Sister M. Petra returned home to our Heavenly Father
Sr. M. Petra Schnuerer, Fr. Kentenich's secretary in Milwaukee for three years, died on September 18, 2020, after a long battle with cancer at the age of 86, at the International Shrine of the Father's Kingdom in Waukesha, Wisconsin, surrounded by her co-sisters. She was Fr. Kentenich's secretary in Milwaukee, and became bearer of his charism.
By: Enrique Soros
Erika Schnuerer, future Sr. M. Petra, was born on July 20, 1934, in Drexelerhau, in the German region of Slovakia. She studied at the university in Munich, Germany, where she belonged to a group of Schoenstatt university young women. Fr. Kentenich was in exile in Milwaukee at that time, and they did not know the details of such a reality, and were eager to know what happened to him. So Erika tells her friends: “I don’t understand, what’s wrong with you! If a group of Jesuits had the opportunity to meet St. Ignatius, they would leave everything and go to meet him. The same with Franciscans with St. Francis”
Trip to Milwaukee
Her friends, seeing the deep interest of this young woman to meet Fr. Kentenich, to know him personally, in order to know more about Schoenstatt from its own founder, collected money and sent her with another friend to Milwaukee on a six week trip during the summer vacation in August 1958.
Encounter with Fr. Kentenich
Both women were very nervous about meeting the founder of an international movement, but Father’s personality captivated them, with his warmth and fatherly spirit, who cared about their smallest needs, had time for them, to listen to them and to advise them. At the end of the six weeks, the friend returned to Germany, while Erika decided to stay in Milwaukee with Fr. Kentenich.
After three years of assisting the founder at his office, she entered the community of the Sisters of Mary, later becoming a very special icon for the Schoenstatt family. With an immense childlike warmth and transparency, she became the spontaneous bearer of Fr. Kentenich’s fatherly figure, through the vivid talks she gave in different countries.
Passion to transmit Father’s charism
A passion, a great enthusiasm to share the profound experiences lived with an educator who guided by example, always respecting the freedom of those who approached him for advice; but especially of a father, who radiated from the depths of his being the mystery of God’s fatherhood.
In one of the talks she gave in Chile in 2003, Sister M. Petra told that one day she commented to Father:
– “Father, I have a problem, can I ask you about it?
– Of course.
– I see that when people come, you give advice and suggestions to face certain things, but to me nothing. Why?
Then Father Kentenich got very serious and said:
– The people you are referring to, have asked me to educate them.
– Oh, does that mean that one has to ask you to educate them?
– Of course! You are an adult person, you are a free person, you have the right to be the way you want to be. What right could I possibly have to correct you? I don’t have the right to do that!
So I made a formal request for Father Kentenich to educate me.”
This story, as well as many others, is documented in a spanish book entitled “Milwaukee, a high point of the Schoenstatt’s founding”, from the Schoenstatt Publishing, of the Sisters of Mary, which transcribes conferences given by Sister M. Petra in Chile, in April 2003.
Her testimonies about the profound experiences lived with Fr. Kentenich had captivated thousands of hearts, which have perceived first hand in the person of Sr. M. Petra the fatherly charism of Fr. Kentenich as a wonderful educator and guide, and reflection of God’s fatherhood, and the warmth of Mary. A father, a very realistic person, with his feet firmly on the ground, and at the same time, of a deep spirituality.
Among the innumerable comments that are published in social media about the passage of Sister M. Petra to the Heavenly Father’s home, we share one, from Jannette, from Costa Rica, that reflects the power that transmits a life transformed by the art of a great educator: “I will always have her in my heart, a very special person. She showed Juan Carlos and me our marriage ideal with just one look”.
With gratitude we remember her great enthusiasm for our Founder Father and his mission.