Posted On 2019-04-08 In Missions, Schoenstatt - Reaching out

CARITAS 2019—Pilgrimage for the Hearts of Austin

USA, Zachary E. Larson •

Austin CARITAS is a 5-day Schoenstatt mission trip hosted yearly in Austin, Texas. The mission began in 2013, inviting university students to serve their city. Missionaries volunteer with charitable organizations during the day, and receive spiritual formation in the evenings, building community throughout the week. Thomas Quintero and Alexander Chunda, of the Life Group “Knights of Our Queen,” led CARITAS 2019. Zachary Larson interviewed them and provides their testimony below.—

The Impact of World Youth Day

“CARITAS is a mission in Austin TEXAS, inspired by missions in other countries,” Thomas said. “We wanted to bring that mission spirit to the U.S. and encounter those with real need. CARITAS stands for ‘Catholics answering the Redeemer’s invitation to authentic sanctity.”

“Our Schoenstatt University Men’s branch went to World Youth Day and Ignis, where we listened to the Pope’s call to be the “now” of the Church,” Thomas said. This call invites young Catholics to impact their community today. “We incorporated that call into CARITAS 2019.”

Alexander explained how, saying, “Our theme this year was ‘Pilgrimage for the Hearts of Austin.’ We looked at the signs of the times, especially the current crisis of the Church, and wanted to do our part in renewing the Church.” Pilgrimage, for Alexander, means a “deep sense of encounter.” The missionaries made a pilgrimage to find Christ in the “mysterious face of those we serve,” he said. “In pilgrimage, we normally encounter God in religious site, now we encounter God in people we serve.”

Getting your hands dirty with someone makes it easy to open up

“As the heads, Chuy [Alexander] and I worked well together,” said Thomas. “Our number one task was to establish the theme in us and the other heads. It is important to safeguard the meaning of the theme as we go on mission.”

Alexander added, “Thomas and I accomplished that through our talks, and the speakers developed it throughout the week with formation talks.” Thomas and Alexander’s other role as heads is that of “fatherly figures. We make sure no one feels isolated or alone, and keep everyone together.”

CARITAS impacts Austin in a powerful way by providing a witness of Christ’s love and mercy to those in need. “We are meant to be beacons or lighthouses of hope for people who have not experienced it,” Thomas said. The mission’s impact extends to the missionaries as well. “It invites you to take your Catholic faith, to show people it is possible to live out your spirituality in a tangible way.”

“The spirituality really hit everybody,” Alexander added. “People have the chance to pray in adoration, people were digesting it and seeing it as they went out and served.”

CARITAS is known for its community atmosphere as much as its service and spirituality. Of this, Thomas said, “It’s always a different experience to work with someone. Getting your hands dirty with someone makes it easy to open up. Wasting time, as Pope Francis says, is so important for building family and communities.”


When asked how this experience has affected his own spiritual life, Alexander responded, “I had to be service oriented so that the missionaries could serve, and be in touch with the needs of others. This was an act of self-education: to forget myself and be more interested in other people. I was touched, seeing the way the work transforms people’s lives.”

Asked the same question, Thomas replied, “I like to zoom out at the end of CARITAS and see how far people have grown. To see the growth of the Schoenstatt Movement of Austin through the youth has made me more trusting in the Blessed Mother and her ability to bring graces out of what we offer. I’ve also been a lot more calm and trusting with how things work out with her, and a lot less stressed with my own mission.”

Faith doesn’t become real until you go out and act on it

What does Thomas want to say to Schoenstatters worldwide?

“The Blessed Mother is the sower of seeds, she cultivates life and provides for her family, provides for her children. She is present with us, and helping us to be united with all the other braches in the world. CARITAS shows us how united we are as a movement, and how her love and embrace unites us all together.”

And Alex?

“Faith doesn’t become real until you go out and act on it. The graces of Schoenstatt: feeling of home, inner transformation, apostolic zeal—we can’t fully experience Schoenstatt and the Catholic faith until we go out!”

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