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Apostolic Movement

Biography of Father Joseph Kentenich

His life – a covenant life: heavenward and at the same time with both feet on the ground, as a partner to many people.

But someone has to lead the way!

A life for the Church

When the Holy Spirit blows a favorable wind into the sails, things move quickly and safely. J. Kentenich

"The dear God has entered into a covenant of love with his creatures... Our task is to make the world aware of this covenant of love". J. Kentenich
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Childhood and youth




Joseph Kentenich was born in Gymnich near Cologne. An illegitimate child. Difficult circumstances. But he is sure of his mother Katharina’s love.

April 1894


Katharina Kentenich had to start a new job and could not take Joseph. Placing him in an orphanage in Oberhausen demanded everything of her. Desperate, she entrusted the eight-year-old boy to the education and care of the Blessed Mother in the house chapel. It was a simple act of consecration in which Joseph participated very consciously. He himself later said: “I owe to the Blessed Mother what I am and what I have become in Schoenstatt. (J.K.)

He was consecrated before this image
New Priest

July 10, 1910

Priest and teacher

Joseph Kentenich received his first Holy Communion in the St. Vincent orphanage on White Sunday in 1897. On this day, he reveals to his mother his desire to become a priest. In 1904, he joined the Pallottine Fathers in Limburg, working as missionaries from Germany, mainly in Cameroon. He was ordained a priest in 1910. For health reasons, he couldn’t serve in the mission. He was appointed a Latin teacher at the Pallottine High School in Koblenz-Ehrenbreitstein and took on priestly duties in the surrounding communities.

October 27, 1912

An appointment with consequences

The young priest becomes spiritual director in the new building, the Pallottine boarding school in Schoenstatt, Vallendar.

It turns out that he is a gifted pedagogue, who recognized what moved the hearts of his protégés. He had a side effect: “He was the soul of the house, the place where everything could be said and done”.

His educational goal was clear and inspiring: to form firm and autonomous, free personalities – to be able to live holy lives in everyday life, in the midst of the modern world, as free personalities!

This awakened the best forces in the students and motivated them to work on themselves with great seriousness. Father Kentenich shows them help: Mary, the best mother and educator of all time.

Father Kentenich and Joseph Engling

The Founding of Schoenstatt

First milestone

Covenant Day

Father Kentenich dared to take an outwardly inconspicuous step with his students: In a small chapel in Schoenstatt, they made a “Covenant of Love” with Mary, asking her to be active in a special way in this place: as the educator of the free person, as a companion on the way to the Heavenly Father, as God’s chosen one who can help people of all times fulfill their Christian vocation in all the challenges of life.


new home

The boys placed themselves completely at the disposal of the Blessed Mother. As if by magic, the little chapel became increasingly their home, a true “shrine”



October 18th will go down in history as the founding day of the Schoenstatt Movement.

Schoenstatt began as a small shrine

Today there are more than 200 shrines around the world

MTA Magazine

World War I

Covenant life in the trenches

Wartime. In countless letters, the students told Father Kentenich of their efforts to live a life pleasing to God, even in the trenches and in contact with their comrades at the front. He made the experiences of others accessible to them through a magazine he edited. His conviction: “Life is ignited by life. That is how networking works.

January 20, 1942: Everything on one card…

Second milestone

Schoenstatt had long been a target of the National Socialists. After Father Kentenich spent several weeks in prison in Koblenz, it was clear where he was going: to a concentration camp.

The Founder decided not to take advantage of the opportunity to be re-examined for his fitness for the camp. A death leap, especially for those who belonged to him. Will they go with him and put all their trust in God, as he did? His decision is difficult to understand.

The Schoenstatt Youth from Münster wrote him: “We are going with you”. An example of many.

Gefängnis Koblenz - Coblenz Prison
Registration photo in Dachau



Dachau Concentration Camp. Outwardly, dehumanization, alienation, danger to life.

Inwardly, Father Kentenich lived in trust in God and the fidelity of the Blessed Mother to the Covenant of Love. His certainty: God holds the reins. Therefore, action instead of reaction, action instead of letting things happen, action instead of suffering, even behind barbed wire and in the face of death. Founding days – for the Schoenstatt Brothers of Mary and the Family Work. And in the diabolical atmosphere of the concentration camp, a special prayer book was born: “Heavenwards”.

Covenant history (s) around the world

First Daughter Shrine

While the Founder was in prison…

The Movement became international. As early as 1933, the first Sisters of Mary traveled overseas. But to pass on Schoenstatt without a Shrine? It was impossible. Father Kentenich took seriously what he had been told. So the Original Shrine was rebuilt, for the first time in Uruguay in 1942-1943. And this is just the beginning.

First Daughter Shrine in Nueva Helvecia, Uruguay
Father Kentenich in Africa

May 1945

Founder time

Father Kentenich returned from Dachau. Inwardly unbroken. In 1947-48, he traveled to South America, Africa, and the United States to cultivate international contacts and help build the Movement. Many more trips were to follow.

Today we are an International Movement present on 4 continents

The Covenant of Love won the world and millions of hearts

May 1949

Third milestone: A world is at stake

Father Kentenich knows that the Work must be understood and recognized if Schoenstatt is to develop its full fruitfulness for the Church. The ecclesial examination became an apostolic visitation. The Founder wrote a fundamental study to explain his thinking and the principles of Schoenstatt. On May 31, he placed it on the altar of the Shrine in Santiago, Chile.

Father Kentenich in Bellavista, Chile


Time for the church to examine

“Do you go with me?” (J. K. To Father Menningen)

The ongoing conflict about the Movement’s spirituality and practice and Father Kentenich’s position became more acute. All attempts at explanation and mediation failed. The Church separated the Founder from his place of origin and work and sent him to Milwaukee (USA). More than his reputation was at stake. Now, everything is at stake: acceptance or rejection. Who will endure and remain faithful?

“Whoever has a mission must fulfill it, even if it leads to the darkest and deepest abyss, even if death leap after death leap is demanded!” (J. K.)

Those who met Father Kentenich during this time experienced him as a father and a true pastor. The families who accompanied the Founder brought the Shrine into their living rooms. Life in the Home Shrine is a new current.

The time of exile came to a “miraculous” end: On Christmas Eve, 1965, Father Kentenich could return to Schoenstatt to work at this place where everything begun.

However, the separation between Schoenstatt and the Pallottine Fathers cannot be avoided. The Schoenstatt Fathers’ community is founded.



The 80-year-old is constantly working on the internal and external organization of the Schoenstatt Work. Despite his many appointments, conferences, retreats, and daily work, his first concern is always for the individual. His deep bond with God and the fatherly kindness he radiates give many a sense of God’s love.

September 14, 1968

Last encounters

In the Marienau, Father Kentenich tries to prepare for upcoming conferences. Then – a call from Milwaukee. Praying the rosary in the garden. The Superior General of the Sisters of Mary has questions.

Three priests bring the plans for the center in Rome to lunch. Meeting with a league member – would he say Mass for her community in October? A personal conversation with a Brother of Mary about his life story.

One of many phone calls about current developments in the Church and Schoenstatt’s mission. At a late hour, a last word to the youth and a greeting for the name day:

“I know my own, and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father! Mphcev! J. K.”

Late that evening, the founder returns to the training center on Mount Schoenstatt.

September 15, 1968

Homeward to the Father goes our way…

Father Kentenich celebrated Holy Mass for the first time in the newly built Adoration Church. At 7 o’clock, he collapsed in the sacristy. The Founder was dead. The news went around the world.

People from home and abroad came to see him one last time. Their stream continued until the funeral.

September 20, 1968


“You are my letter …”

But what will this church say about him one day? This is a question for all of us. Let us remember the words of St. Paul in the third chapter of 2 Corinthians: “Do I, like others, need a letter of recommendation from you or for you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, read by everyone. You are Christ’s letter, open to all eyes, written by us, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of clay but tablets of human hearts. The testament of the Church to our Father and Founder, a letter from God, will be decided in our lives, will be decided by how we read the letter from God that he wanted to be, by how we respond to it”. (From the address of Auxiliary Bishop Heinrich Tenhumberg before the funeral)

Photos of the funeral

Your mission, our mission

"You are my letter..."

The mission left by the founder is currently being taken up by Schoenstatters all over the world. We are Father Kentenich’s “letter of presentation” to society and the Church. His Covenant is our mission!