GERMANY, Maria Fischer with material from the Press Office of the Diocese of Wuerzburg •
In the worldwide Schoenstatt Family, when people talk about “deacons”, many think of the young men who are on the way to the priesthood as Schoenstatt Fathers or diocesan priest and who are working in parishes. Some think of a married permanent deacon: Joao Luiz Pozzobon from Santa Maria, Brazil, the initiator of the Pilgrim Mother Movement. This is the missionary face of Schoenstatt, the lay apostolic movement that started so many years ago around the Schoenstatt shrines and now reaches out to the boundaries of the Church and society. In December 1972 Joao Pozzobon was ordained a deacon. In that year a search began in Germany, on the other side of the Atlantic, to discover the permanent diaconate. It was a great innovation in the Church and a number of Schoenstatters decided that this was their calling. For the last forty years there has been a community of Schoenstatt Deacons that forms part of the Schoenstatt Movement. On the actual anniversary of its foundation, 29 December, a small group remembered this event, and on 4 January 2018 about thirty participants and guests met at the place of foundation, the Schoenstatt Centre in Wuerzburg.
What was it about?
“It concerned the fundamental attitude of a deacon to accept others just as they are.” Those were the words of Deacon Bernhard Brantzen, representative of the Schoenstatt Community of Deacons (SDG) in his keynote address on the fortieth anniversary of the foundation.
In his address, Fr Rudolf Ammann, the first priestly accompanier of the community, gave expression to his joy at being allowed to experience the first steps taken by this group. “Together we searched for the possibilities opened up by the Second Vatican Council to awaken the diaconate to new life, and to locate it Biblically, theologically and in Schoenstatt.” Auxiliary Bishop Michael Gerber, representative of the German Bishops’ Conference for the permanent diaconate, as well as Deacon Achim Jaskulski, Chairman of the project group of the permanent diaconate, sent messages of congratulation to the community.
Already in 1967 Fr Kentenich, founder of the Schoenstatt Movement, said, “If there is a permanent diaconate in the Church, it also exists in Schoenstatt.” The founding members of the SDG carried out the founder’s legacy, Deacon Michael Ickstadt (Mainz) and Deacon Bernhard Lippold (Erfurt) said.
The social saint
Deacon Brantzen described developments in the Church and society as tasks and challenges, shed light on the spiritual characteristics of the community, and offered a perspective on the future: Projects such as the Pilgrim Mother Movement, “Together for Europe”, or the use of the digital media, correspond to the open and expansive attitude to life of people today. This is a core objective of Deacon Bernhard Brantzen. To start with the community concentrated more on the service of deacons within the Church, he said. Only in the last few years has their horizon widened to include diaconal tasks for the people, for those in spiritual and physical need. The pilgrimage to St Elizabeth in 2007 was a milestone which the Schoenstatt community of deacons initiated for the 800th birthday of the saint. With the motto “Love urges us onward – with Elizabeth on the way to outsiders” three hundred people went on pilgrimage in pouring rain from Creuzburg to Wartburg in Eisenach. Bishop Joachim Wanke of Erfurt was the patron. The Schoenstatt Deacons feel a special obligation to serve the poor and excluded in our society, but also in the Church. Elizabeth, the local ruler, set out from her rich and privileged position to help the poor. She offers the deacons a wonderful example. They are supported in carrying out their mission by the words of Schoenstatt’s founder, Fr Joseph Kentenich: Precisely as Catholic Christians they should devote themselves to the workers and the poor, and enable them to experience God’s love. Fr Kentenich’s message in the Industrial Pedagogical Conference in 1930 sets Bernhard Branzen’s heart on fire.
“Do you know that years ago Carlos Ferré published a book entitled ‘The Social Saint’ in which he dealt with this conference and many of Fr Kentenich’s statements with regard to Christian social teaching?” I asked during a telephone interview. In the school of Fr Horacio Sosa, Carlos Barrio y Lipperheide worked out the perspectives of a new culture of work and business on the same subject. Bernhard Brantzen was very interested.
Forty years on the way and in the Movement
In the afternoon contemporaries talked about the history and development of the Schoenstatt community of deacons. Deacon Eugen Ennemoser recalled the founding years in the 1970s. “The new name for the pastorate and apostolate is: to come into a conversation about personal and religious matters”, Fr Herbert King DD, said. He is the spiritual accompanier of the SDG with special emphasis on topical projects. In the final session the Movement Leader, Fr Ludwig Guethlein, summarised why marriage and the life of a deacon supplement each other so well: “Married couples are very important as the upholders of an apostolic movement and the life of faith. We are a community of communities and in this way show the togetherness of various vocational paths.”
During his sermon at the concluding celebration of the Eucharist, Deacon Bernhard Schuler highlighted the foundational idea of the SDG: “Forty years ago some deacons set off with their wives and children to live diaconally with and for one another in the community of the Schoenstatt Movement, and to serve life.”
Forty years as the Schoenstatt community of deacons is a milestone, but not a place of rest. The opening into society, social questions, the attitude and actions of a deacon – give the impression that things are only really getting started. Bernhard Brantzen wants to make contact with others also outside Europe and Germany. In South America they are beginning to search for ways for permanent deacons to find their place in the Movement. There is also a Schoenstatt permanent deacon on his way to beatification – even though he doesn’t belong to a community of deacons, but to the Schoenstatt Men’s Federation. Yet the way he went out to the people was the action of a deacon’s heart.
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Original: German, 14.01.2018. Translation: Mary Cole, Manchester, UK