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Schoenstatt
Apostolic Movement

Schoenstatt Australia: “Walking together – Loving the Church”

By: Sr. M. Rita Baysari

From 21-22 October 2023 the Schoenstatt Movement in Australia conducted its National Conference with the theme “Walking together – Loving the Church”. To allow a greater participation for all Schoenstatt members across Australia and an attempt to “widen the tent” the conference this year was hybrid. There were groups gathered in Mulgoa, Sydney and in Armadale, Perth as well as many other individuals joining via Zoom from the States in Australia where Schoenstatt is active: Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales. A total of 45 participants were involved in the conference and it was great to have people from all these States represented.

Father Pawel Barszczewski OP started the first day with a talk on Pope Francis’ view of a renewed Church. Father Pawel regularly celebrates Mass for the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary in Mulgoa and is actively involved in the Schoenstatt Movement as moderator of the Men’s Branch. He was also involved in the Parramatta Diocesan Synod, held the previous weekend. Through many great examples from the life of Jesus and Church tradition Father Pawel took the participants on a journey to discover the three key elements of a synodal process: Encounter, Listen and Discern and how we as the Church go along this synodal process: Communion, Participation, Mission.

Synodality in Schoenstatt and in the Church

After a very lively discussion and reporting back from each of the breakout groups the next input was given by Father Ivanhoe Allies through a prepared video. Father Ivanhoe is a diocesan priest from South Africa who belongs to Schoenstatt and who has previously lived and worked in Australia for a period of ten years. His video contribution was entitled “Fr. J. Kentenich’s view of a renewed Church”.

In his talk Father Ivanhoe expressed that through each of the Schoenstatt first three milestones and especially in times of difficulties, the Schoenstatt family was blessed and graced with a deeper connection to the Mother Thrice Admirable and a growth in the Schoenstatt Movement was experienced.

In the third and final session of the day Sister M. Thomasine Treese, Schoenstatt Sister of Mary, delivered a very comprehensive talk that built up on the two previous deliveries. Sister M. Thomasine lives currently in Western Australia but worked in Rome for 12 years. With reference to an article in “Regnum 2023” by Dr. Maria Pelz, she explained the aspects of synodality in the history, structure, and spirituality of Schoenstatt. Again, the discussion and exchange in small breakout groups after the talk were very valuable and interesting.

How has Schoenstatt helped me to walk and love the Church?

The second day of the conference was filled with testimonies from members of the Schoenstatt Movement from the three States of Australia where Schoenstatt is most active. Each of the statements reflected upon the question: “How has belonging to the Schoenstatt Movement helped you to walk with and love the Church on the new shore?” There was a great diversity in experiences but a common gratitude for the Schoenstatt spirituality was evident amongst all the speakers.

Guilherme Dias from Western Australia and family father of two with one on the way, explained how the Mother Thrice Admirable is very active in his family life. In his statement he revealed to the National Conference participants a miracle which he experienced with his Visa when first coming to Australia from Brazil and wanting to live in Armadale close to the Schoenstatt Shrine in Perth.

Florida Nugara from Melbourne shared the difficulties but also the great joy of working in the parish community. She mentioned that Father Kentenich’s reference to the blessed Mother as the permanent helpmate of Christ is a constant encouragement for her in her Schoenstatt work in her parish.

After being in Germany (at the place of Schoenstatt’s origin) for nearly ten years, Sr. M. Rita Baysari, a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary, provided the last testimony. In her statement she explored the term that “Schoenstatt is a Church in miniature”. Sr. M. Rita suggested practical lessons how Schoenstatt can help us to love and serve the Church as our founder, Father Kentenich, taught and lived and how we can become more a synodal Church.

At the conclusion of the testimonies each of the National Conference participants were asked to express their own personal experiences in small groups and to discuss what Schoenstatt has to offer to the Church today. It was encouraging to see that everyone had something to contribute.

One Heart in the Father, for the Family of God

At the end of the day Sr. M. Elizabeth Foley, Chairperson of the National Central Committee in Australia, gave a summary of the conference. The National Motto “One Heart in the Father, for the Family of God” is what each of the participants experienced throughout this National Conference. This was not simply an experience but at the same time the mission and challenge that the Schoenstatt Family in Australia takes from this National Conference.

A further very powerful experience and challenge which was evident throughout the Conference was the awareness that through all the crises in the Church, in our Movement as well as on a personal level, our response needs to be as it has been throughout Schoenstatt’s history: Contributions to the Capital of Grace.

The day concluded in prayer and a very deep moment was when there were a few minutes of silence where each participant was invited to encounter, listen, and discern what the Holy Spirit is asking of them individually. Together as one Australian Schoenstatt Family we then renewed our Covenant of Love.

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