From Maria Elena Vilches. The Schoenstatt Family is getting ready to celebrate its Jubilee. Pilgrims from over 50 countries will come to Schoenstatt seeking a personal encounter with the MTA in the Original Shrine and with one another as family. Definitely, one of the highlights of their pilgrimage to Schoenstatt will be the encounter with Schoenstatt’s founder, Fr. Joseph Kentenich. Sr. Francine-Marie Cooper – member of the team responsible for the preparation of the encounter with Father – gives us an idea of what we can expect during the Jubilee Celebrations.
Why should pilgrims come to encounter Fr. Kentenich during the jubilee celebrations? Fr. Kentenich is the Founder of Schoenstatt and I am sure many Schoenstatt members have a personal relationship with him. He is the third point of contact in the Covenant and for that reason I think there will be two poles during these days: one of them will be the Original Shrine – together with the arena in the valley, and the other one will be the Founder Chapel. We want to celebrate the jubilee together with Fr. Kentenich and also experience him and his presence during the jubilee days.
What will the pilgrims find when they come looking for this encounter with Father? We as team have looked at some different “stations” around Mount Schoenstatt and also in the valley, places where Fr. Kentenich lived or spent some time. These “stations” consist of guided visits, testimonies and different kinds of impulses. We want to make it possible for people to have this personal encounter with our father and founder in any way which they are looking for, which they find is good for them. It was our aim to create an atmosphere in which true encounters can take place.
Can you give us a preview of any of the activities? In the Father Kentenich House there’s a couple of other offers that are going on there, one with the “Pathways” (in German, Themenwege): they are sets of cards that you can borrow at the front entrance with three different themes, one of them about the Covenant, the next one about Divine Providence, and the third one about missionary zeal. Each set has five stations with some impulses pertaining to the different exhibits in the house but also connecting to our everyday life with impulse questions for people to reflect on. There is also the opportunity to write Fr. Kentenich a letter. We will have a big letterbox at the end of Father Kentenich House where the pilgrims can put their letters to give them to Father. Of course we will also offer a children’s program in the Father Kentenich House. Also the Father Kentenich Secretariat that works for the canonization process of Father will be in the offices of the Father Kentenich House answering questions and ready to give information to people about the process. In the Training Centre (Schulungsheim), there will be the possibility to listen to one of the so called, “Sermons on the Mount”. These were talks that Fr. Kentenich gave in front of the Mariengarten Shrine between 1966 and 1968. The pilgrims can visit Father’s office in the Training Centre (Schulungsheim) and the garden, there are different little surprises that people can see.
What surprises? For example Father will actually be awaiting the people at different places in and around the house. To be more precise, we have had life sized images of him made and placed them at the historical places where the pictures were taken. And who knows… maybe he will even throw candies out of his office window to the people standing below…
You mentioned there will be testimonies; will they be from people who met Father? Yes, but also people who met Father in his “new presence”. Most of the live testimonies will be from people who either met Father in Milwaukee or in the three years when he was here (1965-1968). We will also show video testimonies. The idea is to show Schoenstatt’s 100 years history through encounters with Father: starting off with the early years, for example a video testimony from Father Menningen where he speaks about his experiences with Father and throughout every period – as many as we could fit in. Most of the video testimonies will be presented in the Father Kentenich House and the live testimonies will be presented in both the Schulungsheim and the Father Kentenich House.
What languages will be used for these testimonies and presentations? All testimonies will be presented in their original language. Most of them will be in German, English and Spanish. In most cases, people will receive a text so that they can follow what is being said.
From all these offers that you mentioned, which one is your personal highlight? It’s hard to say! I think a very important thing is just the personal encounter with Fr. Kentenich in the Founder Chapel. There we don’t have a program as such because we think it is important to have that time in silence so that the pilgrims can pray and let Father speak to them. They will receive a little card with a quote from Father in connection with their visit to the Founder Chapel so that he gives them a personal message. I think that is very important, but I can imagine also that the testimonies will be very good. Each person will find something that speaks to them, something that might answer a question that they have about Father.
How will the atmosphere be in the Founder Chapel and special “Father places”? What do you wish for all those who visit these places? I would hope that the pilgrims will be able to somehow experience a feeling of coming home, that Father is waiting for them here, personally. That they can experience that we are a family, this experience of family that is coming together to be with the Father and Founder here in Schoenstatt, a sense of openness and welcoming, that’s my wish, that people will feel that Father welcomes them here today.