ARGENTINA, Graciela and Víctor Oviedo •
From the Shrine of Liberation in La Plata we have been working for some years to offer an authentic service to the pilgrims who pass through our “Little Chapel of Grace”, as the first sodalists called the shrine. —
Places of grace for the whole church, for all the People of God
We have some convictions: the Schoenstatt Shrines must fulfill their mission as places of grace for the whole Church. This implies making the shrines places of permanent pilgrimage. For every pilgrim, the shrine is their vital and proper center and for this it is necessary to have a broad Pastoral Project and a clear objective: to form a vigorous popular movement. And the Popular and Pilgrims’ Movement is an integral part of Schoenstatt. They are full members of Schoenstatt. They are all those who enter faith-filled contact with the sources of Schoenstatt and who seal their Covenant of Love there.
Schoenstatt and the Blessed Mother deserve a well thought out pastoral ministry
The mission is to pray and work for the growth of the popular and pilgrims’ movement. Schoenstatt and the Blessed Mother deserve a well thought out pastoral of the shrine.
The pilgrims who attach themselves to the Shrine of Liberation are mostly “people passing through”. This is due to the geographic centrality of our shrine: it is one block from the main square of the city of La Plata and in the block next to the Cathedral, in its shadow, as we Schoenstatters from La Plata like to say.
However, despite its centrality, it is a place of profound peace, at least that is the experience of those who enter the grounds, covered with leafy trees, flowers and benches to sit and enjoy the contact with nature and the presence of Mary.
The pastoral care of the shrine is not an organization of processions
For this “passing through” pilgrim, we want to develop pastoral actions that lead to spiritual growth and to the formation of the Christian committed to his faith that the founder of Schoenstatt, Father Joseph Kentenich, thought of.
The fundamental thing is that the pastoral project is not an office to attend to devotional needs or to organize, with more or less expertise, some processions.
The fundamental thing will always be to seek the formation of the pilgrim.
For that it is important to have a certain itinerary that begins with:
In our community we try to work this with the “Custodians of the shrine”. They are the pastoral agents who take turns in the Shrine so that it remains open (since we do not have guards). Most of them are from the youth branches of the Movement (yes!) and they are the first contacts of the pilgrims who come to the shrine for the first time. It is up to them to welcome the pilgrims, to give them the information that is usually also on the bulletin board, to give them a prayer card or a prayer, to take a souvenir photo, etc.
- The invitation
Many of these pilgrims are then invited to an initiation meeting, and to a Pilgrim’s Covenant round or to be a missionary of the Rosary Campaign. These activities were also carried out virtually during the pandemic years.
- The Covenant of Love
And starting this year, we have invited the pilgrims who sealed the Covenant of Love, to what we call “spirituality encounter”, which is a mini retreat of a morning or afternoon where through a small reflection around the image of Mary they have time to enjoy the shrine. We also aim to be a space of formation for the pilgrim and in this, the believing attachment to the three points of contact is fundamental:
- Attachment to our shrine, it is the pole of attraction of the pilgrimage and points towards the definitive shrine, towards the House of the Father, it is a point of rest in the midst of the dynamism of human and ecclesial existence. It is an accelerating impulse; it obliges to hasten the pace.
- Attachment to the Mother Thrice Admirable, Queen and Victress and the importance of Marian piety and pastoral care in connection with the totality of the Christian mystery.
- Attachment to the head of the Family as a second cause: to the Founding Father, to the Bishop, to the Pope: filial attachment to reach the person of the Heavenly Father.
- The missionaries of the Campaign
We have also convoked meetings of the missionaries of the adult Campaign, and we have resumed the tradition of praying the one thousand Hail Mary’s on the 18th, especially on October 18.
A project for the entire organized Movement
But this Pastoral project is not for a commission, it is a project for the whole organized Movement, which we believe that little by little, must turn more to the diffusion of the shrine to the popular field. From this point of view, we believe that we must analyze more the thought of our father founder and his deep faith that the graces of the shrine are not for an elite, but that the graces of the shrine are for the whole Church.
That is why the project is transversal to the entire Schoenstatt Family.
- We need formators for the pilgrims, but also those who make the Shrine beautiful so that the pilgrims will continue to find it a beautiful place.
- We need the one who prepares the liturgy and the songs that move the pilgrim and the sacristan who prepares the altar of the Mass in silence.
- We need the secretary who prepares the announcements in each feast, in each act, so that the pilgrim is informed, but also the bursar who gives us the resources to make and place the messages on the billboard.
- We need an organized Movement to put it at the service of the pilgrim, and that is what we are doing.
The place of our shrines
Finally, we want to comment that since this year the national commission of Pastoral of Shrines was reorganized with the intention of serving all the pastoral teams of the Shrines of Argentina, and on September 24 we had our national meeting with representatives of many shrines and wayside shrines. There we reflected on the place of our Schoenstatt Shrines in communion and participation with the other Shrines in Argentina, and with the parishes where they are inserted. All this is a new challenge that opens for us and the mission that urges us to face it.