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Apostolic Movement

75 years ago Fr. Kentenich began the MTA’s march of victory in the USA

By: Sr. M. Isabel Bracero

On June 5, 1948, when Father Kentenich visited the USA for the first time, he missed his flight from Miami to Chicago. It was already boarding at the time of his arrival in Miami and as he tried to move promptly through customs, he didn’t make it due to passport issues. Instead, he visited the Jesuits in Miami and arrived in Chicago later the same afternoon. With that the MTA began to glorify herself in great and small ways, in a trip of a little over three months with several stops and vistis, as well as vigorous writings of Father Kentenich’s observations and reflections.

Today, 75 years later, we commemorate and thank Father Kentenich for his courage to bring the MTA’s march of victory to North America, so shortly after World War II. The fruitfulnes of his first visit to the USA was seen five years later, when the dedication of the first shrine in the USA took place on June 20, 1953—seventy years ago—in Madison, one of the first places he visited in 1948.

The following historical reflection gives us a glimpse into the impact of his travels and insights.

The 1948 – 1953 Connection

As doors opened for Father Kentenich to travel to the United States, he also began to consider the service he would offer to the MTA, to Schoenstatt, and to the Church. In a letter dated December 29, 1947, he writes:

The Blessed Mother has begun her march of victory in and through the Schoenstatt Family She will continue and complete that march through the whole world. With scepter in hand she will also reign at home [in Germany], not only because that is how it stands in the plan of Divine Providence, but also because she has formed such useful instruments through her years of work as educator; instruments that are capable of fulfilling the task she has in mind as long as they remain interiorly dependent on [Mary,] their educator and master carver; and always remember that we have a mission which is eminently Marian. (Father Kentenich, Letter from Switzerland, Dec. 27, 1947).

He remained in South Africa until April 4, 1948. On March 6, he blessed four cornerstones for future Schoenstatt Shrines. If we do not know whether or not one of those cornerstones was meant for the first daughter shrine of the USA, we know that his intention was clearly defined.

… the reason I flew to America (…) I said to myself: ‘We want to help conquer the world [for the MTA].’ We have to take note of the fact that the two present world powers are Russia and America. If Schoenstatt wants to work with great plans for realization of its mission, then we have to take our movement to Russia and the United States.”

And later on, in his America Report he wrote: “If we succeed in making Schoenstatt at home [here] then the MTA, with her great mission for our time and her abundantly filled hands, will more easily and surely set out on her march to victory throughout the world as educator of nations.”

In other words, Father Kentenich wanted to assess the possibility of establishing the network of Schoenstatt powerhouses of life: Schoenstatt Shrines on North American soil.

Trust in the MTA

Father Kentenich narrates the following regarding his travels on June 5, 2023. His words are a clear testimony of total trust in the MTA—a great lesson on how to remain calm, childlike, and open for God’s guidance in the midst of trials and difficulties.

The difficulties had already begun in Rome. (….) In Brazil I suddenly had the idea perhaps a sympathetic papal nuncio would have the authority and readiness to extend the passport? And in fact, both the nuncios of Uruguay and Chile said they would be ready to immediately give such an extension for one year. At my request and so as not to lose a single month, they wanted to wait until the end of July so that the passport would be secured until July 1949. With that said, I set out in good spirits for the United States on June 4… The flight went off without incident and the airplane landed on American soil the next day (June 5, 1948) in Miami.

I approached customs and urged for haste so that I could catch the plane to Chicago which was already boarding on time. Then I was told: the passport has already expired and is consequently invalid. I tried to prove that the contrary was true using the documents at hand. The passport was valid until July 31 and today was only June 5. It turns out that according to American law and usage, all passports are treated as having expired two months before the expiration date. Since it was already June 5, the passport had already been worthless for five days. I still have to chuckle when I look back on that situation. The officer frequently used the word canceled. I had no idea of what canceled meant and could only associate it with the word chancellor. (….) The moment the situation took a turn for the worse, I prayed to myself:

I trust your might, your kindness, O Mother dear,

I do believe that you are always near.

Schoenstatt’s great Queen, O Mother mild,

I blindly trust in you and in your Child.

Since we were making no progress, however, I asked that I be taken to the consulate. Instead, two officers of Pan American Airways came to my assistance…

In the meantime, however, my plane to Chicago had long since departed. At my request the official called [the Pallottine Fathers in] Milwaukee and informed them of my new time of arrival. Another official drove me with an airline car about 15 minutes into the city to a house of the Jesuits. I stayed there until the departure of my flight which was towards evening. The official refused to accept any payment for the ride and asked instead for my blessing for himself and his family. This was my first encounter with American officials (Fr. Kentenich, America Report, 1948).


Conquering Her Home

Father Kentenich’s visit in the United States lasted from June 5 to September 6, 1948. During this time he traveled 4,160 miles via airplane and 8,410 miles by car. In three months, he visited five major cities (Miami, Chicago, New York, Washington DC, and Corpus Christi, Texas), flew over five states (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee) and drove through thirteen other states (Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin).

Foremost in his list of priorities was visiting the Pallottine Seminary in Madison, which was under construction at that time. He wanted to visit priests that were connected to Schoenstatt, as well as determine whether the Schoenstatt Sisters could be sent to staff the place. He needed to establish contact with the Bishop of Madison and with the Pallottines.

The Madison Diocese had just been established in 1946. When Father Kentenich visited Bishop O’Connor, which took place at least twice during the summer of 1948, Father requested permission for the Sisters to establish themselves in Madison.


Seed of a New World

During his trip, Father Kentenich wrote to Germany saying that in the USA they would have enough work for 2,000 sisters. On November 3, 1949, the first group of Schoenstatt Sisters arrived in Madison, Wisconsin.

Reminiscing about the time when Father Kentenich visited Madison in 1948, Father Boenki, one of the German Pallottines, liked to share with the Sisters how Father Kentenich would stand before the seminary—still under construction—and pray: “Build from here a brand new world.” With this sort of blessing, life continued to unfold in Madison, in the USA.

Shrine MTA

Seventy Years’ Celebration

From October 1952, the groundbreaking day of the shrine until June 20, 1953, the day of the dedication of the first shrine in the USA, the Sisters, together with the Pallottine priests, and movement members in the area, worked, sacrificed, and prayed for this development. More history and insights will be shared in a later report.

On June 20, 2023, Bishop Donald Hying, from Madison, will accompany the Schoenstatt Family of Madison in celebrating the 70th anniversary of this shrine.


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