By Maria Fischer, with Ana Echevarría and Mercedes Bonorino •
It began with a wayside shrine; it was an incredibly simple wooden wayside shrine, with a plaque of the Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt. It is a wayside shrine, which on 8 December 1965, at the closing day of Vatican Council II, served as a fundamental stone for the symbolic blessing of the Schoenstatt International Shrine in Rome. A wayside shrine kept alive for decades, sometimes in great solitude and tested by fires, rain or heat, that desire and promise of a place in the heart of the Church to offer all the richness of the Covenant of Love at the service of the Church. Now this shrine is not alone; more than 100 wayside shrines from Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Portugal, Austria, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil surround it. That is only the beginning. Since João Pozzobon made Fr. Kentenich’s desire of the International Shrine in Rome, his own, and with him, hundreds of missionaries throughout the world also do it.
On 16 November, Fr. Kentinich’s birthday, it was announced on a WhatsApp group of “Belmonte Argentina,” “We have the first wayside shrine from Brazil!” There was no wayside Shrine? I can’t believe it…” Rosita Ciola answered. Surely, there are hundreds of wayside shrines in Brazil, João Pozzobon’s land. However thanks to Marcos Weizenmann, the first photo of a wayside shrine from Brazil was sent in an attachment with the João Pozzobon Room in Belmonte. The wayside shrine “Tabor of Acogida” [Tabor of Welcome], in the St. Paul Apostle Parish, in Santos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, inaugurated on 18 April 2015.
What will João Pozzobon bring about from this little corner in Belmonte?
The initiative, for the João Pozzobon Room in the Father Kentenich House in Belmonte, which is still under construction, was launched in August by a group of missionaries from Argentina, with Ana Echevarria and Mercedes Bonorino as leaders. Everyone in the world who wants to join is invited to send photos of their wayside shrines. As the photos arrive, they will be collated so that together they create a picture of Schoenstatt’s Pilgrim Mother– a picture that will express the living presence of the Mother Thrice Admirable manifested in so many corners of the world on five continents. In this way, every country will be represented in this little place close to João, who sowed so many wayside shrines on his way, transforming streets and roads into centers of Marian influence. As Pope Francis said, referring to Cura Brochero. Joao Pozzobon is also “a pioneer in going out to the geographical and existential peripheries in order to bring the love and mercy of God to everyone.” (Letter to the Argentinean Episcopate, 14/09/2016).
As Mary’s covenant partner he set out from the shrine with the Pilgrim Mother on his shoulder and with a rosary in hand, João Pozzobon walked 140,000 kilometers visiting families, schools, hospitals and jails, inviting everyone to live the Gospel in Covenant of Love with her. Thus he became a living image of what the Pope challenges us to embody as a Church reaching out. God willing, many who will use the room bearing his name will be inspired from the example of his life and set off from Belmonte following in his footsteps…
Life enkindles life. We cannot imagine what Joao Pozzobon’s landing in this little corner of Rome will bring.
In Tucumán there is a “revolution” with wayside shrines
Truly, it is hard to imagine… but one can already sense the enthusiasm that this wayside shrine current is generating.
“Here there is a revolution with the Wayside Shrines,” Silvia Losada, from Tucumán related. “I gave a short talk at the Campaign leaders’ meeting on Saturday and now everyone is calling me to tell me that they already sent the photo. Everyone wants to present their wayside shrine. As of now, I explained how to upload the photos to the website. Those who cannot do it send them to me via WhatsApp, so that I can send them. Then I will send them the link by WhatsApp, so they can see their wayside shrine in the picture. Someone in the family always has Internet, and they will be able to see it. In so doing, the missionary’s family will get involved. I told them they had to offer capital of grace and prayers when they send the photo so that this Wayside Shrine will be placed on the Blessed Mother’s face and in the João Pozzobon Room in the Shrine of Belmonte. What could be better than being present in the heart of the Church! That motivates them. The link for the Belmonte website (www.pozzobon.roma-belmonte.info) and the brochure that Ana made is also sent. Everything is done by WhatsApp and email in the whole Schoenstatt Family from Tucumán.”
Ana Echevarría and Mercedes Bonorino, members of the Belmonte Team from Argentina, attended the Argentinean Leaders’ Gathering. They spoke about the Pozzobon Room at Belmonte and of the wayside shrines; moreover, they gave every one of the seventy national leaders, who were present, a photo of the “João of Belmonte painting” – the icon of this initiative– and the brochure about the wayside shrines of Belmonte. They also bought 1,500 more prints of the painting (15 x 18 centimeters) that was dispatched to several provinces and places in Argentina. The subject not only went viral in Tucumán, it also happened in Bahía Blanca. Alicia Granieri already sent photos of almost all the wayside shrines, united to the Shrine “Mother of the People” in Paso Mayor –Archdiocese of Bahía Blanca, Argentina.
San Javier, Tucumán, Argentina
The largest wayside shrine of the world is present.
One of the first wayside shrines to attach itself to the João Pozzobon Room was the wayside shrine from Buen Retiro in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. It is the largest wayside shrine in the world. “Thanks for taking our Wayside Shrine of Buen Retire into account. It is approximately 6 meters in height. Our prayers are with the João in Belmonte project,” Roberto Henestrosa wrote.
Memories emerged among the missionaries from Argentina about that visit to Santa Cruz de La Sierra, in the founding era, with the Third International Auxiliary MTA, and the impressive gatherings with the
pioneers. I wonder how Enzo and Ruth Bagnoli are? Monina Crivelli asks herself, who remembers her visit to this founding family so well. Shortly afterwards, in an Italian newsletter, an article appeared about the visit of Enzo Bagnoli, honorary consul of Italy in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, to his native country. It related the impressive testimony of, how many years ago; he took the Pilgrim Mother from Mexico to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, within the context of the very sorrowful fatal accident of his son in the Aztec country. “It was there, where the other son was born, after this a Marian movement of the Madonnina Pillegrina [The Little Pilgrim Madonna] of Schoenstatt was born. We took her from Mexico to Bolivia and now we have more than 10,000 people in the Movement; we are advisers of 800 youths of Christian life and our life has been transformed into this,” he commented to the newspaper, Redacon. And all this came from the photo of the wayside shrine to enrich Belmonte…
Impressive stories emerge about the life around the wayside shrines
Amada Girett sent the first two photos of the wayside shrines in Paraguay, the one from Santa Rita, “Door of Heaven” and “Full of Grace”, blessed in 2014 and 2015. Shortly afterwards, Julia González Mareco and her husband, who are in charge of the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign in Encarnación added the wayside shrines in the “Little House” of the Movement in Encarnación and that of Obligado in Colonias Unidas. “Here in Ciudad del Este there are eight wayside shrines,” Nelly Ramírez commented. “I did not know about this initiative. It is great! Just like everything about the Rosary Campaign. I will get information and pass on the news. What a privilege for me.” We await photos from the Ciudad del Este wayside shrine and so many more in Paraguay…
Anahi Mariño sent a photo from the wayside shrine in Pronunciamiento, Entre Ríos, Argentina, sharing its impressive history. “The ‘Wayside Shrine of Re-encounter’ was a gift that the Schoenstatt Movement’s youths from La Plata, province of Buenos Aires left, during the ‘Resilience’ Mission, that they carried out in this small place.
On 23 July 2004 in the patio of the San José Chapel, these youths placed a small wayside shrine they conquered. A year after its blessing, the group of youth guardians of the this wayside shrine decided to give the Blessed Mother a pilgrimage of 40 kilometers as capital of grace that would unite it with the closest one at that time. This is how they left from the Blessed Mother’s Wayside Shrine located in Plaza Urquiza of Concepción del Uruguay and arrived at the feet of the ‘Wayside Shrine of Re-encounter.’ This was the beginning of the ConcePro Pilgrimage that is held every year adding pilgrims along the way that leave from their wayside shrine to the Pronunciamiento gathering.”
Juana Rosa Chamorro, de Garín, Argentina, shares: “The Wayside Shrine ‘Mother of Faith’ was blessed on 18 October 2011. It is in front of the Admirable Mother Chapel of Garí, Diocese of Zárate-Campana, district of Escobar, Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Our priest, Fr. Juan de Dios, a Disciple of Jesus of the St. John the Baptist Congregation, had the wayside shrine built. He thought it was good for the people to always have their Mother, so they could come to pray, to offer thanks, and to greet her everyday when they passed in front of the chapel.”
The Wayside Shrine ‘Our Lady of Schoenstatt’ in San Javier, Tucumán, Argentina, “emerged from a balloon release of the Blessed Mother that was carried out on 16/10/2009, on the anniversary celebration of another Wayside Shrine Ramón Cruz relates. The following day, I found this picture of the Blessed Mother in the middle of the mountain, and I began to take it on pilgrimage to the homes of those who live on the hill. We contacted the group of missionaries that had sent it, and we decided to conquer the place where she had fallen to make a Wayside Shrine. It was blessed on 31/10/2010, with a large celebration. Many people from the community currently visit it. I made the Covenant of Love with the Blessed Mother, and now I am a missionary and Volunteer of Mary. For every celebration in the Shrine, the pilgrims from San Javier leave at dawn in order to arrive at the Shrine by horse and other means of transportation.”
The Blessed Mother sees you from all of the corners
“This Wayside Shrine in Crespo, Entre Ríos, Argentina was blessed on 16 December 1999. It is in a little square in five corners; it is in a very busy place, where a large number of people pass, not only in vehicles, but also, by foot, since it is a few meters from St. Joseph Parish, which also functions as an elementary and secondary school. It is a picture encased in double glass; that is the Blessed Mother’s picture “is looking at you” from any one of the five corners that one passes. She chose a very strategically visible place,” commented Claudia Lee, who already sent photos of all the wayside shrines of Crespo with all the richness they contain.
In August, Angélica Purcell sent the first wayside shrine from Chile, Mont Schoenstatt, Santiago: “It is a high place, which we visit very often and greatly need that our Shrine be founded there. The Pilgrim Mother and our Blessed Mother are preparing the way.”
“What a good initiative. I am sending a photo of the Wayside Shrine of Melipilla, Metropolitan Region, Chile. The Wayside Shrine is located in Holy Family Parish, in Melipilla. The Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign Family works with the parish. We are fifteen missionaries, and day to day the Blessed Mother has conquered many hearts,” Anita Cruz and José Miguel Marín commented.
We have a wayside shrine Garden of the Desert for Belmonte. “This Wayside Shrine is located in Ciudad de Copiapó, Third Region of Chile. It has this name because we are in the Atacama Desert, where it rarely rains, but when it does, it transforms the desert into a colorful and magical mantle. On the 18th’s, after Mass, we consecrate ourselves to the Blessed Mother, and just like João Pozzobon, we carry the picture of the Pilgrim Mother in our hands, to receive a blessing and therefore continue with our Sacred Mission. I bid farewell with much affection and great joy…” Yolanda Pinto Torres, a Coordinator of the Pilgrim Mother in Copiapó wrote.
What a wonderful work João Pozzobon left us
Perhaps – the southern most wayside shrine presently, arrived from Punta Arenas, Chile, sent by Luz Fromero Donoso. “From this southern city, we joyfully send our Wayside Shrine whose motto is “Mary’s children at the ends of the earth.” We have a group of missionaries of the Pilgrim Mother, and we work with approximately twenty pictures. We unite with this great idea to make the wonderful Work that João Pozzobon left us known. As Fr. Joseph Kentenich said, “We agree on that, we remain loyal.”
Yes, what a wonderful work. What an abundant richness of life, of Schoenstatt graces “in missionary reaching out.”
When João traveled to the Original Shrine in 1979 with his Original Pilgrim Mother, he did it, as he said, “to enrich the place of origin.” Now from hundreds of wayside shrines and thanks to so many of the Blessed Mother’s “little donkeys”, he comes to Belmonte to enrich this place in the heart of the Church. With the graces and lives of so many wayside shrines, Belmonte will truly be, the Shrine of all Schoenstatt, the shrine of all the Schoenstatters, the shrine reaching out… Thank you, missionaries. And thank you in advance for the photos of the wayside shrines that are still missing and that you will send, since Belmonte cannot fulfill its mission without the richness of each one of the wayside shrines that sow the streets of this world…
Original: Spanish. Translation: Celina M. Garza, San Antonio, TX USA. Edited: Melissa Peña-Janknegt, Elgin, TX USA