Fr. Joseph Kentenich
There are schools, houses and streets which bear his name. Newspapers, radio and television stations broadcast news about him, precisely on the 16th of November, 2010, the 125th anniversary of his birth. Popes, cardinals, and bishops have spoken about him and continue doing so. All began with a secret and favorite idea born in his heart and fulfilled with the persons who followed him. Wherever he went, they also went. Always. With such persons, Father Kentenich continues founding Schoenstatt also today. With persons for whom he is Father, Founder, Prophet and much more.
ChildhoodJoseph Kentenich was born in 1885 in Gymnich near Cologne. In 1894 he moved to the St. Vincent orphanage in Oberhausen. When he entered the orphanage, his mother consecrated him to the Blessed Mother Mary. The eight-year-old Joseph consciously took part in this consecration. Mary now took over his education and care for him.
“What I am and what I have become in Schoenstatt I owe to the Blessed Mother, She has educated me since my ninth year.” – J. Kentenich
YouthIn 1904 he joined the Pallottine Society and completednovitiate and theological studies in Limburg. For years he had to endure a severe inner crisis that led him to the edge of his strength. The highly gifted Joseph Kentenich was driven by this question: What is truth and can I recognize it? His love for Mary was not touched by all the doubts and uncertainties that afflicted him. Through the Blessed Mother he found his way out of his inner distress. She gave him an unexpectedly deep share in her love for the Triune God and for humanity.
"God is my origin, God is my goal – he must also be the guiding star of my life."- J. Kentenich
Priest & Spiritual DirectorIn 1910 he was ordained a priest and became a teacher at the secondary school of his community in Ehrenbreitstein. From 1912 he worked as a spiritual director with the students in the newly built secondary school in Schoenstatt,Vallendar. Father Kentenich was a gifted teacher. His educational goal was clear and he inspired the students: to be firm, free personalities, to live holy in the middle of the modern world. Father Kentenich guided the high school students to serious self-education and gave them above all Mary as mother and educator.
"Those who give and consecrate themselves to the Blessed Mother can expect an immeasurable blessing from God." – J. Kentenich
1914 Foundation of Schoenstatt
On October 18, 1914, he took the first step towards the foundation of the Schoenstatt Movement with some students. In a small chapel in Schoenstatt, they sealed a covenant with Mary, the “Covenant of Love”. It includedthe request to the Blessed Mother to be present in this chapel in a special way and to work as an educator of the free person. Father Kentenich and the boys trusted that here will become a place of pilgrimage and grace for many people. They themselves wanted to give a radical life of faith and commitment to Schoenstatt as a contribution. “Nothing without you -nothing without us” is the short formula for the intense companionship with Mary that now began.
The vision of the founding hour has gradually become reality. Today, the Schoenstatt Shrine is the origin of a worldwide movement for men and women, children and youth, families and priests. There are now approximately two hundred Schoenstatt Shrine in more than thirty countries around the world. Countless people make pilgrimages to them. Here they know that they are at home, receive strength to shape their Christian lives and courage to bear witness to their faith.
Concentration CampFrom 1941 to 1945 Father Kentenich was a prisoner of the National Socialists, first in a prison in Koblenz, then in Dachau concentration camp. In the concentration camp, he continued to work undauntedly on his life’s task of proclaiming God’s merciful love to the people and helping them through Mary to become great lovers themselves. Many prisoners through Father Kentenich experienced that God was very near in the hell of Dachau.
World TripsIn 1947 / 1948, Father Kentenich began to travel to South America, Africa and the United States in order to cultivate international contacts and to help the Schoenstatters in these countries to build up the Movement. His love for the Blessed Mother urged him to work worldwide for her.
ExileFrom 1951 -1965 the church separated Father Kentenich from his work. Milwaukee (USA) was assigned as his place of residence. Church authorities examined him and his foundation. Throughout the long years of absence from Schoenstatt, Father Kentenich’s love for the Church and his fidelity to his work were proven.
Final Years of Life
On Christmas Eve 1965, he returned to Schoenstatt. In the remaining time of his life, the 80-year-old worked continuously on the inner and outer formation of the Schoenstatt Movement. In spite of all the appointments, conferences, retreats and the daily workload, his first concern was always for the individual person. His deep attachment to God and the fatherly goodness that he radiated gave many an intuition of the love of God our Father.
On September 15, 1968, Father Kentenich was called home by God, shortly after he celebrated Holy Mass for the first time in the newly built Trinity Church on Mount Schoenstatt. Now he can continue his life’s work in a new way. Many people who unite themselves with him and turn to him in their needs have already experienced this.
"Our Way leads Homewards to the Father." – J. Kentenich