Wayside Shrines: on the crossroads

Large and small wayside shrines: nailed in mountain areas, forests and valleys, towns and cities, and roadsides. The Mother Thrice Admirable’s wayside shrines sown by the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign are raised braving bad weather: wind, snow, heat, and cold in different places around the world.

The popular creativity of missionaries from different nations where these shrines are found displays enormous diversity. However there is something that they all have in common, something that unites them. It is the immense love borne of a Mother’s restless heart that wants to be close to her children because she knows they need her.

A Mother on her way that awakens the desire of generous men and women to give her shelter in their hearts, to ally themselves with her and to build a Wayside Shrine for her in their land. They want her to establish herself in their areas, to accept the prayers and sacrifices they offer her so that they will shower her graces and blessings from there for the wellbeing of their brothers/sisters. Thus giving life to the “Nothing without You, Mother, nothing without us”, untiring, in the footsteps of Joao Pozzobon, they get to work.

The beautiful stories behind the construction of each wayside shrine, speaks of the unconditional giving of self of so many Campaign missionaries who do not become discouraged by the many inconveniences and obstacles that always occur. It is not easy to obtain the land, to get endorsement from the authorities or to actually build the Wayside Shrine. But nothing stops them. Thousands of rosaries and contributions of sacrifices to the capital of grace sustain the initiative and open the roads until arriving at the long-awaited day when the Mother Thrice Admirable takes possession of this little place in the world, and she begins to shower her graces and blessings from there.

From this moment, Wayside Shrines are transformed into original extensions of the Shrine, places of encounter, where bonds are woven, and the (Blessed) Mother unites with her children giving them an experience of belonging, creating a family atmosphere.

There the Campaign missionaries gather in a special way on the 18th of every month to pray the rosary, consecrate themselves to the Blessed Mother, pray 1,000 Hail Marys, seal their Covenants of Love, and renew their giving of self to resume their mission with new strength.


In homes and on streets

Through the Campaign, the Pilgrim Mother, traveling the world, wants to come and be with families, teaching them to pray and live the mysteries of the rosary in covenant with her, and to establish herself in hundreds of thousands of home shrines. However that is not enough for her; she also wants to make herself present in public life: sharing in the lives of people, remaining on streets and roads in those little pieces of heaven where she wants to be close to all her children, getting close to the neediest ones, sharing in their sorrows and joys, and inviting everyone to become her allies that will help in her mission of transforming the world.

This is how Joao Pozzobon understood it. In 1979, he traveled to Schoenstatt, and upon his return to Brazil, he was inspired to build Wayside Shrines of Our Lady of Schoenstatt like the ones he saw in Germany.  Therefore a new current of life emerged in the Campaign: in only five years he placed forty wayside shrines “on the crossroads, in strategic points, almost always in remote places, far from the parishes, where the priest did not go.” Joao said –

Every wayside shrine erected is like an antenna that from on high attracts, in this gigantic Campaign, the strength and the gift of the Divine Holy Spirit.”

They are very simple, a bronze image of the Mother and Queen supported on a wooden post that is sunk in the ground. They are blessed in the Shrine, and then there is a second blessing with the people in the site where they are placed. Joao highly recommended that they gather close to the Wayside Shrine on the 18th of each month to pray the rosary as a symbol of unity with the Shrine, enabling the current of graces that flow from the Shrine to reach the most remote places.

Fr. Esteban Uriburu also understood the importance and the providential role of these places of Marian radiation in our time.  “In this era, when spiritual erosion is erasing every sign or vestige of the Divine in daily life, the wayside shrines emerge that are small oasis around which humble people feel the presence of their Mother more concretely.”

From this website, we want to gather photos and testimonies of life that bubbles up in so many places of where the Campaign spreads and where Wayside Shrines are emerging as the Blessed Mother passes.

In Joao’s footsteps, united to all the Campaign missionaries and families, we want to place ourselves at the service of this wonderful current of life that the Blessed Mother has given us in Schoenstatt, and which the Father and Founder valued so much. In October 1946, he did not hesitate to abandon the Annual Gathering of the Movement to go to bless a small wayside shrine of the Blessed Mother in Switzerland and to crown the Mother Thrice Admirable as Queen of the world, in a place that appeared to be of little significance.

That day he said–

Today we are around a small Wayside Shrine …in time, from something small something big will emerge. Schoenstatt was also small at one time. And from the small something large emerged, and it wants to become larger, projecting itself more and more toward the world in a time when the world is collapsing…I am heartily grateful to all those who have selflessly collaborated faithfully and simply to honor the Most Holy Virgin. Now she wants to be crowned Queen of the Universe. As Queen of Schoenstatt, she also wants to be Queen of the world: she wants to travel through the towns, conquering them, and we want and should help her in that mission.”

Yes!  We want to help our Mother and Queen in that mission. To help her travel the towns and to establish herself among us, to renew the world. We want to make the Father and Founder’s desires our own. We want to unite with the missionaries and families of the Campaign to encourage this wonderful life current of Wayside Shrines that the Blessed Mother wants to sow in the world.

But…how can we do it?

We may ask ourselves: What would happen if a strong missionary current of prayer and sanctification is elevated to heaven from every Wayside Shrine, offered to the source of graces of the Shrine, to help the Blessed Mother to establish herself in thousands of new wayside shrines in all the corners of the earth?

What would happen if, through the self-giving of the missionaries and their capital of grace, every wayside shrine assumed this mission of transforming itself into a fruitful seed to enkindle the world with the fire of the Covenant of Love that sprouts from those tiny pieces of heaven where the Mother Thrice Admirable wants to manifest herself as Queen of the people, as Queen of the world?

The Blessed Mother knows the answer. And she invites us to give ourselves to her as instruments with the same words with which the Father and Founded closed his talk in the small wayside shrine of Wessen in Switzerland: “Our life for our Queen.”

Ana Echevarría, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 15.09.2017

Album of  wayside shrines


Joao Luiz Pozzobon: Taking the MTA to the Ends of the Earth

A “schoenstatter reaching out”, a saint of the new evangelization, in solidarity with the poor, moved by one goal: to carry the Blessed Mother and her Son Jesus Christ to those who most need them. That is João L. Pozzobon, initiator of the Schoenstatt Pilgrim Mother Campaign.

John Louis Pozzobon (1904 – 1985), a member of the Schoenstatt Apostolic Movement in Brazil, father of seven children, in 1950 was asked by a Sister of Mary to take a picture of the Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt to families so that they could pray the rosary together.

John Pozzobon assumed this task and for the following 35 years until his death made it his personal mission. He walked more than 87,000 miles with this image, taking the Blessed Mother to homes, hospitals, schools, and jails, inciting in all these places the attachment to her, and the prayer of the rosary.

This “Campaign” – as John Pozzobon liked to call it – had a humble beginning, like each work of God; since 1984, it spread across South America to Central America and North America as well as to countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, altogether 85.

John lived his life to the unconditional YES of Mary. He lived a simple and humble life, dedicated completely to his family, to Schoenstatt and the Marian mission; the social commitment of the Campaign was essential to him. In faithfulness to Father Kentenich, whose “small student” he loved to call himself, he continued his mission also in times of being questioned and misinterpreted. Thanks to his faithfulness, hundreds thousands of families throughout the world receive the Pilgrim Mother, are united in prayer, discover Jesus in a deeper way, and are blessed by the graces of the Schoenstatt Shrine.

On the morning of June 27, 1985, deacon John Louis Pozzobon was run over by a truck, in midst of a thick fog, while heading towards the Shrine of Our Lady of Schoenstatt to attend to Mass, as he did each day, a few days after he had offered his life that the Campaign would become international.


Wayside Shrines – Places to Experience the Presence and Closeness of Mary from her Shrine

More than 800 Schoenstatt wayside shrines only in Argentina are an expression of Schoenstatt’s pastoral of attachment to a place of grace. Most of them came from the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign as fruits of the initiative of a single missionary or groups of missionaries. The longing for the Shrine, the longing for the experience of Mary’s presence and closeness from the Schoenstatt Shrine, is the root of all these wayside shrines. Another reason is that those who belong to the Campaign want to feel as a family and want to get together as a family around the wayside shrines, to get to know each other, to build up relationships and to share the joys and pains of lives.

The Campaign is present in many places in the interior of the country, hundreds of miles distant from the next shrine. The economic situation of the people makes it impossible for them to get into contact with the place of grace. Out of this need, the longing of the missionaries of the Pilgrim Mother is strong to make “her own piece of land” a gift to the “Mater,” as the people love to call the Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt, the Mater Ter Admirabilis. She should have her own piece of land where they can come and give themselves personally to her, where they bring her flowers and contributions to the Capital of Grace, petitions and thanks. In gratitude, and aware of the meaning of this gift, they care for the beauty and order of these places.

Feeling as a Family, Getting Together as a Family -Especially on the 18th of Each Month

Another reason for the erection of wayside shrines is that those who belong to the Campaign want to feel as a family and want to get together as a family around the wayside shrines, to get to know each other, to build up relationships and to share the joys and pains of their lives. It’s impressive to see how attachments grow and deepen through the visits by the wayside shrines. Many people come each day. All of them, however, usually come on the 18th of each month, Schoenstatt’s Covenant Day, to pray the rosary and the “Thousand Hail Mary’s,” to receive the Pilgrim Mother images that will travel among the families (blessed in a Shrine before), and from time to time celebrate Holy Mass together.

“Nothing without you, nothing without us”

Often the missionaries perceive some signs that the Mater wants them to build her a wayside shrine. They are small manifestations but very clear. The unexpected donation of land, the parish priest’s request or that of people, up to the Mater “landing” on a piece of property from the sky (after a speedy trip with gas-filled balloons) … when at another place people out of sheer joy have sent a styrofoam wayside shrine to the skies!

Before the erection, the missionaries promise to conquer the place through contributions to the Capital of Grace. They feel responsible and respond with seriousness to the condition of the Blessed Mother dwelling in their midst and rendering graces: “Nothing without you, nothing without us!”

Reading the books that accompany the Pilgrim Mother pictures often means an impressive revelation of the sincere striving and generosity, not of just a few persons but of many. We have moving testimonies of the commitment and sacrifices offered and given by various people. Next to the Capital of Grace, people offer other gifts – money, construction material, free work on the building, planning and designing of the wayside shrine.

Widening the Shrine – Fruit of the Longing to be Attached to it

The creativity is impressive. Up to this time, we have not seen two identical wayside shrines. Each one of them is a manifestation of a specific place, where the customs, traditions, climate, culture, and religiosity characteristic of their people are expressed. The wayside shrines of the MTA spread throughout the whole country, in all the dioceses of Argentina. In the cities and in the fields, in luxurious neighborhoods and in miserable villages, next to highways and dirt paths, in mountains, valleys and beside the sea, in big centers and in remote towns, the Mater is with their children, giving them her love as Mother, Queen and Educator.

The “Orientation for the pastoral of wayside shrines,” elaborated by the Central and the National Team of the Campaign, is an answer to the life inspired by the experience of the missionaries. These experiences are the most valuable contributions to this work, not inspired by a concern about the wayside shrines but to secure for the future the original spirit that created these wayside shrines at a time when we experience an expansion of wayside shrines in our country. Almost each day we get the information about a new one that was erected! It was the urgent wish to guarantee the charisma of Schoenstatt, the attachment to the MTA, to Father Kentenich and the Shrine, that created these guidelines for the wayside shrines as a “widening” of the Shrine, born from the longing to be attached to it.

“Our Mother and Queen wants to stay with us!”

Some testimonies of missionaries of the Pilgrim Mother, expressed during the blessing of a wayside shrine, may help to illustrate the value of these little places of grace for the Campaign:

“Since the Mother and Queen came as Pilgrim, she did not want to visit her children only once a month but to stay with them. ‘Stay with us,’ said the disciples to Jesus. That happens now with Mary. In many places of our country she has listened to the prayer: Stay with us, our dear Mother!”

“The roads of our country are showered with wayside shrines of the Mater. There we feel as her children, and she transforms us into siblings.”

“Since June 27, 1985, the death of João Pozzobon, days, months, and years have passed. His remains rest in the cemetery of Santa Rita. The grain of wheat has to fall to the ground and die, then it will bear abundant fruit.”

My Home, my Schoenstatt Land

Recently I remembered a personal experience from my vacation and travels, an experience that demonstrates how all of us, not only those living by a wayside shrine, feel as a family around the wayside shrines. It’s difficult to express how one feels when traveling to another place – either for work, for apostolate, or vacation – one soon discovers a wayside shrine of the Mater. At once you feel at home, in a family. Even when you don’t know anybody there you feel attached to them because you share the same love, the love for our Mother. Then it begins with looking at each other, followed by smiles, and sooner or later you are speaking and, in the end, we thank our Mother for the meeting and renew our Covenant of Love. It’s especially impressive on the Covenant Days when people from all areas come to the wayside shrine. Spontaneously, I remember the words of Father Kentenich: “This is my home, my Schoenstatt land!”

Monina Crivelli, 2001. English edition: Joan Biemert, New Franken, Wisconsin, USA

The Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign and the mission of Belmonte

The dedication of the Matri Ecclesiae shrine is strongly connected with the Pilgrim Mother, who “replaced” the picture for the shrine in the Vatican gardens on the eve of the dedication. Christina White shares:

“On the occasion of the symbolic blessing of the foundation stone for the shrine at Belmonte in 1965, Fr Kentenich spoke about how necessary it is for the Church to move towards the people as a “pilgrim rock”. That is what God has given us from the beginning through the Pilgrim Mother – a Schoenstatt that goes out to encounter people, a Blessed Mother who, as the Christ Bearer, Mother and Educator of people, wants to hasten towards them in a new visitation. In order to advance Schoenstatt’s mission of forming the world into Christ through Mary, the Pilgrim Mother Campaign needs leaders who – in the spirit of Joao Pozzobon, who envisaged a worldwide movement – believe in this mystery and courageously commit themselves to it. This is the great challenge. (…)

I personally had the grace to work very closely with Fr Esteban Uriburu, and to witness his passion for this river of life and grace that had broken through in Santa Maria, which he discovered and spread as he made Joao Pozzobon and his spirit widely known. He always said that we would only see the tip if the iceberg, and that there was far more to it. … He would be in the forefront today in committing himself to Belmonte’s mission, and from heaven he motivates us again and again to do this! As missionaries with a heart that is open to the world, as Don Joao’s was, I think that we need to take over the mission of the Belmonte shrine, and make it known everywhere through the Pilgrim Mother Campaign. This is how we can fill the capital of grace of this shrine, become living stones of Belmonte, and collaborators of the Great Missionary in her task of educating new people in the new community, the Church and world. We will then bring about the current of “going out” to our suffering brothers and sisters, as Pope Francis has repeatedly begged us to do.”

Cristina White, Buenos Aires


The Pilgrim Mother Campaign