CHILE, Susy Jacob (Vínculo Magazine) •
With only 41 years and 7 years as a priest, Fr. Gonzalo Illanes has just assumed with enthusiasm and joy the task of leading the life of the Schoenstatt Movement throughout our country. Previously, he had been in charge as vicar in the parish of San Cayetano de La Legua, advisor of the Boys’ Youth in Temuco, advisor of the Family Branch in Valdivia and national advisor of the Boys’ Youth. —
He acknowledges that he received his appointment with surprise, as it was not something he had expected or seen coming. Even when he was approached about the possibility, he was very surprised, because it was not on his horizon, and he was not so clear about what the task consisted of. “But after learning more about what the position implied, reflecting on it and, above all, praying about it, I came to the conviction that God and the Blessed Mother must be behind this possibility. And if this is so, I thought, then I am happy to devote myself to my service, with what I have and what I don’t have”.
How did you receive this official appointment?
– When the national Presidency confirmed the appointment, I received the news with great humility. I was very aware of my limits and inexperience, but with the conviction that God and the Blessed Mother will guide me along the way. Moreover, I have always been sure that my yes to the priesthood was motivated by the desire to place myself at service. And as I realized that it was here that the Lord was asking me to serve, the joy and enthusiasm to help in this mission have been growing more and more.
What excites you about this work?
– I think that what motivates me the most is to be able to share and know closely the different realities of the Schoenstatt Movement in Chile. One of the beautiful things about the priesthood is to be a privileged witness of God’s presence in the lives of the people, and I have the impression that this will touch me a lot in this service of accompanying such diverse communities throughout the country. I am very excited to hear about what is giving life to the families, to know their initiatives and projects, as well as how they are moving forward with the challenges they face. I think it will be a gift to immerse myself in all the richness that we have in the Movement and that normally one does not get to know.
In your previous tasks as advisor to a Family, what realities have marked you?
– During these last years I have concentrated mainly on the work with the youth, especially with the Boys’ Youth of Temuco and Valdivia, but youth in general. And it may sound obvious, but I would say that what has marked me the most is the friendship that they entrust to you. Those beautiful and deep attachments that the Blessed Mother gave me with so many of these young people have marked me very much. I still have very fresh in my mind the beautiful moments of farewells that I had in Temuco a couple of weeks ago. There one realizes, with a little more distance, the depth of the friendship that God gives to people. And with so many people… Schoenstatt is family, it is often heard, and it is true. One takes many people in one’s heart, and it is beautiful to see how the Blessed Mother also makes a place for one in their heart.
There are also other things that I keep thinking about, that have made me reflect and be grateful. For example, every day I am more convinced of Father Kentenich’s words when he says that what is most properly human is precisely what is most divine, and vice versa. God and human nature do not compete, but the Lord raises it up and counts on it. And I have seen this very much in the people with whom I have shared around the shrine. I have met many young people who are great in their normality: deep, joyful, entertaining, good friends, dreamers, religious, close. With their falls, crosses and inconsistencies, but filled with the love of God and the Blessed Mother. I believe that this beautiful balance between the human and the divine springs from the Covenant, from the divinely human heart that the Blessed Mother gives us.
I have also been touched by the thirst for God that I have seen in young people, that longing for the transcendent that the world so often tries to drown out with its noise, distractions and screens. There is a great need for silence, for meaning, for mystery. That is why I believe that music in Schoenstatt, and especially in the Schoenstatt youth, is so important, because normally our songs lead to interiority, to perceive the delicacy with which God dwells in our hearts, because they give an experience of God – an encounter with someone – more than a self-referential discourse full of words.
In short. There are many things that have marked me, but these are some of the ones that come to my heart now.
What stands out today of the reality that we are living as Schoenstatt Family of Chile?
– I believe that we are in a time of great hope, full of desire that was contained and of longing to raise our flags with strength once again. We have gone through many crises that, in one way or another, have affected us: ecclesial crisis around the abuses, social outbreak, everything that the pandemic meant, and in our own Movement, the questions that arose around the figure of the Founding Father. And although there is still a long way to go in these crises and processes, I believe that the Family, in general, perceives that we seem to be entering a calmer time that allows us to raise our heads. I believe that the Family is eager to get up, to go out and build. To be a contribution in this challenging social reality we are living.
What should be the most urgent task in our Family today?
– A challenge that has been sounding strongly, very much in line with the signs of the times, is the challenge of living a Covenant of Love, very conscious of its horizontal dimension. It is true, we are allies of the Blessed Mother, she with me and I with her. But at the same time, time and society are crying out to us to live in Covenant also with creation and with our brothers and sisters. Not as if it were a different Covenant, but as an essential part of the same Covenant of Love with Mary. Because we are children of God, we are also brothers and sisters in that same love, are we not?
For the year 2014, when Schoenstatt celebrated its 100th anniversary, the different communities and pilgrims throughout the world we asked ourselves, what are we going to celebrate? And surprisingly there was a great deal of unanimity: the Covenant of Love! Of course, now almost 10 years later we are not surprised, but I remember that at that time many commented that it was not obvious to find that clarity so quickly. Well, I believe that the challenge of living the Covenant is still very present today, especially making us aware of its horizontal dimension. It is one of the aspects that the Pentecost Congress that took place in Schoenstatt last year emphasized very strongly.
Another task that is urgent for our Family is the Synod on Synodality, this process that Pope Francis has called us to live in a three-year journey, with its diocesan, continental and worldwide stages. We cannot be left out! I have the impression that not only as Schoenstatt Movement, but also for all the Chilean Church it has been difficult for us to join. It is a true life current of the universal Church and it seems that we do not even realize it. We still have time… It is true that the diocesan process, where we all could – or at least we had the possibility – to participate with our opinions and answers is already behind us. But I have the impression that we are still in time. How can we land and vitally join this process? Well, it is up to us to be creative and look for ways that make sense to us from our own spirituality.
What are your desires for this mission?
– I would like to see a simpler Movement, less complicated with its own structures and more open to accompany and welcome life as it arrives. I would love that our Wayside Shrines and Shrines become more and more welcoming places for pilgrims, that they continue to become a missionary key, as the Pope has asked us to do.
I am also eager to collaborate with the feeling of being one Family throughout the country, of knowing that we are united in the Covenant and in the mission. The digital means of communication give us a tremendous opportunity to get closer to each other and I believe that we can still take advantage of this reality much more.
And perhaps one of my greatest desires is to see that the Movement can continue to grow everywhere, especially in the neediest sectors, which is perhaps where we have been less present. There are so many beautiful initiatives and efforts that are already bringing the world of the Covenant closer to the simplest people. I know that many sisters, priests and lay people of our Family, in silence and with simplicity, have taken Schoenstatt to those existential peripheries so dear to the Pope. Well, I believe that in all of this we still have a lot to grow, and I would love to be able to help in this beautiful challenge.
Is there anything that scares you about this new assignment?
– The fact of not having contact with any specific community in a more stable way has made me think at times that all the beautiful bonds that the apostolate offers may not be so present at this stage. It also scares me a little that there are many meetings at a more administrative or organizational level and with less vital contact. But well, these fears are perhaps a bit unfounded and surely, as it usually happens, God will surprise me with his closeness and novelty in ways that I can’t even imagine.
What gifts do you expect to give us?
– The first thing is my commitment and desire. Schoenstatt has made my life so beautiful – and that of all of us! – that wherever the Lord has called me to serve I have put all my effort so that others may encounter this great mystery. So that is what I am committed to from now on, to ‘sweat the shirt’ as they say in soccer. I also value a lot the role of the digital media in evangelization, and I hope to be able to contribute my bit in this area that has been doing many things.
Source: Vínculo magazine, March 2023. With permission.
Original: Spanish 2023-04-13 – Translated by: María Aragón, Monterrey, México