February 1, 2024

New Year’s Eve with a difference!

Sr. Erika-Mária Bukovics

With you, Maria, on the path of our life.

Under this motto, the first official pilgrimage of students from the Diocese of Timisoara (Romania) set off for Schoenstatt. They were accompanied by two Sisters of Mary from Timisoara, Sr. Erika-Mária Bukovics and Sr. M. Andreea Deac, and a diocesan priest, Father Piry Radulov, who is jointly responsible for the student pastoral care of the diocese. The students of the “Jubilate” student group from the Diocese of Timisoara themselves report on the eventful days :

From December 27, 2023 to January 3, 2024

Young people from the youth groups of the Diocesan Youth Center of Timisoara, “Tekmek” and “Jubilate” (= names of the groups), spent together

“New Year’s Eve with a difference” in Schoenstatt , Germany.

They had the opportunity to get to know the spirituality of the Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt and to spend the New Year before the Blessed Sacrament with other young people from other countries.

During this pilgrimage, the young people learned more about the founder of this movement, Father Josef Kentenich . One of the young people says:

“When we entered Father Josef Kentenich’s room, we were fascinated by the simplicity of the time. Everything was untouched as he had left it, his desk with papers and pens, shelves full of books, pictures of him and important people in his life. For a few moments we could almost imagine him sitting at that desk on an ordinary day, writing or reading, creating the foundation on which the entire Apostolic Schoenstatt Movement stands today. In that moment we understood the importance of this place, but also the identity of the movement, which each time it was tested by the rigors of time, became stronger and ready to be with us.”

A young woman said this about the Original Shrine : “The little white chapel was a storage room for the Pallottine College, but Father Kentenich converted it into a chapel in 1914 together with the boys for whom he was the spiritual director. This chapel is the center of Schoenstatt, together with Father Kentenich. The first covenant of love took place here, in which Father Kentenich entrusted the boys about to be sent to the war front to the Virgin Mary to educate and protect them.

It was impressive to see that an exact replica of the original chapel can be found on every mountain, every hill and near every house of the many and diverse communities. However, each had its own symbols to represent the community. For me it was as if I had never left the Original Shrine and I felt Our Lady gently looking down on us. We had the opportunity to spend the last hour of 2023 and the first minutes of 2024 in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the Original Shrine. Although the fireworks could be heard outside, there was silence in the sanctuary so that everyone could have a personal conversation with Jesus. At some point other young people from other countries joined us, and I was very happy to experience the turn of the year in a different way.”

The covenant of love discussed above is a form of devotion to the Mother of God. We give something of ourselves, and the Virgin Mary works to transform our contributions into grace. On the occasion of this pilgrimage, four young people made this covenant of love, and one of the other young people put it this way:

“As I said on the first evening, I did not come to Schoenstatt with any expectations, I simply agreed to go. The covenant of love that the four of them made touched me. Why? Because those words of covenant came from the heart and you could tell they were willing to live out what they said.”

A young man was very impressed by the atmosphere: “Where was I? These were my first thoughts when I returned from the Schoenstatt experience. I can say with my hand on my heart that it was a trip to the world of the saints, I felt like I was in heaven, I didn’t think about what day or time it was.

The sisters welcomed us with much love and interest and explained to us how they live and how they strive to love God. God has plans for each of us, I am convinced that it was in that plan for me to get to know this spirituality. I thank the Mother of God for her intercession and help in everything! I greet everyone and wish us all peace and grace!”

It is not just the sisters who embody this spirituality. The Schoenstatt Fathers also play an important role in this.

A young man expressed himself as follows: “During this pilgrimage I could not overlook the contribution of the Schoenstatt Fathers through Father Jose Luis Correa Lira. This encounter left me with a remarkable impression of everything that training, pedagogy and contribution to church life means. The Holy Mass, the sermons and the openness of the priests of the community gave me the patience I needed to overcome certain difficulties. I was impressed by how they keep a concrete handprint of Father Kentenich’s hand, where the Fathers, on certain occasions in their community, place their hand on this print as identification with Father Kentenich as the father and founder of the movement and its institute. The whole experience has shown me that God’s love is undeniable and limitless. He guides us on our path and helps us to follow it at the right time and not to deviate from it.”

The Schoenstatt Movement is very diverse, and so the Schoenstatt family community was also an important part of the young pilgrims’ experience: “The Schoenstatt family community has a chapel on Mount Nazareth. What is impressive about this shrine is the statue of the Holy Family, because from the front it does not look unusual, Jesus in the middle of the two parents, but if we turn the statue around we see Joseph and Mary holding hands, something, that we have never seen before. To the left of the altar hangs a network full of pictures of families who have visited this chapel and who wanted their families to always remain in Schoenstatt, even if they were from different corners of the world. One thing that impressed me was the moment when we had to look for a stone to write our family name on, the moment when my brother and I wrote on a small stone our family name and the date we left the stone at the entrance to the chapel, at that moment, even though my mother and father were not with us, we felt that we had placed this stone there together.”

When Father Josef Kentenich founded this apostolic movement, he wanted everyone who would belong to the movement to feel free to make their own good decisions. During these days the young people also got to know the community of the Brothers of Mary :

“During all of these experiences that we had in Schoenstatt, we were able to get to know Mr. Amrein. He consciously decided to be creative in his work. Thanks to the openness of this apostolic movement to the interweaving of daily life with a consecrated life, and thanks to his decision to become a brother, even though he confessed to us that in the past he had had a burning desire to become a priest. Mr. Amrein was able as a brother to keep his job and develop his talents. With great openness and joy he shared what he had learned at work and in the community of the Brothers of Mary, whose house and chapel are on Mount Tabor. He opened our hearts and helped us realize the importance of living every moment with the same enthusiasm, whether it is a Monday morning or a Friday evening. Through his works he showed us that, like colors, we too enter into the landscape of life and divine creation. He encouraged us to be authentic, to follow our consciences and emphasized the importance of our relationship with the Blessed Mother Mary.”

Schoenstatt covers a large area and is crowned by the beautiful Adoration Church .

One of the young people reports: “This church is of particular importance for the Schoenstatt movement. After Father Josef Kentenich celebrated the first Holy Mass in this church, he went home to God in the sacristy. Today the grave of Father Kentenich is located in this former sacristy. The founder of the movement wanted his grave to bear the inscription “Dilexit Ecclesiam,” meaning “He loved the Church.” He still works from heaven for the Schoenstatt Family today.

One evening we had the opportunity to spend time together at Father Kentenich’s grave, to ask him for help in our needs and to express our gratitude for the moments of grace that we experienced at this place of pilgrimage. Thank God for Father Josef Kentenich’s gift to our time!”

A young diocesan priest from the Diocese of Timisoara who accompanied the group accurately called Schoenstatt the “Mount Athos of Germany” He also said: “The spirituality of Schoenstatt offers many opportunities for personal development and freedom! My experience in this community was one full of learning processes and inner joy, in which values play a central role. In the midst of this spiritual environment, I felt a lot of peace! The entire atmosphere: the devotions, the games, the walks, and the prayer surrounded me with a positive energy and contributed to me finding a closer relationship with others, but also with God. I will ask Our Lady to help us build a chapel in Romania – Timisoara! Amen.”

There is room for everyone in the Schoenstatt Movement; it is a movement that teaches values that are sure to bring joy to God and the Blessed Mother. It is a spirituality through which we can easily learn how to serve God with great freedom in our daily lives.

We thank God for making this pilgrimage possible and we thank everyone who was actively involved in ensuring that we had a time full of grace, the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, the Women of Schoenstatt, the Brothers of Mary, the Schoenstatt Fathers, and the leadership of the Family house. Thanks to their good cooperation, we were really able to experience Schoenstatt as a family.”