“Every great person is a letter from God to the epoch in which he lives, a message to us. …

The life of our father and founder is our letter from God. The book of his life is our book written by God.”

(Bishop Heinrich Tenhumberg, September 20, 1968)

With these words the Auxiliary Bishop of Muenster at that time, Bishop Heinrich Tenhumberg, began his homily at the funeral Mass for Father Kentenich on September 20, 1968.

He expressed his experience that the life of this person, this priest and founder, wasn’t only extraordinary. It was a life in which God was the beginning, the center, and the goal. It was a life with a message from God to these times.


Joseph Kentenich was born on November 16, 1885, in Gymnich near Cologne. When he was eight years old his single mother had to leave him in the care of an orphanage. On the day of his arrival she entrusted her son to the Blessed Mother Mary. From then on, she should be his Mother and Educator. Later he himself would say that this consecration was decisive for his entire life.

Priest and Educator

It was clear to him already very early: He wanted to be a priest. He experienced the guidance of God and the education of his Mother Mary that enabled him to overcome difficulties and obstacles along the way to this goal. On July 8, 1910, he was ordained as a member of the Society of the Pallottine Fathers in Limburg. In 1912 the community assigned him to be the spiritual director for the students in their newly built House of Studies in Vallendar-Schoenstatt. His pedagogical talent and his clear, religious objectives set a process of growth in motion within the boys:

“Under the protection of Mary, we want to learn to educate ourselves to become firm, free, priestly personalities.”

(J. Kentenich, October 27, 1912)

The Founding

Led by various events that he interpreted as signs from God, Father Kentenich inspired his students to unite themselves with Mary. Their daily striving to live in an authentically Christian way became an invitation to Mary to unite herself in a special way with the little chapel of St. Michael in Schoenstatt and to make this chapel into a place of grace. What happened on that October 18, 1914, is now called the covenant of love.

Father Kentenich later confessed that this step was the greatest risk of his life. Only the subsequent history would show that God’s Spirit really stood behind this initiative.

Prisoner of the Nazis

From 1920-1940, Father Kentenich was the leader of a growing ecclesial movement. His work spread to other countries and continents. Schoenstatt and its founder didn’t remain hidden from the National Socialists. Because of his religious influence on so many people, Father Kentenich was arrested in September 1941 and transported to the concentration camp of Dachau in 1942. He saw his return home to Schoenstatt on May 20, 1945, as a victory of the Blessed Mother. He then set out to strengthen and further her work, also in other countries.

The Exile

Father Kentenich interpreted the events of the time, the great changes in society and Church, and the spiritual streams behind them. In his communities he attempted to give living answers to the present and future times through orientation and education. However, his thinking was not yet understood by Church authorities prior to the Second Vatican Council. In 1951 he was ordered by Rome to leave Schoenstatt.

His exile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, lasted fourteen years.

This difficult time of testing of the founder and his foundation ended only on October 22, 1965. On that day, Pope Paul VI gave Schoenstatt his apostolic blessing, and Father Kentenich promised him that Schoenstatt would help the Church to fulfill its post-conciliar mission. Father Kentenich could return to Schoenstatt on Christmas Eve 1965.

Father and Founder

In the three years following the exile, Father Kentenich made himself available to his communities and many individuals through personal conversations, letters, discussions, and talks. Though his message was the same, it was deepened and sealed by the tests and experiences of many decades. The covenant of love with Mary grew to the heights of the covenant of love with the Triune God.

His own experience of the merciful love of God the Father allowed him to become even more a father for many people.

“Father Kentenich took … Mary into the house of his existence, and therefore he became a father figure of exemplary significance for the whole Church.”

(Cardinal Joachim Meisner)

The Return Home to God

On September 15, 1968, the earthly life of Father Joseph Kentenich came to an end. After celebrating his first holy Mass in the newly built Church of the Blessed Trinity on Mount Schoenstatt, he died in the sacristy. He is also buried there.

Since then this place has become a place of pilgrimage and prayer for many people from all over the world. They come to ask Father Kentenich for his intercession before God for their intentions. They thank him for the help they have experienced. They entrust themselves to him and choose him to be their father and educator – for his mission continues from eternity.

The ecclesial process of his beatification and canonization was opened in 1975 in the diocese of Trier.

Prayer for the Father Kentenich Year (September 15, 2017 – September 15, 2018) for the canonization of Father Joseph Kentenich:

God our Father,

In Father Kentenich you have given us a father and a prophet,
a witness and a herald of your message for our time, enkindled by the Holy Spirit.

Give us of his fire. Give us of his founder spirit. Let his charism be so alive in us that we can shape the future of the Church and society. May his vision be our vision: In the power of the covenant of love, a new world is to arise – a world in which people form a covenant culture wherever they live and work.

Father in heaven, we ask you:
Accept Father Kentenich into the company of the saints recognized by the Church.
Open the door to him and his mission everywhere so that he can guide many people on the way to the fullness of life, the way to you.

We ask this of you, in communion with Mary,
our Mother Thrice Admirable, Queen, and Victress of Schoenstatt,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.


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