March 15, 2023

A Conversation about a Life Experience

Claudia Brehm

At the Convention for Delegates of the Schoenstatt Movement in Germany, Sister M. Eileen Johannsen, USA, told about her experiences with Father Joseph Kentenich.

A Contemporary Witness from Milwaukee Reports

Sister M. Eileen Johannsen, b. 1937 in Milwaukee, is currently in Germany. She was persuaded to give–on the last evening of the Convention for Delegates–an interview with Father Ludwig Guethlein about her experiences with Father Kentenich. She met Father Kentenich when she was 16 years old, entered the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary (one of the first five from the USA), and studied German, Latin, and Education.

She worked at a public school with 2,000 students for twenty-four years, first as a teacher and then as a principal. At age 50, she founded her own consultant company in the field of language laboratories. She handed this company over to her niece and her niece’s husband in January, 2020. Since then, she has cared for battered women in Milwaukee because “I’m still too young to retire.”

 Allow freedom

How did she get to know Father Kentenich? She was thinking about whether she should attend the university after completing high school or whether she should enter a convent. She posed this question to her parish priest and he directed her to Father Kentenich, whom she did not know at this time. She went to him. He was a wonderfully interested listener. Gradually, she told him more about herself. At first he was a friend, then a counselor, and finally, he became a spiritual father. He advised her to obtain information from four other religious orders she was interested in joining. Meanwhile, he had forbidden a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary to give her information until the young woman herself asked about the community.

Sister M. Eileen Johannsen in Conversation with Father Ludwig Guethlein

Get involved

Because it was incredibly difficult for her mother to allow her daughter to become a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary, Father Kentenich visited her mother, listened to her mother, and promised her mother, “If your daughter doesn’t like it, I’ll bring her back.” That calmed her mother.

Questions were answered without being asked

She always came to Father Kentenich with a catalogue full of questions. Through the aura that surrounded him, she felt drawn into the heart of God and questions lost their importance as long as she was with him. At home again, she would find the answers herself to her questions without ever having spoken them to Father Kentenich.

“I would come to Father Kentenich with a list of questions and problems that I wanted to talk over with him. But, somehow, when I was with him these questions lost their importance.”

Build your interior house

Father Kentenich took very much time for people. Whoever had problems or wanted something clarified could come to him in the evenings without an appointment; for example, her mother sent her son because he was sassy and obnoxious at home. Father Kentenich merely asked him what he wanted to be one day. “Architect,” the youth answered.
Father Kentenich told him, “You will become a great architect one day, but first you must build your interior house.”
The young man took that to heart and later really became an excellent architect.

Going bowling

Her family joined the group of families that met with Father Kentenich every Monday evening. But her mother was supposed to go bowling with other women from the area at the same time. So she asked Father Kentenich if she should give up bowling. Oh, no, he said, these women know nothing about the shrine of the Blessed Mother. She should tell them about it every now and then when they are bowling. Her husband should take notes during the talks and later tell her about them. In this way she would receive what happened at the meeting with the families; Father Kentenich would wait for her to arrive from bowling until he gave the blessing they always received before returning home.

Work more from heaven

Once someone asked what it would be like when Father Kentenich was no longer on earth. Father Kentenich answered that he would be able to do more work from heaven and be with each one of them. He could be near to them if they wanted it.

Her joyful and simultaneously profound stories were greatly received by her audience

Main impression of Father Kentenich

The final question Father Guethlein posed to Sister M. Eileen was: “What was her main impression of Father Kentenich?” She answered,

“Four years after he died, I asked myself this question and I wrote down my strongest impression.

I think God gave Father Kentenich a great gift along with his mission.
He was a person who wonderfully united the natural and supernatural.”

This harmony between nature and supernature shaped her entire life. In this point, Father Kentenich was an example for her.

“That’s what we’re searching for: a close relationship with God and at the same time being human, to work with others and lovingly to lead them above.”

In her experience, this harmonious union of nature and supernature was something like a second nature to Father Kentenich.

Photos: H. Brehm;  Source: