The Mother of God draws many people to the Schoenstatt Shrine in Atibaia / São Paulo, the provincial center of the Sisters of Mary. The shrine’s pastoral team is delighted to serve the approximately 200 thousand pilgrims who arrive each year from different parts of Brazil. Some need only a few hours, others travel more than 24 hours to be at least once in their lifetime in the shrine. They come as a family and in small or large groups: bikers, riders, seniors, adults, teenagers and children. On Saturdays and Sundays large pilgrimages take place, organized by the parishes and dioceses, and often more than five thousand people come in one day. Here the pilgrims make a “Tabor experience” and many say that it is important for them to come to the Mother’s house at least once a year.
A day in the “House of the Mother and Queen”
This year’s program: At 9:30, the reception of the pilgrims at the large Cross at the beginning of the path that leads to the shrine. Singing, meditating and praying, they make a pilgrimage from there to the statue of the founder, Father Joseph Kentenich, to learn more about him and to request special graces through his intercession. In this jubilee year of Father Kentenich (on September 15, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Fr. Kentenich), pilgrims can pass an exhibition on large panels along the path leading to the shrine. Through this project “Traces of a Charism” they can experience the life of the founder.
With the ringing of bells the pilgrims are received by Our Lady in her shrine. Here, with her, they can pray, express their requests and thanks. Then they are led into the pilgrim’s tent, where a thematic catechesis is held, followed by adoration and Eucharistic blessing. After the lunch break everyone is invited to a common Marian prayer. The day ends with the Holy Mass at 3:00 pm.
She receives the great ones and the little ones
It is wonderful to see the faith, joy and affection of the bishops and priests who accompany their diocesan and parish communities on the pilgrimage to the shrine. There are some who spend the whole day here with those entrusted to them; others come in the afternoon, depending on their possibilities. An example is Bishop Milton Kenan Júnior from the diocese of Barretos / São Paulo, who always comes to the shrine to draw new strength, to pray and to rest. He testifies that here he meets the Blessed Mother and Father Kentenich, who is for him an example of the “light that never dies, a light that remains alive and has its source in the covenant with the Blessed Mother.”
A family has chosen the shrine as the place to celebrate the eightieth birthday of Mariana Eleodoro from the city of Itatiba / São Paulo. “My mother wanted to know this shrine. We are thrilled and happy to be able to spend this special day at this place of grace, “said the daughter, Ana Paula Eleodoro Alves. Thus, the pilgrimage is also an occasion for family celebrations, celebrating life and praying for those who have already left us.
Being a tool: announcing and learning.
For me, it is a great pleasure to be able to provide for the pilgrims and lead them to the shrine of our Mother. It is a gift that I can be their tool so that all who come here can get to know history, spirituality and the Schoenstatt Secret. I can also say that for me the pilgrim’s visit is always a school of faith, love, courage and trust. Often it is just the simple and plain people from whom I learn the most about how to grow in faith. It is moving to see how much faith and love for the Mother of God the people manifest in the shrine.
I thank our Mother and Queen for having called me to Schoenstatt as a Sister to Mary and giving me this experience. In this way I can continue to announce their message in the future.