By Maria Fischer •
“Dear Maria, forgive me, but I have to stop translating for a time, doctor’s orders. I wanted to let you know so that you can organize articles with someone one else. Finally, I cannot continue to translate ‘Dietro i passi di Padre Kentenich…’ (“Father Kentenich’s footsteps”). I am very sorry, but for now, it is impossible…
A warm embrace, Maria”
On 5 July that was the last email I received from Maria Tedeschi, that great ally, fighter, unconditional collaborator and loyal friend, who not only translated for schoenstatt.org, but also, who lived schoenstatt.org as a great mission at the service of the family. Her work for the website was her daily joy. On 5 August at 12:30, she returned to the Father’s House, by the hand of her beloved “Madonnina” surrounded by her family and praying the rosary in Italian, her beloved native language. On 11 May she had turned 91 years old.
Her last email spoke of who Maria Tedeschi: her responsibility, her affection, her concern that her beloved schoenstatt.org website in Italian did not suffer because of her absence. What and how she wrote revealed her sadness about having to stop “for a time” her mission and the joy of her life for the past twelve years: her translations.
A joyful woman of loyal commitment
When I visited her in April 2015, along with Claudia Echenique and Cecilia Mata from the schoenstatt.org team, she told us that it was hard for her to lift the dictionaries to carry out her task, and she felt very badly for not being able to continue contributing with her usual six, seven articles per week! To improve daily, she exercised her fingers on the keyboard translating a book, so she could return to the arena soon. Before bidding us farewell, we convinced and begged her to translate “even if it was only one article per week,” and then she sent two or three, week by week… On 2 March 2016, she resigned again, because of great pains while sitting in front of the computer… and it was a great surprise when I received a new translation on 4 March.
But on 5 July, it was serious. Her daughter Angela told me on 1 August, when I found out that her condition was very delicate:
“Dear Maria: Mama is bedridden for a week after a fall and an infection from bruises. She has little strength left, but she remains conscious; she does not speak. My brother, Ludovico, will arrive today. I always read the Schoenstatt prayers to her, and she follows me by occasionally opening her eyes. I ask that you keep her in your prayers.”
A day later, after finding out about the wave of prayers that emerged from so many countries, where schoenstatt.org collaborators received the news, Angela wrote:
“Thank you Maria for the affection and prayers. During these days, we spoke a lot about your activity and dedication. Since she resigned from the translations, this road of commitment began; the translations were her daily joy, and she felt useful for the Movement. Prayer strengthens her; she is serene. She cannot communicate with words, but she understands everything we tell her.
More words are unnecessary to show what schoenstatt.org meant to Maria, and what Maria meant to schoenstatt.org. She was and will continue to be an example of commitment to the schoenstatt.org mission for us (something that has nothing to do with the amount of work she did but instead with her unconditional, loyal attitude and her enthusiasm). She lived a commitment that she never abandoned. Not even in times of illness, or at times when belonging to schoenstatt.org meant being attacked and questioned, or during times of a good deal of work, or when there were criticisms because there was no one who would take the time to revise her translations (she knew her Italian was a little rusty, outdated, after so many years outside of her country). Her greatest worry always was that the Italian website would be abandoned when she could no longer continue. She asked me many times to seek translators…I could not fulfill her wish, despite trying everything. We had to close the Italian website on August 1.
“Do you think I am not capable of taking it directly from the website?”
Five real stories showing who Maria Tedeschi was:
- It was 2004 and about the first translation she would do for schoenstatt.org. Since Maria was already 80 years old, I offered to copy the text from the website and to send it to her in Word format. With great respect for her and at the same time with some concern about working with another technologically challenged person, I wrote to her about this proposal in my then deficient Spanish. …The response was clear and for always: “Do you think that I am not capable of taking it directly from the website?” Getting ahead of my second question, she clarified: “Maria, you have so much work, do not think that you have to tell me which articles I have to translate. I will look them up, and if I cannot do them all, I will decide according to the criteria of what is most useful to my compatriots in the Movement in Italy.” She did this for twelve years. Her standard was always excellent. Years later, when we spoke on one of our many and always inspiring, long and joyful conversations via Skype, she commented: “From the beginning, I wanted to make three things clear. I did not need a babysitter, I did not want to give you work, instead, I wanted to serve, and whoever wants to work for an Internet website, should understand the Internet.”
- At the beginning, she insisted on her translations being proofread and corrected, knowing that her Italian was “somewhat old.” We found two really willing Italians to do the job. One day, in 2005, when there were more than fifteen articles translated, yet still uncorrected, we both lost patience, almost at the same time. Beyond the “allied” decision of publishing without correction from that moment, it was a joyful encounter between two people with the same strong temperament and the same lack of patience… It was the beginning moment of a profound and sincere friendship.
- At some time, I believe it was in 2012 or 2013, with the constant search for translators to Italian, who could someday assume Maria’s task, she found an Italian who lived in her city, La Plata, who was willing and capable of doing it. Just a few weeks later, Maria called me urgently. She apologized a thousand times to me for her mistake in recommending this person, since “she was not able to serve selflessly, and that she would never capture the schoenstatt.org spirit. Maria, please stop sending her assignments, since an attitude of lack of service hurts schoenstatt.org.” Not only was her intuition was 100% correct in this case, moreover, during our last conversation on 31 May, she congratulated me for “finally” understanding that her intuition about another (ex) collaborator was correct and this person’s exit was a blessing…
- I “met” several of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren via email and Skype, since she always asked one of them to let me know that there would be delays when she had problems with her PC or Internet connection. Once, one of her great-grandsons told me: “Before opening her suitcase in Bariloche, where we went for vacations, she asked for a connection, and I had to fix it, since her translations had to be done” …The secret behind so much willingness: her enormous affection for her and…grandma’s spaghetti.”
- One 12 September, Feast of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I congratulated her on her feast day. She was excited and happy, she responded, “No one had ever congratulated me on this day, not many celebrate this day, since only a few people have the name Maria. They celebrate on another feast day, the Rosary, of Mercy… Or they celebrate on 8 December or 8 September… How did you know that I celebrate this day?” I confessed that it was also my feast day. From that day on, both of us congratulated each other every 12 September and we enjoyed it like a beautiful shared secret.
That is how we remember her…
Surely she is praying in Italian in Heaven, with that playful, pleasant and brilliant gaze. I just came from Mass celebrated by her son Fr. Ludovico, at the La Plata Freedom Shrine, for her relatives and a group of Schoenstatt friends. Maria left praying in Italian. Until yesterday she was conscious, and she heard the Mass in Italian; she followed it moving her eyebrows. This morning she was not conscious. She departed to the House of the Lord at 12:30 p.m. while Fr. Ludovico prayed the rosary in Italian. During Mass today, Fr. Ludovico related that she prayed two rosaries daily: one for the family and the other for Fr. Ludovico. I was blessed to know her for more than fifty years (I was a classmate of one of her sons), and I can attest of her greatness as a person (despite her small physical stature), she was the stronghold of her family, she was always aware of the needs of her beloved, and those who cared for her.
She helped for many years washing and ironing the Shrine’s altar cloths and linens and everyone knows she translated Italian for the schoenstatt.org website. On Friday, 5 August, a funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Joseph Parish in La Plata. As Fr. Ludovico said, his mother had a beautiful, peaceful death.
Carlos Ricciardi, La Plata, Argentina
We unite in prayer from Rome. For us, Italians, Maria Tedeschi is an unforgettable role model for her commitment to Schoenstatt. During all these years, she translated many of Fr. Kentenich’s texts, and we are very grateful to her.
Pamela Fabiano, Rome, Italy
For the decades that I knew her, she was always a great lady, always serving anonymously and quietly. For several years, she took care of washing and ironing the linens used daily in the La Plata Shrine. She had the key to the closet where they were kept, she took those that were used concealed in a small bag, and she returned them impeccably clean and ironed. When she offered to do this very important task, she told me that she could not commit more to Schoenstatt at this that time, because she had to accompany her husband on frequent business trips. She added that she knew how to handle “Jesus’ linens.” Even though, it was not necessary for her to say it! Upon seeing her, one noticed the nobility, the respect for the sacred, and the dignity of her entire person. Dear Maria! How we missed you in the La Plata Shrine when you could no longer do this task. Many times, she asked her daughter-in-law (who is also a committed Schoenstatter) to take her place during her absences…
I pray for and with her. Surely, her prayers will bring translators for Italian.
Sr. M. Andrea, Tandil, Argentina
A saint has gone to heaven, and over there, they had a celebration to welcome her with open arms: The One and Triune Father, your Most Blessed Mother, the entire Dream team, Fr. Kentenich the saints and many people who love her and whose lives were enriched thanks to her.
Kiki Tagle, Santiago, Chile
The Doors of Heaven opened to welcome a “great lady” (as Carlos Cantú said). Thank you Lord, for the gift of meeting her last year! Our Dream team and our international Family now have another “great ally” close to the Father.
Claudia Echenique, Buenos Aires, Argentina
I thank God for a full life with a spirit of service to others, Schoenstatt, and in the latter years with schoenstatt.org. She was the strength of the Italian website. What a great gift! Truly, Maria is close to the Blessed Mother and Jesus in heaven, beginning a new, eternal life with God and the angels. Thank you God, for giving us Maria for all these years.
Sarah-Leah Pimentel, Cape Town, Africa
I always admired her willingness and enthusiasm even at her advanced age. We spoke with Fr. Ludovico about her and her commitment to schoenstatt.org. May the Father’s will be done!
Silvia Losada, Tucumán, Argentina
I offered a Mass for her in gratitude for the gift that she was for those who only knew her through her work.
Carmen Rogers, Santiago, Chile
I am impressed by the loyalty amidst all trials, and certain that Maria Tedeschi’s loyalty to schoenstatt.org will be rewarded with great blessings in heaven. I accompany Maria T. and her entire family with my prayers and capital of grace, and I am grateful for her immense work for our website. Surely, she will take care of sending the right person to translate the many beautiful things that we publish on schoentstatt.org
United in Covenant Solidarity dear Maria!
Tita Andras, Vienna, Austria
I will pray for her. The truth is, that since I met her through this page and through the small things that you told us about, I felt a profound affection and admiration for her.
It consoles me to think that she is surrounded by her family and comforted from a distance through our prayers.
Great affection for her and her family, may you know that Maria holds a special place in our heart.
Susana Stanley, Asunción, Paraguay
An already fragile great lady who gave much to the world has left us. And there must be a great celebration in heaven. Gratitude for everything that she has left us!
Kikito Vázquez, Asunción, Paraguay
Last year, when I was checking some paragraphs of a Spanish article translated to Italian, I noticed that one was missing. I commented about it to Maria Fischer and she told me: ‘Please simply write to Maria Tedeschi to ask that she send it; it can happen, Maria T is already 89 years old…’ I did not continue to read what followed. I was paralyzed. It cannot be; I must have read it wrong. I reread the phrase…89 years old. I wrote to Maria T., I did not know how to do it. Far be it from me to “demand” anything! I took the opportunity: ‘I would like to meet you,’ I said. After apologizing for forgotten item (as if were necessary), she told me: ‘But let us wait until the weather improves a little.’
Cecilia Mata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
These are a few of the testimonies from all those received from the team of collaborators of schoenstatt.org, who also from Burundi, England, Germany, Portugal, and Spain expressed their gratitude and their profound sorrow.
Long awaited visit: Maria Fischer, Claudia Echenique, María Tedeschi, Cecilia Mata, April 2015
Her missionary steps
During the year of the missionary current, in preparation for the Covenant of Love Jubilee (2012) Maria Tedeschi answered the question about her “missionary steps” during that year:
“During the Year of the Missionary Current through my translations, I try to show my compatriots how, and how much work is done in Schoenstatt. I want the many articles to enthuse them and that they learn to love our “Madonnina” and to work for her. At my age, I do not have another way to collaborate. In our La Plata Shrine, people wait for me to take the articles in Spanish every week…”
Once and only once in all those twelve years of collaboration and walking together at the service of schoenstatt.org, I convinced (or rather I persuaded her) to write an article, a testimony. She titled it “Mi Madonnina”. We share it here:
“I am an older missionary who has taken ‘my Pilgrim Mother’ from family to family for twenty years. Today I want to relate how Mary always accompanies me, and how she is always close to me in difficulties so that I do not feel alone.
This year was a very difficult time for two of my sons, and I went to the Shrine every day so the Madonnina would enlighten me and give me the strength to bear my impotence before their problems.
For several days, I saw a picture of the Pilgrim Mother on the balustrade in front of the altar. One day, I asked Sr. Andrea, who was our adviser at that time, who that picture belonged to. She looked at me perplexed and she replied: ‘I do not know. It has been here since the day it was blessed and no one took it.’ ‘May I take her on pilgrimage?’ I asked and she enthusiastically said yes. That is how I took her pressed close to my heart. From that moment, she accompanies me together we have gone through difficulties and joys.
During my day, I speak with her at every moment, even when she is visiting families. Who, but she knows how to listen to me with so much love and patience. Who knows how to answer me in the intimacy of my heart, calm my explosive temperament, my rebellion before the world that is so different from my mentality? Who better than she can quiet me, teaching me that one can only correct and above all to make youths reflect, who many times are far from the true values of life, through example, sweetness and understanding? God gives us life, not to be wasted or soiled, but to live seeking to improve ourselves, to be role models with deeds, not with words and useless theoretical debates, to show that love of neighbor beginning with our family, that is the mission God has entrusted to us.
For twenty years (1990) we have walked together, eleven years ago I became a widow in (1999) during a trip with my husband to our native city in Italy. There is a beautiful Shrine of the Blessed Mother on a hill since 1300. Every time we began the return trip “home” we went to visit her. It was the Madonnina from my childhood, and adolescence when I walked three kilometers at dawn praying the complete rosary to attend the first Mass of the day and to ask for help during the exams time or to thank for having passed them.
Also that day, (already elderly) we went to greet her by auto. Mid-way, through a massive heart attack, our Madonnina drew him close to her. But she embraced me in my sorrow, very close to her, and gave me much strength to walk alone without the wonderful companion that God had chosen for me. She taught me to dedicate myself even more to my family, my children and my grandchildren. That is how I was able to continue forward, with moments of sadness, but surrounded by a great affection and by my Madonnina. I again found the meaning of life that I seemed to have lost by my husband’s sudden death.
Sometimes I want to say out loud to young people that I meet in the Shrine: ‘Love Mary, listen to her. Remember that she, like us, suffered so many trials in her life, but she always continued forward with her head held high and with a smile, with the right word and with a hand extended to help.’
Thank you “mi Madonnina!”
Thank you, beloved Maria!
6 August 2016: Maria Tedeschi’s photo in the Original Shrine – Photo: Maria Fischer
Translation: Celina Garza, San Antonio, USA. Edited: Maria Fischer and Melissa Janknegt