In joyful expectation, on Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019, a colorful group of
about sixty Schoenstatt members
from the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart
set off in two flights on their way to Rome. They were priests from the Institute of Diocesan Priests, including their General Rector Dr. Löhr, Ladies of Schoenstatt, Sisters of Mary, women from the Women’s Federation, couples from the Family Federation and the Family League, members of the Women’s League and the Schoenstatt Community of Women and Mothers and the Schoenstatt Pilgrims Movement. Most of them are very close to Belmonte, have been involved in work assignments there, have donated a lot of their time, or have even made a pilgrimage on foot to Rome. The close unity in Schoenstatt, the love of Belmonte and the spirit of the Apostles for the Church determined from the beginning a joyous, united and highly motivated atmosphere.
A pulpit for Father Joseph Kentenich
In 1989, the Diocesan Movement of the Schoenstatt Family in the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart decided to give our Father and Founder at the Shrine in Rome a “pulpit”, a Founder’s Room from which he can announce his mission to the Church of today. With the completion of the “Domus Pater Kentenich” the Diocese’s Belmonte team was enkindled by the idea of a diocesan community now handing this “pulpit” over to our father in person and dedicating it.
It was to be a Rome trip with a special style: we wanted to combine the study of our father and founder’s image of the church, the experience of the church today and also some Rome tourism. In fact, this mixture has succeeded and could even become a model for Belmonte pilgrimages.
Rome trip with a special style
From the first day on we followed the traces of our father in Belmonte and again and again we succeeded in reliving the exciting story about the return of our father in autumn 1965. On Saturday we dealt with the vision of our Father and Founder for the Church in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, as he proclaimed it in December 1965 and February 1966 in connection with the laying of the foundation stone of the Matri Ecclesiae Shrine and the visit to the land there.
It was a special gift that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Maria Renz took two days to be present, taking up in his contributions the current situation of the Church and the “prophetic” foresight of our Father and Founder at the end of the Council.
We experienced that the Church is very much alive in the parish of Santa Gemma, to which Belmonte belongs. The pastor, Father Aurelio, told us in a truly Italian-sympathetic way of the martyrs in this place and of the life of the parish today. We marvel at the many catechetical activities among the various groupings of the congregation, the worship services, worship times, and we could see some in the few hours we are there.
Hopefully experiencing the church
We encountered the Church with hope when visiting the community of San Egidio, which has dedicated itself very concretely for the poor and for peace at many levels up to the level of politics. It impressed us that difficult negotiations are accompanied by intense prayer.
The visit to the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Families and Life gave us a look behind the scenes at the concrete work. Two Schoenstatt members of this dicastery, Secretary Father Alexandre Avi Mello and Sister Maria del Pilar Mendieta answered specific questions and we got the impression that something is moving in the church; the reform of the curia is being implemented in favor of the lay people and small steady steps are being taken, even if the public does not notice this immediately.
Highlights are the Masses
Highlights are the Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica at the tomb of St. John Paul II and at St. Vincent Pallotti’s grave and of course in the Matri Ecclesiae shrine. The story and the visit to our Cor-Ecclesiae shrine, the shrine of our sister’s family in the Via Aurelia Antica, fascinated the group. We felt completely at home with the sisters.
Celebration of the handover of the auditorium
On Saturday night, we began the ceremony of handing over the Founder’s Room at the Matri Ecclesiae Shrine. We offered the MTA our willingness to “help shape the church of today because we believe it should and must fulfill its leavening function in today’s world. In the shadow of the shrine, the fate of the next centuries will be decided. That was the great vision of our father and founder. It is we who want to set an example through this center Belmonte, so that we can go hopefully and confidently into the coming time.” From the shrine today, the Blessed Mother wants to carry Christ, the Light, into the darkness of the world. For this mission we make ourselves available to her in the Covenant of Love, because only thus can the pulpit of our Father arise here. He needs us as apostles and missionaries to bear witness.
From the shrine we moved to the entrance hall of Belmonte. We prayed for the blessing of this place and for all who here will meet our founder and his mission for the Church. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Maria Renz blessed the large auditorium area. As a visible gift we could give the Rector, Don Marcelo, a large four-part picture of Father at Lake Michigan for the entrance area. It welcomes every visitor in an inviting way. The celebration is rounded off with a happy, relaxing musical evening, together with the Schoenstatt Family from Rome.
The Matri Ecclesiae Shrine with the Belmonte International Center is a gift from the Schoenstatt Family to Father Kentenich on his 80th birthday. It is a gift of all communities and everyone should have a home here. Here they can meet each other and our father and founder and carry his missionary fire into the church.
We experienced that during this pilgrimage. In the Covenant of Love and Founding Spirit we are united and sent – today! It is an apostolic time! The Dilexit Ecclesiam of our founder wants to glow in us today and help shape the Church!