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Apostolic Movement

Unforgettable experience for hundreds of youth at Schoenstatt

Theresia Strunk

Sister M. Felisia Leibrecht, national advisor of the Schoenstatt Girls’ Youth in Germany, explains how the international encounter came about:

This encounter was a surprise for everyone in Schoenstatt. Sister M. Carolina [Sandrone], who is responsible for the Spanish-speaking pilgrims at the Pilgrims’ Center, received numerous inquiries last year from groups of the Boys’ and Girls’ Youth. They wanted to know if they could come to Schoenstatt in the time leading up to World Youth Day, sometime between July 20 and 28. Of course they could. But this required a lot of planning and logistics.

Volunteers in Schoenstatt, plans and the highest ladder

A program was organized for each group: trips to Gymnich, Cologne and Metternich. The Schoenstatt Fathers invited the Boys’ Youth to Mount Sion, and the Sisters of Mary invited the Girls’ Youth to the Motherhouse.

The Sisters prepared to accompany the pilgrims, and in the Schoenstatt houses they rejoiced over the arrival of the young people and tried to find ways to make their stay financially affordable.

The sacristans of the Original Shrine, Bernadette and Norbert Weweler, learned of the great event that was soon to take place during the presentation of Father Ignacio Camacho as the new rector of the Original Shrine on March 5th. A few weeks before the arrival of the groups, volunteers arrived to help in the planning and implementation of the event. The WYD logo was placed in the Original Shrine and the youth of the world were constantly prayed for during the masses. With the tallest ladder found in Schoenstatt, the WYD logo was placed on the façade of the Original Shrine. Everything looked festive!

They invaded the sacristy with their enthusiasm

Sister M. Felisia was part of the celebration: “Although I do not live in Schoenstatt all the time, I think I can say that it is truly necessary to feel and experience life here again: Schoenstatt is young and international! Since the pandemic, and, generally speaking, it has been a long time since there were so many people – and so young – here at the same time. I felt a great longing for this WYD to awaken a new enthusiasm and love for Schoenstatt, which is simply uncomplicated and brings a certain lightness and joy. Simply life!

This life burst forth with passion, as told by the Weweler couple: “The first 90 young pilgrims – from Mexico – arrived during Sunday Mass. They gathered in the pilgrims’ meadow near the torchlit corridor, and when we had just finished cleaning up after Mass, the sacristy was flooded with young people. We didn’t know what had happened. Thank God, most of them spoke English or even a little German. There was great joy: everyone wanted to sign their name and date on the big screen in the sacristy, which we affectionately call the “Blessed Mother’s guest book”. Some were looking for their signature because they had been here before, others were amazed to discover names of friends or acquaintances. It was a great welcome.

Fortunately, many needs were met: There was water and – for the very exhausted – coffee. Mini-shrines or bottles of holy water were in bags as souvenirs, and the chocolate that the thoughtful Swiss regularly bring us to the sacristy disappeared like warm bread.

The longing to get to Schoenstatt was incredibly fascinating

One special treat was the Shrine passports, little booklets in which each visit to a Shrine is stamped. “Obviously the first stamp was the one for the Original Shrine. Many were here for the first time in their lives. There was a deep feeling of excitement, joy, and gratitude,” observed the Weweler couple.

Could it be that never having been to Schoenstatt before was one of the reasons why so many WYD pilgrims were drawn to Schoenstatt – unlike in 2011 before WYD in Madrid and in 2016 before WYD in Krakow?

We can only speculate about this. Sister M. Felisia remarked, “I picked up some groups from the airport or from the train station. To feel how they longed to be in the Original Shrine was incredibly fascinating. Some were crying from happiness and from a beautiful inner excitement because now they could be here. It touched me deeply. It reminds you experientially how special this place actually is. It is really the center of our international Schoenstatt Family. A volunteer from Argentina put it this way: ‘These weeks here have made it clear to me: The Covenant of Love and the Original Shrine are the heart of Schoenstatt.'”

(Foto: Pedro Dilinger)

The groups went through the streets singing and spreading the “feeling of the World Youth Day in a smaller scale”, said the Sister: “Your joy is also contagious among yourselves”. During these days, the Schoenstatters who live permanently in the area were seen more often in the Original Shrine: “They simply came and observed”.

The Original Shrine besieged by the youth spirit

Many of the young pilgrims tried to make the most of their time and visited almost every Shrine in the area: “They really soaked up what they could here.” With great weather for the pilgrims, this translated into a real “siege” of the Original Shrine, as Bernadette and Norbert Weweler describe: “Most days there were four Masses before 10 a.m. and then another two or three in the afternoon and evening. Then it was quite a while before the Original Shrine was ‘freed’ again, because all the groups wanted to have a photo in front of the altar.” Sister M. Felisia added, “No matter what program the groups had that day, they would go back to the Original Shrine to sing afterwards.”

(Foto: Pedro Dilinger)

The community experience was not lacking either. A small stage was erected, and tables and benches were set up in the large courtyard outside the Pilgrims’ House, where everyone had their meals together. In the evening it was transformed into a small concert square.

“Whoever wanted to could spontaneously get up on stage, say something, sing a song or dance. I had the impression that it was also nice for the groups to experience themselves not only as a country, but also as international Latin American youth,” said Sister.

One Shrine, one Covenant, one spirit of unity and conquest

July 25th was indeed marked by this experience. On that day many groups of pilgrims were present at the same time and it was particularly suitable for a youth prayer and festival afterwards.

Many Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, Schoenstatt Fathers, Schoenstatt Brothers, Schoenstatt Ladies, members of the Women’s Federation and Schoenstatt families from the surrounding area accepted the invitation to participate in the Mass and then go to the Original Shrine for the renewal of the Covenant: “Flag bearers with the flags of their countries led the way, then torch bearers, then Father Ignacio Camacho with his white chasuble – followed by several hundred WYD pilgrim youth. A very emotional moment,” shared the sacristans of the Original Shrine.

And Franziska Denkinger, one of the three German volunteers, relates: “I was especially impressed by the multitude of priests from many different countries at the communal Mass, the Our Father that we prayed to our Father – each one in his own language, but still as one – as well as the celebration of our Covenant of Love, the joy in Mary and Schoenstatt and the communal singing and rejoicing in the Original Shrine.

Indeed: “After burning the capital of grace, a musical medley began on its own,” the Weweler’s relate. “The flags waved, the different nationalities tried to outdo each other in song and decibels: an exuberant joy. It was a wonderful atmosphere, solemn and relaxed, well into the night. The Original Shrine remained open for a long time and there was not a moment when the Blessed Mother was there without the youth. There was room for the richness that was in the hearts of the youth which ‘wanted to come out'”.

The Girls’ Youth relive the 2014 international crowning

The next day, the 250 Girls’ Youth present renewed the crowning that the international Schoenstatt Girls’ Youth held at the Schoenstatt centenary – on the night of October 17-18, 2014. “Now we have experienced a little bit of this highlight of 2014. Very few people were there at that time. So, it was really reliving that coronation. It was so impressive how the crown went through the rows – how excited the girls were!” recalls Sister M. Felisia.

I’m not from the Girls’ Youth, but this is my place in the world

The next day was the farewell: The seal of the Original Shrine left its imprint on cards, stationery, diaries, and wherever each one could think of. A high ladder was sought so that the empty spaces of the mural in the sacristy could be filled with signatures. Now there was also time for brief conversations. For example, a young woman commented: “You know, I don’t belong to the Schoenstatt Youth, but now I know that this is my home, my place in the world.

Not surprisingly, leaving was difficult for some, as the Weweler’s recounted: “Big bright eyes – many with tears – had to say goodbye. They left with joy and enkindled by the experience of WYD Lisbon that awaited them. They surely managed to make what they received as a gift a reality: a small card with the image of our Father and Founder and his words: ‘Go, set the world on fire'”.

What is the conclusion of the sacristans? “For us it has been a unique and wonderful experience, with a lot of work, flexibility and even more inhouse presence than usual, but also a strong hope: Jesus Christ does not leave his Church alone. Here, in and around the Original Shrine, he shows his special presence in the experience of his Mother and our Mother: as the Lady who always shows us new ways of being close to Him, of encountering and touching Him. As the woman who gives us her heart so that we may discover the love that God has placed in her and with which she loves us. Thank you all for being here! We hope to see you again! AGAIN – WELCOME!”

More photos here

Peregrinación de la juventud en Schoenstatt


with your loved ones

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