March 19, 2024


Sr. M. Thereslitha Wehrle

Schoenstatt for a Synodal Church

This was the core experience of our

Pilgrimage group from the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Germany,

that met from February 14-19, 2024, in our International Schoenstatt Center in Belmonte, Rome.

Our Rome team, which consisted of members of different Schoenstatt communities in the diocese—priests, families, the Women‘s Federation, youth, and Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary—was on fire to better understand Father Kentenich’s mission for the Church of today and to bring his mission from our Schoenstatt Shrines in Rome into the Church.

During our preparation, we quickly agreed to take up Pope Francis’ request that all believers should participate in the process of the World Synod.

The conference was to help us understand and practice the synodal Church.

In Rome, we first came together to discuss our expectations and fears with regard to current developments in the Church. Although we were a very diverse group of all ages and different Schoenstatt affiliations, we quickly established a very honest, open and appreciative exchange in which we helped each other to practice listening.

The morning inspiration in the Schoenstatt Matri-Ecclesiae Shrine, Holy Mass every day during which we intensively implored the Holy Spirit, and the informal but intense exchanges alongside the official program also contributed to this.

We first looked at the history and content of synodality.  The Holy Father calls it “a common path under the guidance of the Holy Spirit” (Letter of Pope Francis to the Pilgrim People of God in Germany, June 29, 2019).  Our father and founder, Father Kentenich, took up the request of the Second Vatican Council for a new image of the Church and the expanded the image of the People of God to the image of the Family of God. On December 22, 1965, he promised Pope Paul VI that the Schoenstatt family would help the Church fulfill its post-conciliar mission.

Implement our founder’s promise

This promise motivated us as a pilgrimage group to search for concrete ways to implement our founder’s promise. How can we, in specific environments, live the synodal Church by listening to the Holy Spirit in common, by valuing the manifold gifts and charisms of individuals, and by taking over responsibilities in Church communities and in our surroundings?

We were inspired by our encounters in the parish of Santa Rita in the neighborhood of Belmonte. The parish is in the process of collaborating very actively with everyone in the parish and local groups as part of its involvement in the synodal process of the universal church.

Visit to Vatican Radio

The meeting with Gudrun Sailer in the rooms of Vatican Radio gave us a look behind the scenes of the Vatican. She told us about her exciting journalistic work in the service of an often spontaneous pope. We also learned there that the Holy Father is appointing more and more women to high Church leadership positions and–without much fanfare – a great deal is happening in Church structures. The World Synod is an important event in recent Church history, after which there will be no turning back.

 At the Schoenstatt Cor-Ecclesiae Shrine

The meeting Sunday morning with the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary at the Schoenstatt Cor-Ecclesiae Shrine was also a valuable incentive. At breakfast, Sister M. Clades und Sister M. Julie told us about their endeavors to build the Schoenstatt Movement in Italy as the heart of the Church.

Here in Rome and Italy there are many movements and communities, many inspirations from the pope and communities of the Church. Schoenstatt is a little community among many and as of yet there is no Schoenstatt Father or Schoenstatt Sister of Mary from Italy. But there are active Schoenstatt groups among families, women, and youth, and there are many circles in the Apostolate of the Pilgrim MTA.

Spreading Schoenstatt can only happen INSIEME, TOGETHER! This word, spoken by the Schoenstatt Sisters in Rome, resonated with the pilgrimage group, and we want to take it with us into our everyday lives:

Only together – with each other

and with the Holy Spirit

can we renew the Church!