GERMANY, Maria Fischer •
With a reception as colorful and diverse as life on the Kreuzberg in Bonn, the new Managing Director of Kreuzberg Bonn e.V., Roberto M. González, who took over this position on October 1st, was introduced to the people connected with the Kreuzberg on the evening of October 24th. “I still have lots of new ideas, but I want to keep it a surprise!” he said. This evening already offered a whole series of surprises. —
“From the corridors of the Supreme Court in Asunción and the prison corridors where I worked as a lawyer to the corridors of the language institute above the rooftops of Bonn”: the changeover, said Roberto M. González, was quite challenging.
Diverse international learning community
For a year now, he – himself a graduate of the language institute specializing in German as a foreign language – has been familiarizing himself with the truly diverse tasks. A novelty: a South American at the head of a German language school where people from over thirty nations struggle with der-die-das, umlauts and nested sentence grammar and eventually find joy in the language of science, poets and thinkers. Students who learn German in order to work in Germany (for a while) or to study and work in their home country with a knowledge of German. Students who make the Kreuzberg with its baroque pilgrimage church and the Schoenstatt shrine, consecrated in 1986, known all over the world.
“I learned German there,” writes Ani Souberlich, director of the Casa Madre de Tuparenda in Paraguay. “It is a beautiful place with a shrine next door and many young people from all over the world studying there.” – “A great place and an international center as a whole, language school and study house … The language institute had excellent teachers,” recalls Manuel Huapaya, director of Caritas Peru.
Twelve nations in ten benches
In the baroque Kreuzberg church with its replica of Balthasar Neumann’s “Holy Staircase”, which, as the chairman of Kreuzberg Bonn e.V., Thomas M. Butz, emphasized, belongs to the Kreuzberg but is owned by the state of NRW (“fortunately”), the guests gathered, most of whom had already had lively conversations outside. Festive acts like this one, concerts, church services – since the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Brothers of Mary has been active on the Kreuzberg, this church with its centuries-old pilgrimage tradition has been a place of open, lively religious and cultural encounters.
The guests, according to Butz, are a reflection of the diversity of this place – priests, nuns, students and former students, members of the Institute of the Schoenstatt Brothers of Mary as sponsors, teachers and honorary staff, employees of the house, members of spiritual movements, Schoenstatters (including even a “survivor” of those “Jericho marches”, which the then quite large Bonn Schoenstatt family made once a month on Sunday afternoons in wind and weather, praying and singing loudly around the grounds when it came to acquiring them. The fervent pleas of the then ten-year-old: Dear God, don’t let me meet any classmates here and give them the grounds so that this stops! Both were answered).
Twelve nations gathered in ten benches that evening: Poland, Chile, Paraguay, Poland, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Benin, Germany, India, Switzerland, Congo… Diversity is also all that stands and lives and works here on the grounds – study house, language school, church, park, shrine, the state of NRW as owner of the church, pilgrims, hikers, excursionists…
Thanks to the previous managing director Dietger M. Kuller
A new appointment is always also a farewell. Thomas Butz thanked Dietger M. Kuller, who had managed the language institute and international study center for eleven years and had made a big difference – not only in numerous renovations, but also in shaping life on site in changing times, most recently during the pandemic.
Georg Slotosch, Head of the language school, joined in the thanks, emphasizing the creative, flexible solutions that were found and implemented together during the coronavirus period. “We learned that you can also do things differently than usual.”
For his part, Dietger M. Kuller thanked the teams of the house and language school, Dr. Menke, who repeatedly celebrated church services here, the teachers, the sisters and the organist Mr. Henn, who helped shape the moment musically.
“I still have a whole range of ideas, but I want to keep it a surprise”
The requirements for language learning and the expectations of students have changed, said the new Managing Director, Roberto M. Gonzalez, at the end. That is why new forms of language courses are being developed, there are ideas for the rooms and communal areas, and he is also thinking about new elements of learning together in a place where young people from many cultures and peoples live together for a time. The Kreuzberg should become more and more of a home, a place of encounter and pilgrimage for its diverse visitors and friends. His wish: that more and more encounters as diverse as this evening would be possible here. And many a former student – not of the language school, but of Bonn University – thought of meetings of the university circle (“where you could also safely take fellow students without a Schoenstatt connection with you”) until late after midnight, even back then in the late seventies already very international and very synodal with topics that were only addressed here. That was “Kreuzberg”.
Such encounters continued late into the evening on October 24, followed by socializing over champagne and finger food in the Studienhaus.
Original: English. Translation: Maria Fischer @schoenstatt.org