GERMANY, Renate Siebenkäs •
On the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, on January 1, 2023, solemn sending forth services took place in St. Martin’s and Transfiguration of Christ. A total of four Pilgrim MTAs were sent out in the two parishes of Forchheim. —
How did it happen?
On October 1st, 2022, a great jubilee was celebrated in Schoenstatt: 25 years of the “Project Pilgrim Shrine” (in Germany, this is the official name of the worldwide Campaign of the Pilgrim MTA initiated in Brazil in 1950) in Germany. For this, Fr. Martin J. Emge organized a pilgrimage for his parishes with the motto: “The personal experience – A place of grace and a special jubilee”.
This pilgrimage with the great jubilee celebration left a lasting impression on those who celebrated it. The jubilee of the “Project Pilgrim Shrine” was the focus of this trip and aroused curiosity. It was hard for some to imagine that Our Lady was still traveling today in search of shelter. Every month Mary comes to visit through the picture of grace. What a beautiful thought.
During the following weeks there was a lot of discussion. As a Schoenstatt priest, Fr. Emge was able to answer the questions immediately. He had initiated this “project” very early (1999) in the Archdiocese of Bamberg together with Agnes Martin.
A total of 40 participants with moved hearts were ready to open their doors to the Blessed Mother. In both parishes, two pilgrim circles (so the families or individuals who welcome the Blessed Mother once a month are called in Germany) could be founded. For each pilgrim circle there is (in Germany) a “contact person” who mainly has organizational tasks. This person is the companion and contact person of the respective “circle”.
The sending forth on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
After all the organizational matters had been clarified, who belongs to which pilgrimage circle, including the schedule – when and for how long Our Lady will stay in each family – Father Martin J. Emge invited all those involved to the sending forth celebrations on January 1st, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.
Image of grace – two encounters
In the second part of his homily, Father Emge explained the Pilgrim Mother project:
“For 25 years, these images of grace have been on pilgrimage through our country. There are over 6000 of them. In our archdiocese there are about 90 such pilgrim circles, each of which includes up to 10 people. The Blessed Mother goes from house to house. She visits the others who are in the pilgrimage circle, just as she visited Elizabeth at that time.
It is a very simple process. Someone rings my doorbell, brings the picture of the Blessed Mother, I take it and give her a nice place in the apartment where my daily life takes place. After two or three days, I pass the picture to the next person in the circle.
Two encounters take place: in receiving the picture and in passing it on. After a month, the picture of the Blessed Mother returns.
Encounters are no longer a matter of course for many people. There are many people in our parishes who live very secluded and lonely lives. They are happy about every visit.
That is why the Pilgrim Mother is an initiative that is very exciting especially today. In a time in which people find their way less and less to the church, the church comes into the homes. Here thresholds are crossed, even for those who are no longer quite so mobile. Our circles include a wide variety of people. There are families, single people, widows, people with walking disabilities, and a whole group from the retirement home.”
Father Emge said enthusiastically, “What a beautiful initiative! God comes to us. He comes to us through Mary. Let us interrupt our everyday life again and again in the course of the coming year, and we will feel: God shares with us everything that moves us. In this way our life becomes a blessing.
The experiences of pilgrimage circle participants show that a great deal of blessing emanates from Our Lady on pilgrimage.”
What is the idea behind the Pilgrim Mother?
Mary brings Jesus into our home. She invites us to live our everyday life together with her and Jesus. Mary encourages us to consciously leave our many worries, needs and problems as Christians with her. She passes everything on to her son Jesus.
Before the blessing, the pilgrim circle participants who were present were asked to come forward to say a prayer of exchange for the sending forth of the pilgrim shrines. Here is a small excerpt: “Mary, you gave Jesus your time, your love, your strength, and in this way you prepared a home for him. You want us also to give home to one another. That is why you come to our homes. You ask for a moment of time for God and for each other, so that it is a little more beautiful with us than usual.”
The pilgrim pictures and the pilgrim circle participants were blessed. With the sending forth, Our Lady is asked, “Why don’t you come to our homes?”
Representing the circles, the pilgrim pictures were given to the accompanying persons with the words that Jesus said to John under the cross: “Behold your mother!”
This sentence obviously went under the skin. It touched very deeply.
After the great blessing of the New Year, Father Martin Emge thanked the pilgrim circle participants for their willingness to give shelter to Our Lady and said: “I wish you a good start in the circles! Much joy in receiving the image, in welcoming Our Lady and her Child. Most certainly you may feel how the blessing enters into your daily life. Let us be grateful that this initiative exists!”
I am so looking forward to welcoming Our Lady with me
One pilgrimage circle participant who was able to take Our Lady home to a three-generation family said quietly, “I am so looking forward to welcoming Our Lady to my home. But I don’t know if I am even worthy to receive her as a guest with me.”
An accompanying person, she was very touched, with tears in her eyes: “I trust completely in Our Lady!”
Those who would also like to give a place in their home to the Pilgrim Mother on her quest for shelter, please contact the respective parish office.
More information about the Pilgrim Mother can be found here:
Cover photo: Selina Kropp