The Schoenstatt Family of Australia gathered this year for the annual leaders meeting at the Shrine in Mulgoa, Sydney. Sr. M. Thomasine Treese gave one of four testimonies on the subject:
How has Schoenstatt inspired my life?
Because of the long distances, she, like other speakers, gave her statement via Zoom from Perth. She makes it available for us to relive.
Write my notes to Mary every night
Schoenstatt has not only inspired me but it has become my life ever since I travelled to Schoenstatt as a 10-year-old to attend the German style high school run by our Sisters for 8 years. Since I was commuting back and forth I had the chance to go to holy mass in the Original Shrine almost every day and visit the Original Shrine again before the train would take me home. With 12 I joined the Schoenstatt youth. Eventually I became inspired by biographies of the young students of the founding generation like that of J. Engling, Max Brunner etc. It was not only their fascination with the ideals of Schoenstatt and their apostolic zeal that I admired but even more so their personal striving which was reflected in their diaries. Every night they would write a little note to the Blessed Mother about their day and their interaction with her and others. I liked this idea and so I also began to write my notes to Mary every night.
The life of these first Schoenstatt heroes, as we called them, inspired my spiritual life to do great things for God and the people. With 15 or so my life was already pretty much settled: to live my Covenant with its ideals and to serve God as a missionary in Africa.
To serve God as a missionary in Africa
I was also greatly impressed by one of my teachers, a Schoenstatt sister who glowed for Schoenstatt and especially for Fr. Kentenich who at that time lived in Milwaukee – in exile.
She opened our hearts and minds for his charism and his great mission for the Church and world. That he was in exile did not bother us, we just admired him for the great gift of Schoenstatt and what we experienced at the place of its origin. We were ready to sacrifice and pray so that he would be given back to us soon.
This good sister suggested to me that I should travel to Milwaukee to visit Fr. Kentenich. But I did not want it, I was simply afraid. I was shy, did not really know what to talk to such a great founder about; I did not have any problems as my life was all set to go: I would enter the mission section of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary and then begin my life in the missions. However, the sister kept on pestering me and told me that everyone who went to visit our founder would be a changed person through the mere encounter with him. This instant transformation sounded desirable to me, aroused my curiosity but still I was not ready to go. Instead after my studies I began my teaching job. And after 2 years I decided to leave my job and to get my papers to enter our community for the missions. I was sure that this was the way to go. But there I was told, I could not enter the community right now as there was no one else who also wanted to go into the missions. I should wait half a year.
Did God close the door and opened another one, the door to Milwaukee? And still I hesitated. Then I was suggested to write my life’s story and read it to Fr. Kentenich and he would take it from there. So I went to Milwaukee with a trembling heart and with the firm decision not to do anything else than just stay in the sisters’ house, work there for my living, visit Fr. Kentenich and then return to Germany after 4 months and enter there for the missions. This was my plan.
I was nervous to meet Fr. Kentenich and yet curious to know what a great founder was like and how he would go about in transforming people and hopefully also me.
When I saw him for the first time in the shrine after a devotion, I was a bit surprised as he was different from what I had made him out to be: he was small in stature and had a high-pitched voice, yet he was gracious, simple, cordial, greeted all the people and also me, telling me that he was expecting me. That relaxed me a little.