particularly eventful about that day (besides the fact that I was born!)?  What was life like leading up to that day?  After that day?  The answers to this question all say something about me, because it was the “soil” in which God planted the seed of my life.  I can learn about the garden more fully when I look at the soil from which it grew.

What about the garden of Schoenstatt?  What was the soil like?  A young and sickly priest and a bunch of rebellious, adolescent boys.  Wait a minute…  How does that add up?  Schoenstatt is a worldwide movement of religious renewal, with dozens of branches and thousands of members, and even more pilgrims who visit the over 200 Schoenstatt Shrines around the world.  How could such an expansive garden sprout from such scanty beginnings?

Just a little more background information on this “soil”: Father Kentenich was the young and inexperienced priest.  He had entered the Pallottine community of priests, hoping to be a missionary in Africa.  But he was too sick for the missions.  He suffered from lung troubles from young adulthood onwards; a couple times the flare ups were so severe that his fellow priests thought he was going to die.  It would have been understandable for him to be disappointed by his health condition and therefore the inability to go to the missions.  But he was so conformed to God’s will even at a young age, that he put his heart and soul into the task that the Pallottines gave him to do: teaching the boys in their minor seminary.  This was usually the task given to the priests that were too sick to go on mission trips.   

And what about those boys?  Why were they rebelling?  Well actually, by 1914, Father Kentenich had helped these boys to divert their unquenchable desire for greatness in the right direction.  Two years earlier though, things didn’t look so good.  A new house was built in 1912, and the young boys in the minor seminary had to move into it.  That doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but with the new and beautiful house, came a new and beautiful “rule book.”  And let me tell you, some of these rules were rather ridiculous, like giving strict instructions on when the boys could polish their shoes and with what, that they couldn’t look out the windows, and other such things.  Teenage boys don’t particularly like to follow rules, much less rules that don’t make sense.  They responded like “normal” boys.  They rebelled.  They tried to make life difficult for their priest leaders, leaving little notes around the house (an act that was forbidden of course) which had messages such as, “Houses without joy should be burned to the ground.”  Needless to say, the atmosphere was stormy, and the boys’ attitudes were dark and bitter.  This wasn’t good news; after all, these weren’t just any boys, these were the future priests!  They should have been working on striving to become mature, prayerful and strong personalities, but that was far from what was happening.  The priest leaders saw that something had to be done.  They chose a spiritual director for the boys, hoping that he would get them in line.  That didn’t last too long; the spiritual director got sick and had to resign.  It was too much for him.  A second spiritual director was appointed, but he couldn’t take it either.  The leaders knew that an exceptional educator had to be chosen: The appointment fell on Father Kentenich, a favorite teacher among the boys because of his exciting and new ways of teaching.  When he was appointed in October of 1912 to be their spiritual director, the boys were disappointed to lose him as a teacher, but they soon attached to him as their spiritual director and grew to love him as a father who could guide and educate them to be firm, free, priestly personalities.  They grew in leaps and bounds over the next two years, developing their love for Mary and their quest for holiness through dedicated self-education.  By October 1914, God saw that the soil was ready.  

On October 18, 1914, Father Kentenich and the boys met in their newly acquired St. Michael Chapel beside their seminary, which soon become known as the Schoenstatt Shrine.  It was a Sunday at 5 o’clock in the afternoon when Father began his speech, which we now call the “Founding Document.”  In this speech, Father Kentenich presented his “favorite idea” to the boys.  He wanted to make this chapel into a pilgrimage place where the Blessed Mother would come and make it her special throne of grace, where she would dispense her gifts and graces in abundance and work miracles of renewal and conversion.  There was a condition though.  Father and the boys would have to do their part by bringing “contributions to the capital of grace,” which meant their prayers, good deeds, and sacrifices would be offered to the Blessed Mother.  These efforts would gently “force” the Blessed Mother to stay in the shrine and help them to become saints.  This mutual give-and-take would become known as the “covenant of love,” a fitting name, since this was all about gifts of love from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven.  

Did the covenant of love work?  Did the Blessed Mother actually come and make this little chapel her place of grace?  There is an easy way to figure this out: Just look at the garden we call Schoenstatt.  It is huge.  It is vibrant.  It is beautiful.  Obviously, the Heavenly Gardener set to work in the soil and wasted no time in planting seeds that would bear abundant fruit for years to come.  Schoenstatt soon spread beyond the walls of the seminary, beyond the walls of Germany, and beyond the walls of Europe, to literally the ends of the earth.  From a handful of boys, there grew an international family of priests, sisters, brothers, couples, youth of all ages, families, pilgrims and everything in between.  Schoenstatt has become a way of life for many people, giving them a mission, a home, and a family.

For all of us who are blessed to call Schoenstatt our family, October 18, 1914 is a day to celebrate when God spoke the words of transformation over the soil and said, “Let there be light!  Let there be Schoenstatt!” And a beautiful garden came to be, which continues to grow every time a child of Schoenstatt seals the covenant of love, spreads the good news of Schoenstatt, or simply makes a contribution to the capital of grace.  The miracle of new life of October 18, 1914 continues to live on, in us.  

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Oregon and Ohio Ver Sacrum Missionaries

Claire Bias is happy to be embarking on her first Ver Sacrum Mission summer! Claire lives in the country near Wells, MN. Her family has been involved in Schoenstatt for a very long time and she has been attending summer camps all her life. Claire’s favorite memory of Schoenstatt is making her Blank Check Consecration at the Original Shrine in Germany in 2014. This coming fall, Claire will be a freshman at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. Claire is pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and hopes to one day achieve a Doctor of Musical Arts! When she’s not in school, Claire enjoys musical theater, cats, history, camping, and more cats. Claire is extremely excited to start this adventure and bring Schoenstatt to more people!

Olivia Lippert is a returning Ver Sacrum Missionary, and she is excited to be back at it! She hails from the tiny town of Easton, MN, and she became familiar with Schoenstatt when she was about 7 years old. Since then she has participated in numerous summer camps, retreats, and group meetings. Olivia has made her Marian Apostles, Room Shrine, Covenant of Love, and Blank Check dedications, and all of them were made with Claire. She will be starting her sophomore year at Bethany Lutheran College this fall in Mankato, MN, where she is studying Communication, Theater, and Spanish. Some of Olivia’s favorite hobbies include camping, fishing, gardening, baking, cooking, photography, reading, traveling, writing, and being creative!

Camp Dates 2016

July 11-16, 2016 Salem, OR
 July 19-21, 2016 Maria Stein, OH

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Dear Young Women,

Heartfelt covenant greetings on this June 18!

Right before Father’s day we look up to Heaven and thank God the Father for half a year of blessings which lies behind us. With much gratitude we recall the mercies we have received in our daily lives. How wonderful it would be if we could share with as many people as possible these very same mercies.

Perhaps, the summer break gives us an opportunity to look ahead, too. Would it not be possible that our covenant of love with the Blessed Mother becomes fruitful in our lives through our personal apostolate?

Besides that, is it possible that we step out of our own familiar environment and dare to reach out to those who may benefit from a moment of connecting to the Shrine and to the Blessed Mother, even to Fr. Kentenich and other noble young women? Would you dare to do something in this regard in your college, with your friends, or with some of your  co-workers?

May our MTA continue to guide all of you in the steps of Divine Providence that you may never lose sight of God’s mercies in your lives, and thus be able to share it with others. I am sure the Blessed Mother will show us the best way to reach out to those who need exactly what we have received in such abundance.

 

With prayers from our Shrine,

Sr. M. Isabel

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A Schoenstatt Adventure

To tell the truth, we were 95% excited and 5% nervous as our family drove into the parking lot of the Schoenstatt grounds. Nevertheless, as soon as we saw the beautiful ocean view on the grounds, the familiar Schoenstatt shrine with a Holy Door of Mercy, and a smiling sister who gave us directions, our nervousness subsided. Our family was warmly greeted by Sister Sandra, the sister directing the retreat, Sister Alejandra, who was assisting Sister Sandra, and the young adult volunteers. We were shown to our room, which we were to share with three other girls. We had the typical butterflies one has on their first overnight retreat, but the courtesy of the sisters and volunteers and the friendly manner of other girls who had been to several previous Schoenstatt retreats made us feel welcome.

There were so many wonderful and memorable things about the Schoenstatt Retreat; we hardly know where to begin! First of all, the Schoenstatt sisters were so kind. They were always smiling with a contagious joy as they conducted a retreat activity or served the food at mealtime. The food, by the way, was so delicious, and there was dessert for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day! Back to the subject, the Schoenstatt sisters emphasized the importance of the virtues, especially cleanliness. The girls were instructed to always keep their rooms tidy; furthermore, a cleaning fairy would leave a surprise gift for those with the cleanest room and neatest bed. We had never been so careful in making our bed before, but our effort was delightfully rewarded. The sisters also allowed the girls to practice service. After every meal, some girls were assigned for dish duty and helped the sisters wash the dishes and clean up. Do not worry; there were different girls assigned for dish duty after every meal, so nearly every girl had their turn. The sisters also had “lights out” at around ten o’clock or ten thirty each night, turning off all the lights and instructing the girls to go to sleep.

The entire Schoenstatt retreat was faith-centered. We had morning and evening prayer in the Schoenstatt shrine every day, and there were confessions for anyone who wished to go. The priest celebrated Sunday Mass in the Schoenstatt shrine for all the girls, and we had all practiced the songs we sung during Mass at the retreat. The retreat was also very well-planned. The Schoenstatt Spring Break Retreat was in March, but the volunteers had been preparing for it since January! The activities were all set up in advance around the Schoenstatt grounds and were well-coordinated. When we first arrived at the retreat, there were hand-made name tags that the young adult volunteers made for all the girls. They were especially helpful in learning everyone’s name, as there were about 45 girls at the Spring Break Retreat! Even the meal prayers were specially planned, each one sung to the tune of a popular song in addition to the regular grace said before meals. Needless to say, the Schoenstatt retreat was so much fun! The first night of the retreat, the sisters showed all the girls a movie, and the retreat activities were based on that movie. All the games we played were fun and involved all the girls, so no one felt excluded. All through the retreat, the games and activities encouraged us to build new friendships. After the retreat, everyone wanted to get the phone number or mailing address of a new friend to keep in touch. The Schoenstatt Spring Break Retreat was fun and faith-centered, but most importantly, it gave us the opportunity to do a work of mercy.

Near the end of the retreat, the Sisters presented all the girls with a surprise gift: a box of shampoos, conditioners, bath gels, lotions, and bar soaps for everyone to choose from. The hygienic items had been given to the Sisters, and the girls were allowed to take as many as they wanted. We remembered that about a month earlier, a lady who worked at shelters had come to talk at a day retreat we attended. She had talked about how there was so much need at the shelters for donations. She also mentioned that toiletry items were one of the things they needed most. Suddenly, from the retreat had blossomed an opportunity to perform a work of mercy. After we explained our idea to make toiletry packets to Sister Alejandra, she generously allowed us to take home the box of leftover hygienic items. Using the gifts from the Schoenstatt sisters, our family set out to make toiletry packets for the people at the shelters.

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All of our supplies

To assemble the toiletry packets, we put a shampoo, conditioner, and bar soap into a goodie bag, sealing it off with a silver tie. We were able to produce attractive, fancy-looking toiletry packets by matching hygienic items of the same brand, or different brands that complemented each other. Not only was it fun to turn such simple things into rewarding gifts, but it was also hopeful. It might seem silly to think that hope can lie in hygienic products, but it can. By giving people the means of keeping themselves clean, their self-dignity is restored; they feel better about themselves. Furthermore, people’s lives are touched. They know that they are not alone in their struggles, and that there are people out there who care about them. This can give them a brighter view of the future. Hope is something that must never be lost. It is our prayer that these toiletry packets will help strengthen or restore it.

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A finished bag ready to go

Moreover, it is especially fitting that we were able to perform this act of mercy during this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. During this special year, Pope Francis has called the faithful to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We are so glad that we were given the opportunity to be merciful to others. The retreat was like the fertilizer: it was where we were given the materials. From there, out sprouted a sapling of mercy.

We are very thankful to the Schoenstatt Sisters for such a wonderful retreat. It was well-planned, faith-filled, and lots of fun! We are so glad we were able to attend. We would also like to say a special thank-you for the hygienic items; these allowed us to reach out to others through a work of mercy. We encourage any girls who have not been to a Schoenstatt retreat to go. It is a beautiful and memorable experience.  We truly benefited from the Spring Break Retreat and cannot wait until our next Schoenstatt adventure!

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Dear Young Women,

The month of May,  the month of Mary has begun! With great joy we turn to our Mother and Queen who has chosen us to live a life out of the Covenant of Love with her. In the Schoenstatt Shrine we recall the many moments we have come to the altar of love of our MTA with our requests of love, and with our offerings, our contributions to her Capital of Grace. Today, and every day of this month we offer our love to her anew.

Again and again we come, either physically or spiritually, to the Shrine, in order to place into her hands our proofs of love. The month of May is thus a time to live our Covenant of Love to the fullest extent, because it is a time in which we are called to show, to prove our love for Mary in a variety of ways: our deeds of faithfulness to our daily duties, our constancy in a deep life of prayer, or our striving to keep our hearts and our thoughts pure, are a few among many.

Perhaps this year we are called to add the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as part of our list of tiny contributions to the Capital of Grace, which we offer with great love.

All of us can offer these and many other May blossoms to the Mother of God. Let us not waste any opportunity.

Wishing you much strength and guidance as some of you face the the weeks and days of final exams and decisive projects,

I remember you in our Shrine,

Sr. M. Isabel