GERMANY, Renate Walser /M. Fischer •
“You never leave so completely something of me stays here…” One cannot help but think of this song by Trude Herr when reading the report written by Renate Walser, the new house director of the “Haus der Familie” in Memhölz, Germany, about the farewell of long-time house directors Gertrud and Norbert Jehle on January 30, 2022. —
Renate Walser has already started the new job as house director on December 1, 2021. “Briefly about my person: I am a native of Upper Allgäu and live in Dietmannsried. I bring well-founded training in the commercial and hotel sectors and have managed various health hotels, rehabilitation clinics and sanatoriums in recent years; I have studied health and social economy.
The footsteps and legacy of Gertrud and Norbert Jehle are exceptionally large after more than 20 years of leadership at the Schoenstatt Center in Memhölz. (…) Please support my start and give me your trust to continue the good spirit. For all the guests, collaborators, and volunteers, I will contribute and use my knowledge, skills, heart, and soul,” you can read on the homepage of the Schoenstatt Center.
Her report, filled with the content and tone of the many speakers at the farewell celebration (Memhölz insiders can try to assign them!), we gladly reproduce here in some points as a “commented selection” for all those who do not know Memhölz and the typical German Schoenstatt landscape.
22 years ago, “unheard of” in Germany: lay people as house directors of a Schoenstatt Center
When Mr. and Mrs. Jehle took over the leadership of the Schoenstatt Center in Memhölz 22 years ago, they replaced a Sister of Mary. At that time, it was widespread practice in the Schoenstatt Centers in Germany: in the centers, which were legally and economically supported by a non-profit association with representatives of the Schoenstatt communities working in the respective catchment area, Sisters of Mary were active as house directors, in the administration, and in the so-called “pilgrimage work”. At that time lay people took over the management of the house, and first several, then one Sister of Mary, and since a couple of years none, remained as collaborators. Today there are a number of Schoenstatt Centers in Germany where lay people are in charge.
About Schoenstatt Centers: In addition to each Shrine, Fr. Joseph Kentenich once said, there should also be an opportunity for (apostolic) training and education, as well as a (house for a) social project. The first aspect, the place for the training of apostles, has been consistently implemented by the “Schoenstatt Centers” in the German-speaking countries with often large houses with conference rooms and overnight accommodations and meals, and with the corresponding need for personnel and often a high financial burden.
Thinking ahead: Thinking ahead: “We don’t need assigned people; we need enthusiastic people”
Mrs. Walser quotes this sentence, which Norbert and Gertrud Jehle said again and again, in her report looking back on “questions of responsibility” in the first years, when the attraction of the Memholz Center went beyond the borders of the diocese – because the classic Schoenstatt Centers in Germany were and still are mostly “diocesan centers”, thought for and carried by the Schoenstatt Movements of a single diocese.
“Thinking solely in terms of existing structures was in some respects no longer sustainable. Increasingly, the structures lacked the life for which they were created. Gertrud and Norbert further developed the concept of the Schoenstatt Center, which was solely diocesan, together with many who cared about this mountain here,” the report says. “The consequence that many were inspired and came here initially drew accusations of “poaching” until many skeptics were inspired by the new life that had been broken open.
They expanded their scope of action in response to new challenges, demanded freedoms and, with great independence, have made these freedoms fruitful for all of us.”
According to the report, Mr. and Mrs. Jehle understood ” how to make a sense of home through external framework conditions, e.g., through a cafeteria. And so, they went through – sometimes suffered through – a long building and renovation phase from then on, which continues to this day, to fill the motto and logo, which accompanied them almost the entire time, with life: “for the best in you”. What Ms. Walser is referring to here: years of renovations, many of them done by volunteers, many ideas, a lot of creativity, a lot of dust, a lot of noise, a lot of courage to change. Change up to the addition of a small rock spire on the way to the Shrine and the establishment of a place for a statue of Fr. Joseph Kentenich, a very personal concern of the heart: “The history of the creation was exciting and was accompanied intensively by the two of them: Choice of place, choice of artist, purchase and transport.”
Thanks, and outlook
“We all thank Gertrud and Norbert Jehle for the magnificent work and the incredible commitment with heart and soul that has been accomplished and created here over 2 decades.
The seed has sprouted and Schoenstatt on the mountain has blossomed. Praise God for all the fruits that can now be harvested,” Renate Walser continues to write, and then briefly summarizes the farewell:
“With a beautiful farewell celebration on Jan. 30, 2022, we were able to relive the vita of Mr. and Mrs. Jehle in Memhölz through various speeches and narrated retrospectives. Retired pastor Leonhard Erhard arranged an impressive service with a lot of humanity in between. Intercessions, singing, prayers and the musical accompaniment of children and young people underscored the solemn atmosphere in the house chapel.
Punctually after lunch, we welcomed six alphorn players from the Musikkapelle Memhölz, who also thanked us for the good cooperation with the court concert.”
And: You never leave so completely… Mr. and Mrs. Jehle will travel to Memhölz repeatedly and continue to work in the Academy for Family Pedagogy and in some other pedagogical offers on site. Both can certainly say, “Something of me remains here.”
Original: German, 27.02.2022. Translation: Maria Fischer @schoenstatt.org