When so many couples and families are in crisis, God motivates families to turn matrimonial love into missionary love which projects itself beyond their own family. When Father Kentenich affirms that “we live, work, and die for a new social order,” he is not making a rhetorical statement, rather he is indicating something essential to his mission as father and prophet, and therefore, to the mission of the Family.
An exceptional experience from Schoenstatt consists in the “Family Missions.” These came forth in Santiago de Chile and were brought forth by Fr. Hernán Alessandri in the parish of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows). He named them “Catholic Family Missions” with the idea that they would be open to any Church group which wanted to work with them.
The family becomes missionary
First in Paraguay and then in Argentina, they have spread with a more Schoenstatt emphasis. How do they work? A place for a mission is determined, generally it is a small place with many needs. It is coordinated with the pastor; the dates for the missions are finalized, as well as what infrastructure will be needed. The mission group is made up of families, between 8 and 10 couples with their children and children’s friends. In practicality, it is assumed that there will be 70-90 persons in attendance. Where is the particular flavor of the experience?…..that the family becomes missionary. Parents and children work together at the service of the Gospel and at the service of their brothers and sisters who are most in need.
The Pilgrim MTA stays
When I refer to a “more Schoenstatt emphasis,” it is because the missionaries want to “leave someone” at the place. Someone who is not a memento, but a program for spiritual growth; therefore, “the image of the Pilgrim MTA stays at the place.” Once the missionaries have left, it is Mary who continues as a missionary and visits the families. That the Pilgrim MTA stays does not mean that the missionaries then neglect the place, rather that some couple with their children return now and them to motivate and help with what Mary is doing there.
The entire family becomes an instrument in the hands of Mary
Naturally, the impact of these missions is twofold, in those who do the missionary work and in the community. Parents and children come to know each other at a never-experienced-before level: as evangelizers and as servants to mankind. This causes many hidden strengths to come forth, in the marriage, in the children, and in the entire family. It has to do with a true “pneumatic” experience…..the strength and the power of love of the Spirit acting in and from the matrimonial covenant of love and family love.
It is also an impact for the places where the missionaries have gone. It is an unheard-of experience: missionary families. For many poor homes with all kinds of problems, to see parents and children working together in a service of love, means renewal and hope for them.
It has to do with the fulfilling of the imperative which our Father and Founder gave to the Family in the Second Founding Document: “Carefully foster the awareness of your divine mission and instrumentality.” Awareness of instrumentality! In the Family Missions, it is the entire family that becomes an instrument in the hands of Mary.
Family Missions are realized in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Ecuador, and Spain.
Fr. Alberto Eronti
Translation: Carlos Cantú, Schoenstatt Family Federation, La Feria, Texas USA 012810