Daring to yearn for greatness and working to achieve it
Sister Erika-Maria Bukovics, along with four other Sisters of Mary from the filiation house in Timisoara, the third largest city in Romania, speaks with us about the joys, needs, and projects of the small, but highly committed Schoenstatt Family in Romania
Interview by Claudia Brehm
28. Februar 2021
Sister Erika-Maria, what are your current thoughts, efforts, concerns, and joys in the movement?
In 2019 we opened our first filiation here in Romania at Timisoara. It’s a great joy for us to be able to keep on building the Schoenstatt Movement in Romania, as has been done before by the Sisters of Mary. Currently there are five sisters, four of them are Romanian and one is German. Our movement here in Romania is still a very small family; we have a Family branch, Schoenstatt youth, the Pilgrim MotherApostolate, seven Sisters of Mary -one is in Germany and two of them are in Austria- and approximately ten priests who have sealed their Covenant of Love. We hope to make the Schoenstatt Movement better known in Romania so that it can continue to grow in our country.
What activities do you perform?
At this time, most of it is online. We get together monthly on the 18th for the celebration of the Covenant Day, for youth and family events, and for the Pilgrim Mother meetings which are held at the chapel in our house. For the time being, those are virtual encounters.
Our ministry includes reaching out to people on the streets. We establish contact with the local parishes and priests. Three of our sisters work in the Timisoara diocese doing pastoral work and getting involved in local projects. Furthermore, we get involved, with Germany’s cooperation, in social projects among the people in our country.
Every big project starts with a wish and a dream. What are your hopes and dreams?
Our biggest hope is to build a Schoenstatt Shrine and a small Schoenstatt Center here in Romania. The Blessed Mother will let us know if this will remain as a dream or if it can become a reality. I read that “The future begins with you” in the song for the women and mother’s movement. I really liked that because we should not wait for others to shape the future while we just wait to see what happens. We should help to make our dreams come true ourselves. We must believe in the future of the Schoenstatt movement in Romania, even if it is still in its infancy. Even though we don’t have the land or the money for a Shrine and a Schoenstatt center, we firmly trust in the Virgin’s power. If the MTA wants to establish herself here in Romania, as in the Original Shrine, she will show us the way. I am truly convinced of this.
There are many challenges in your country which you must face with courage.
Yes, we do have many challenges here: unemployment, emigration, parents who have to live somewhere else to find work in order to sustain their families. This sometimes results in broken marriages. We also have to deal with the loss of faith. For our events, the diversity of languages is a big challenge. Even in Timisoara we have to deal with three languages: Rumanian, Hungarian and German. Having to take this into account at every event demands great effort.
But we are certain: it is precisely for these difficult times that we have Schoenstatt offering a home for everyone with stability for their faith and their families. Our founder, Father Joseph Kentenich, once said: “Without hardship, without sacrifice, without battles, nothing great will emerge from us. Great individuals always grow on the cross.” So, we keep taking courageous new steps in our country and we rejoice for each person who is called by the Blessed Mother to the movement.
In Germany we have always heard about Romanian hospitality. What is your experience?
Yes, it is a great joy for us to see that the people here are so open, hospitable and helpful. They enjoy helping with social projects. For example, I am always touched by the fact that poor families, young people, or the elderly, like to share what little they have with others. I was recently traveling on the tramway and started a conversation with a woman beggar. She said that she was glad she could help another woman who couldn’t go begging because she was too frail. She had received a blanket and gave it to the other woman because “she needed it more.” She trusted that someone else would give her a blanket, and so it was. When I asked her if she needed another one due to the very cold weather, she said “Not at this time since I already have one and that is enough.” These experiences really move me! Here, in this country, you can clearly see that there is solidarity amongst its people, concern for the wellbeing of others. There are exceptions, of course.
What has the pandemic brought in terms of challenges and opportunities to make new things out of old ones?
One of the greatest problems is that many people have lost their jobs because of the pandemic and this, of course, exacerbates poverty. Online schooling is a great challenge for many children, as well as for the teachers and parents; it requires a larger effort in the children’s upbringing. Nevertheless, there is also a positive effect. The students I’m responsible for have often expressed how nice it has been to spend more time with their parents at home or to do things as a family, like taking small trips, for example.
Furthermore, during this time various virtual prayer groups have flourished that strengthen the bond with others and trust in God. The longing for community is growing strongly. One comes to appreciate more what was possible in previous times. In addition, several social projects to help people in need have emerged.
Tell me about an initiative…
At the end of November 2020, the Sisters of Mary launched a Christmas campaign in cooperation with Germany. We wanted to help the people of Romania with disinfectants and protective masks. It was a great joy for us to receive support from so many people. Thus, we were able to deliver the packages to children’s homes, homeless shelters, some social institutions, families, and single people. We are so grateful to our many and generous benefactors, both in Germany and Romania. This was a very special experience for us.
How do you envision the future?
We should not be afraid of the future, even if we are going through great hardships in our country. If we only believe that the good Lord holds each one of us in His hand and knows our future much better than we do, we can continue moving forward. Our task is only to walk with Him.
Thank you, Sister Erika-Maria, for your time. We are deeply grateful for having the opportunity to meet the Schoenstatt family in Romania. I am sure that some of our readers will keep you in their hearts and pray for you from now on, especially for the Romanian Schoenstatt family’s great desire to build a shrine. I will be delighted to take you, your sisters and our fellow Romanian brothers back to our Blessed Mother’s Original Shrine.
Translation: Maribel Acaron