GERMANY, Loni Rick and Maria Fischer •
When the poster and invitation for the pilgrimage from Fr Kentenich’s birthplace in Gymnich via the Marienfeld to the pilgrimage church of Mary, Mother of Sorrows in Grefrath on 9 June this year landed in the postbox of the editors of schoenstatt.org, I thought of Camilo Ardissone from Paraguay and our “shrine excursions” during the weeks he took part in a student exchange programme in Germany close to Cologne.—
Infected by the enthusiasm of this fifteen-year-old for the Original Shrine, we visited as many shrines as possible. I was crazy enough to brave snow and icy roads to visit Maria Rast and Kreuzberg in Bonn in a single short February afternoon. Then in rain and despite freezing temperatures we did a shrine marathon in Schoenstatt, and we even dreamt of a trip to Cambrai. A week before his return to Paraguay I drove him to Gymnich. “Is there a shrine there?” he asked. No, there’s no shrine, but Gymnich is nevertheless a shrine. Why? Camilo asked.
When we made a pilgrimage to Gymnich …
Then I told him … of those legendary pilgrimages on foot at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s (yes, shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs and long before the internet was discovered. … Camilo was amazed that there was life before the internet.) Those were pilgrimages on foot with the youth and the very vibrant Schoenstatt Family of Cologne at that time, when Schoenstatt had not begun to talk about Joseph Kentenich’s childhood or Gymnich. The youth had themselves locked into the Church of St Kunibert at night so that they could take photos, make the sign of the cross with water from the baptismal font where Joseph Kentenich was baptised, and in this way renew their covenant. It was a time marked by adventure and “conspiracies”. I told him about the Holy Masses in the garden of the house where Joseph Kentenich was born, which became the talk of the village because so many young people had gathered there, and because their joyful noise lit up the village. I told him stories of these visits to the place that had so much to relate about Joseph Kentenich, and of a generation that wanted to capture something of Joseph Kentenich and his mission as they prepared to celebrate his hundredth birthday. As well as of the rainwear left at home, and the “field kitchen” set up from the car boots of willing parents, because Gymnich’s cafes couldn’t compete with so many visitors. … I told him of the climate this generated, while we both forgot that at that time Camilo had not yet been born…
Thanks to the Association of Friends of Fr Joseph Kentenich’s birthplace much has changed since that time. The garden has become a place of beauty, so has the house, and the wayside shrine at the top of the garden has become a place where memories, generations and life today meet. Gymnich and Joseph Kentenich‘s childhood are part of the whole of Schoenstatt today.
They come again on pilgrimage …
All these memories returned when the poster and the invitation sent by Loni Rick on behalf of the Association of Friends arrived. She wrote:
“The pilgrimage starts at 9 a.m. at Kunibertusplatz 9, the birthplace of Fr Kentenich in Gymnich, and makes its way to the Pope’s Hill on the Marienfeld (where the World Youth Day met with Pope Benedict XVI). There we will celebrate Holy Mass.
We will continue to the pilgrimage church of Mary, Mother of Sorrows in Neu-Grefrath, where we will have the closing devotion. Afterwards all pilgrims are invited to join the Association of Friends for coffee and cake. A bus will take you back to Gymnich at 4.30 p.m. (Cost 5€). The whole route covers about 13 km. Please bring along a packed lunch and don’t forget rainwear.”
The pilgrimages on foot started our enthusiasm for Gymnich.
Photos: Camilo Ardissone (Gymnich) and Wikipedia (Papsthügel).
Original: German, 06.05.2018. Translation: Mary Cole, Manchester, UK