"I believe that if I had not met Father Kentenich, I would not be a priest"
A visit to Milwaukee gave an unexpected boost to a seminarian when he met Father Kentenich.
Throughout his life, Father Kentenich understood the priesthood as a total dedication to the service of Christ and, therefore, to the service of the Church. He lived for the Church. A former seminarian relates the profound experience he had upon entering the Schoenstatt Shrine and meeting the Schoenstatt's founder.
July 10, 2021
Fr. Kentenich, a man of the Church
“Grant, O my God, that all spirits may be united in truth and all hearts in love.”
This was the prayer Father Kentenich chose for his ordination to the priesthood, which took place on July 8, 1910, in the Chapel of Mercy in Limburg, Germany. Joseph Kentenich and seven co-brothers were ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Heinrich Vieter of Cameroon.
Throughout his life, Father Kentenich understood the priesthood as a total dedication to the service of Christ and, therefore, to the service of the Church. He lived for the Church.
The Church was his great love. Therefore, in his life and work as a priest, he gave the utmost importance, not to the will and the work, but to the will and the work of God, to the work of the Church.
We can refer to him as a man of the Church, because he was not only at her service, but he carried out a special mission entrusted to him: the foundation of Schoenstatt’s communities. This was the mission that gave his life a direction of truth and love, enriching and revitalizing the Church with new communities.
A priest deeply anchored in God and capable of responding to the problems of today’s world.
On the centenary of the priestly ordination of Schoenstatt’s founder, Sister Maria da Graça Sales Henriques writes: During the Year for Priests (2009-2010) Pope Benedict XVI frequently mentioned examples of great and holy priests, whose lives bear witness in a particular way to the presence and action of Christ, Eternal High Priest.
With his many followers and devotees, we believe that the long priestly life of Father Joseph Kentenich and his service to the Church was also an eloquent witness of Christ’s continued action and presence in the history of the Church through the instruments he chooses and prepares for a unique mission.
Many priests found in Father Kentenich the embodiment of the ideal to which they aspired and the encouraging example of total dedication and unconditional fidelity to the Church.
Testimony of Father Clemente María Hernández: I was in the presence of an extraordinary priest.
Among the many testimonies that we could quote, we reproduce Father Clemente María Hernández’s, from the Dominican Republic:
“At the end of August 1964, I arrived in Milwaukee, to meet Father Kentenich and visit the Shrine of the Mother Thrice Admirable. Before speaking about my experience with Father Kentenich, I must say something about my encounter with the Shrine. I will never forget what I felt when I approached it for the first time. I felt that a profound inner transformation was going to take place in me. At that time, I was still a subdeacon, and I must confess that I did not feel confident about taking the final steps towards priesthood.
The experiences I had in the Shrine were truly sublime. It is impossible to express in words the Tabor moments I lived there. Since then, the Shrine of Our Lady has become my favorite place.
That same evening in Milwaukee, when the shadows of the night were slowly beginning to envelop the silhouette of the Shrine, and Jesus Pagán was walking with me, he saw Father Kentenich approaching and said, ‘Clemente, here he comes to the Shrine, let’s greet him.’
We ran to meet him. When I arrived in front of him, he looked at me keenly and held out his hand to me, very affectionately. I kissed it with respect and veneration. He asked me some questions about my country, which I answered briefly.
From the moment I saw Father Kentenich and approached him, I had the impression of being before an extraordinary priest, a priest from whom the presence of God shone. It was as if an inner voice was telling me: Take your sandals off your feet, because the ground you are treading on is holy ground!
Holy is the Shrine, holy is this man of whom God took possession through Mary. After this first meeting with him, I had several more. His first interest was our seminary and the situation of diocesan priests in the Dominican Republic. He gave me concrete methods to help my colleagues and priests after my ordination.
I believe that if I had not met Father Kentenich, I would never have become a priest. It was the providential encounter with him that led me to take my priestly vocation seriously. In him I found the ideal of a priest that I had always longed for during my seminary years: a man deeply anchored in God, capable of responding to the problems of today’s world.
Since 1964, my attachment to him has remained warm, cordial, filial. He became the strength and inspiration of my priesthood. His example taught me to love the Church in all her divine grandeur and in all her human weakness, and to serve her as the beloved Bride of Christ.”
This experience, like that of many other priests who knew Father Kentenich or who now experience his intercession, enables them to recognize the superabundance of graces with which God blessed his priestly life.
Related article: The Schoenstatt League Priests
Fotos: schoenstatt.pt, archive