Posted On 2019-09-08 In Covenant Life

Emmaus Talks in Sonsbeck Switzerland and on the Niers

GERMANY, Pfr. Christoph Scholten/red.  •

Such memories remain with you and shape you, even after weeks: Emmaus Talks in the Sonsbeck Switzerland or in a paddle boat on the river Niers, talks about Fridays for Future and Laudato Si`, intensive proximity to Karl Leisner in the confrontation with his words and his actions…Two deacons and ten priests from the eight dioceses of Aachen, Augsburg, Muenster, Osnabrueck, Rottenburg-Stuttgart, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Trier and Wuerzburg met on the Karl Leisner pilgrimage march under the motto “Apostle time – receive the power of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1,8) from August 5th to the 9th. The oldest participant was 93 years old, while the two youngest were 48 years old. The pilgrimage offered by the Schoenstatt Federation of Priests took place this year for the 20th time around the anniversary of the death of Karl Leisner.—

The premiere pilgrimage took place in 1999 and was cancelled only in 2005 to enable participation in the World Youth Day in Cologne, which took place at the same time.

For the second time, the priest’s house in Kevelaer was the pilgrims’ quarter and daily starting point for each three legs of the trip.

The journey started on Monday evening by a Holy Mass in the house chapel. The convention was about getting to know each other, refreshing old memories of long-time pilgrims, making some arrangements and socializing.

Eight of the twelve participants belonged to the Schoenstatt Family – but the Karl Leisner Pilgrimage is not only for Schoenstatters. It is open to all priests, candidates for priesthood and deacons.


At the Portal of Reconciliation by Bert Gerresheim, Basilica Kevelaer. Depiction of Karl Leisner’s ordination to the priesthood

“Turn to the Apostolate”

On Tuesday, the pilgrims went to the Schoenstatt Center Oermter Marienberg in the Lower Rhine region to visit the Karl Leisner Stele and the Shrine of the Way Community. For the impulse of the day, Father Andreas Hagemann started with the day’s theme, the last words of Jesus on the cross: “Behold your son! … behold, your mother! … And he … gave up the Spirit” (Jn 19:26-27-30). The new standardized german bible translation allows the interpretation that Jesus gives his Holy Spirit to John, to Mary and to the other women under the cross and sends them out as apostles before Pentecost. Pastor Hagemann cited a diary entry in Karl Leisner’s diary, in which he looked back on the conference of the movement of high school students of the Apostolic Federation in Holy Week 1933: “…the glorious Schoenstatt retreats. – From then on turn to the apostolate in the youth.”

Preservation of Creation, Fridays for Future, Laudato Si

The pilgrim way led first through the “Sonsbecker Switzerland”. The Rosary and the request for spiritual vocations were followed by the first “Emmaus talk”. Two or three of the pilgrims shared the impulse of the day and their personal experiences of faith.

The group made a pilgrimage to Kevelaer from Kevelaer-Winnekendonk to see the miraculous image of the “Comforter of the Afflicted”. Holy Mass was celebrated in the confessional chapel next to the Basilica of Mary.

On Wednesday, Father Christoph Scholten gave an impulse at the Portal of Reconciliation. Like most other bronze portals of the Kevelaer Marienbasilika, it came from the Düsseldorf artist Bert Gerresheim and shows Karl Leisner’s ordination to the priesthood 75 years ago in the Dachau concentration camp.

Karl Leisner wrote to his brother Willi two days after his consecration as deacon about the longing to have “wind, sun, river and forest around me” just like for children and youth groups and during his travels through Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, France and Switzerland. He naturally couldn’t satisfy this wish during the long years of imprisonment.

Pastor Christoph Scholten linked in his impulses distributed throughout the day the biblical message of the mission of the Holy Spirit, who renews the face of the earth, with Karl Leisner’s enthusiasm for the beauty of creation and its other side, the threat to creation and human dignity. Among other things, he spoke about the current movement “Fridays for Future”, the encyclical “Laudato si” by Pope Francis and the address given by the then Pope Benedict XVI in the Bundestag on September 22, 2011. Benedict XVI had also challenged to take the “ecology of man” into consideration.


Group picture in front of the Karl Leisner memorial by Bert Gerresheim in front of the collegiate church in Kleve

With the inflatable boat on the Niers

The second stage of the day was hardly covered on foot, but mainly with a rubber dinghy. The participants prayed the rosary with the request for spiritual vocations and had another “Emmaus talk” during the two and a half hour boat tour on the Niers from Schloss Wissen to the excursion restaurant “Jan an de Fähr”.

After an extensive lunch break the transfer to Wolfsberg in Kranenburg-Nütterden took place, from where a short distance was covered through the Reichswald forest to Kleve-Materborn. At the Kleve cemetery the pilgrims commemorated the first grave of Karl Leisner until his transfer to Xanten in 1966 and visited the grave of the Leisner family.

The next destination was the Karl Leisner meeting place in the house on Flandrische Straße 11, where the Leisner family had lived since 1929. After the rosary prayer in the kitchen, there was an opportunity for silent Eucharistic adoration in the Kleve Collegiate Church of St. Mary’s Assumption from 6:15 p.m. onwards. There the pilgrims celebrated the Holy Mass at 7 p.m. and then visited the impressive Karl Leisner memorial of Bert Gerresheim in front of the collegiate church.


On Thursday, Father Armin Haas, with a wonderful view of the Kleve Schwanenburg, gave the impulse at the Kermisdahl for the topic of the day: “Reignite the grace of God that has been bestowed on you by the laying on of my hands! (2 Tim 1:6). He quoted from the letter that Karl Leisner had written to his fellow Schoenstatt group leader Hermann Richarz a good month after his ordination to the priesthood in Dachau Concentration Camp. “This month I tried to deepen the gift of God received: to awaken, practice and renew the priestly spirit daily”. On the two-and-a-half-hour walk to Moyland Castle, the pilgrims prayed the rosary again, asking for spiritual vocations, and exchanged thoughts about impulse questions at the third “Emmaus talk”.

There was an opportunity for Eucharistic adoration In the Marienbaumer pilgrimage church, where Karl Leisner prayed more often before the picture of grace of the “refuge of sinners”. At the martyr crypt of the Xanten Cathedral, which was the end of the Karl Leisner Pilgrim March, the pilgrims celebrated Mass at the tomb of the Blessed Karl Leisner together with some Xanteners and Schoenstatt members.

The plans for 2020 were already started during the final reflection of the evening.

The 20th Karl Leisner pilgrimage ended with a Holy Mass and breakfast on Friday morning.


After Holy Mass at the Tomb of Blessed Karl Leisner in the Martyr Crypt of the Xanten Cathedral


Original: German, 06.09.2019 Translation: Lindsay Burger, Ohio, USA

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