Hi, my name is Father Duncan McVicar, I’m from Scotland UK, fifty-eight years of age, a Schoenstatt Father, ordained in the “100th Jubilee of our Father and Founder” in 1985. I studied at the University of Muenster and Tuebingen, and also at Loyola University in Chicago, US. I’ve enjoyed working and living in different countries, including Poland, India, South Africa and Argentina. I was part of the team that prepared the 100th Birthday Celebration of our Father and Founder in 1985, and also co-ordinated with Sister Johanna-Maria the Youth Festival in 2005 in Schoenstatt before the World Youth Day in Cologne. I have been a Parish Priest in England for seventeen years, and presently, I am Parish Priest at St Ethelbert’s in Greater Manchester and Governor of two Catholic Primary Schools and one Catholic High School. The Schoenstatt Fathers at the Schoenstatt Shrine take an active part in the marriage and family pastoral care within the Diocese. One of the really interesting things that I could do last year, was to be the Chaplain to the Mayor of Bolton, which was really an exciting time, allowing me to catch a glimpse of local politics in action. •
What is my dream for Schoenstatt in who we are and where we find ourselves in the Church, in the world, and in our mission?
My dream for Schoenstatt is that we become a much more dynamic Movement than up till now. My dream is that Schoenstatt doesn’t just talk and pray about being the “heart of the Church” but really is and really wants to be. Our Founder called this “mission awareness”. To use the words from Father Esteban Uriburu, an Argentinean Schoenstatt Father who has already been called home to the Lord: Imagine that we are an international football team, but we are playing too defensively all the time. If we continue to play defensively we will lose the championship. We have to play offensively, take the initiative, get out there and make a difference. How do we start changing our style of playing? We start by being aware – in everything we do – that we have a great mission for the Church and the world. Any decision we make, should be nourished by a missionary spirit and awareness and have this constantly in mind. This is the big difference between the “bureaucratic” Schoenstatter and the dynamic Schoenstatter. We need to become “players” who will “get the ball”, run with a goal in mind, and put our whole heart and soul into our game. If we don’t implore our Blessed Mother to educate Schoenstatt personalities like this, we will never achieve the “new world” of our Founder.
Schoenstatt’s voice is needed in the urgent challenges facing the Church in our times. We have to “enter into the fray” with the charisma of our Founder: i.e. in the urgent challenges facing marriage and the family, particularly in the weeks and months leading up to the Synod in Rome this year. The challenge shows itself particularly in Europe between those who believe life and the future come from the clear message of the Gospel and those who see the future in the adaption to modern-day opinions and the expectations of society. I have a dream that Schoenstatt will find a new courage to confront those who try to make Church teaching more acceptable – including bishops – by adapting to the expectations of society and bring our charisma even if it means that we become unpopular in the process.
In order to fulfil this dream, what do we need to avoid or leave behind?
We need to leave behind “private agendas” that damage friendships and relationships within our Movement. We need to leave behind “closed eyes, closed ears and a closed heart” that will not value anything new or innovative and even feels “threatened” by positive change.
We need to leave behind a misleading or “reductionist” understanding of internationality. We talk about “internationality” a lot, but I think we are more “multi-national”, than “international”. I would love to see a true and determined international spirit flourish within our Schoenstatt Communities, and I would particularly love to see that Schoenstatt worldwide listens more and takes more seriously the experiences, priorities and know-how of their English-speaking brothers and sisters. Internationality is not simply singing a song or two in different languages at meetings or events or carrying a national flag, it is allowing the values, Church experience, and unique approach of other nationalities to influence my own. We also need to leave behind a kind of “catacomb” mentality, especially in Europe, when it comes to getting involved in the many educational and ecclesial challenges of our times.
Third Question: What practical steps do we have to take now?
First and foremost, put the “Covenant Culture” into action on every level. This means not just through grand ideas and long prayers, but in the daily and ordinary living and working together as Schoenstatt communities. The Covenant Culture should become more and more the “trademark” of every Schoenstatt secular institute and community.
Another urgent practical step concerns leadership. Leadership is one of the most talked about and discussed topics in today’s Church. Leaders need training, experience, and most of all transparency. We need a greater experience of transparency from the superiors and leaders of our communities in how they work with each other and how they plan for the future. Our Father and Founder gave us the ultimate model of Jesus, the “Good Shepherd” as the inspiration for Schoenstatt leadership. We need to put this into practice – we need to see more “good shepherds and shepherdesses”.
And finally, another practical step, our Holy Father Pope Francis has announced a Jubilee Year of Mercy, beginning with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in December, this year. He says that mercy is “the very foundation of the Church’s life” and that “all of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers.” Francis later says that “nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.” Why do we need a Jubilee of Mercy today? Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness. The Pope concluded: “My thoughts now turn to the Mother of Mercy. May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness.”
These words are also spoken to us to be translated into life. How will Schoenstatt bring alive this Year of Mercy? Because of the Covenant of Love with the Mother of Mercy, our MTA, Schoenstatt’s very foundation is mercy, all our pastoral activity should be caught up in mercy, Schoenstatt’s credibility depends on it as we too are called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness. Father Kentenich once explained: The “Mother of Fair Love” has no greater interest or more important task than to ‘set the love in us aright’, that is, to transform, after her own likeness, all who have given their hearts to her into mature witnesses of a great and organic love of God and neighbour (see Dissertation from Sister Danielle Peters, USA). We have to start with ourselves first, and the secular institutes in Schoenstatt should lead by example and selfless service.
It would be a sad day if the enthusiasm and the energy unleashed through the Jubilee Celebrations last year fizzled out into oblivion. My hope and prayer is that Schoenstatt is truly a “learning community” and that we can make the urgent and necessary changes so that Schoenstatt can become for the Church today, what God has always destined for her. That would be my dream!