Questions about the Secular Institute of Schoenstatt Fathers
1. Who are the Schoenstatt Fathers?
We are a community of Roman Catholic priests whose primary mission is the priestly service of the International Schoenstatt Movement. Together with this movement we work towards the moral and religious renewal of society and the mission of the Church. We have about 220 ordained members in 20 nations worldwide.
2. Why a “Secular Institute”?
Our official name is “Secular Institute of Schoenstatt Fathers”. This is because our place in the church is that of a secular institute, a community dedicated to furthering the Church’s mission in the world (“secular” comes form the Latin word for “world”). We strive to be an example of the proper balance between keeping the duties of faith and prayer (in our case fulfilling all the duties of the priesthood) and being apostolic in a world so much in need of God.
3. When were we founded?
While the Schoenstatt Fathers were only founded in 1965, our roots go back to the founding of the Schoenstatt Movement on October 18, 1914. On that day, Father Joseph Kentenich (1885-1968) and a group of high school seminarians made a covenant of love with Mary, asking her to take possession of their chapel (now known as our Schoenstatt Shrine) to help them become saints and draw many youthful hearts to herself. The ensuing years verified that Mary was indeed very active in this new place of grace, drawing Catholics since then from around the world.
As a secular institute, Rome approved our community as an institute of pontifical right on June 24, 1988. We also have the right of incardination, i.e. our ordained members are incardinated directly into the community instead of a diocese.
4. What does “Schoenstatt” mean?
Schoenstatt, a German word for “beautiful place”, is the name of the valley in Germany where the Original Schoenstatt Shrine is located. It is very near the Rhine River at Koblenz (1 hour south of Cologne).
It has also become the name of the international movement associated with the shrine. There are currently over 140 replicas of the Original Shrine around the world. The movement involves lay people, priests, and religious, with special branches for boys and girls youth and for the sick. It is the task of the Schoenstatt Fathers to help coordinate and inspire these many parts which share a common spirituality.
5. What is our charism?
Our charism as a community might be summed up with the words: love of Mary, love of the Church, love of the mission of Christ.
a. Love of Mary. We love the Blessed Mother. She is at the heart of our spirituality as the “Mother Thrice Admirable, Queen and Victress of Schoenstatt” or “MTA” for short. Our spirituality is anchored in the form of Marian consecration particular to Schoenstatt, namely a generous and mutual covenant of love with the MTA in the Shrine.
b. Love of the Church. From our founder, Father Kentenich, we have a strong love for the Church. He devoted himself untiringly to the mission of the Church in our times. We for our part make the inscription on his tomb our mission: Dilexit Ecclesiam — He loved the Church.
c. Love of the Mission of Christ. As sharers in the one priesthood of Christ, we are especially bound to Our Lord and Savior. This does not only express itself in love for the Eucharist (like our founder, we cherish the daily celebration of the Mass) and our striving for sanctity, but also in our desire to share Christ’s mission of proclaiming his Father.
This proclamation takes special form in our understanding of the priesthood as a “priestly fatherhood” in the service of Christ and the Church. We strive to find God the Father’s voice in our times and in our lives and to live a “practical faith in Divine Providence”. This demands of us a strong spirit of prayer and active listening to what God might be trying to tell us through the events of everyday life.
6. What is our apostolate?
Around the world, our apostolate includes parish work, missions, hospitals, and schools. But our main task is always the priestly inspiration and guidance of the Schoenstatt Movement. Because of this, we center our work around our Schoenstatt Shrines and centers: leading retreats, doing youth work, guiding the individuals and branch communities of the Schoenstatt Movement.
7. What is our organizational structure?
Our community has a traditional provincial structure, with the General Superior and his council stationed in Schoenstatt, Germany. A unique feature of our internal organization is the “courses”. Candidates who go through the same novitiate together form a permanent course. Here members find an additional form of support and inspiration as they go through their formation and the many phases of priestly ministry.
8. How does one join the Schoenstatt Fathers?
To join the Schoenstatt Fathers, a young man begins by taking up contact with a member of the community. Because of the importance of the Schoenstatt Movement to our mission, we normally encourage potential candidates to become more familiar with the Schoenstatt Movement and to read about its history and spirituality. With time, a vocation to our community will need to grow into the covenant of love with Mary and a love for the Schoenstatt Shrine. After a time of discernment (usually guided by on of the Fathers), one can apply for acceptance as a postulant. If accepted, one normally spends a time of three months in the U.S. in immediate contact with one of our houses before going to South America to learn Spanish and prepare for the novitiate.
Qualifications for entry include: A sound personality, good health (physical, emotional, psychological), ability to study on the university level, and an active spiritual life. The community normally requires two complete years of university coursework in philosophy, Greek, and Latin is helpful. The normal age limits for acceptance are 20 to 27 years of age.
9. What is our course of studies and formation?
Because of the small size of our U.S. community, all studies and formation are presently conducted in South America and in the Spanish language. This not only directly benefits the later pastoral work (knowing Spanish and Latin American culture), but also helps one grow into the larger international community. Friendships are established and habits of community life are learned which are crucial for one’s later priesthood.
The course of studies begins with the 2-year novitiate near Asuncion, Paraguay. This is followed by a 5 or 6 year course of philosophy and theology studies in Santiago, Chile. This time of studies is interrupted after about three years for a year of practical pastoral experience in the U.S. (living in the community here), a 3-month time of further formation called a tertianship, and a year in original Schoenstatt, Germany to become more familiar with German and the works of Father Kentenich.
Upon completion of all studies (from the beginning of novitiate about 9-10 years), one is ordained a deacon and returns to the U.S. Ordination to the priesthood follows. Following the wisdom of our founder, ordination to the priesthood does not normally take place before one’s 30th birthday.
10. What does the community look like in the U.S.?
Our Schoenstatt Fathers community in the United States is quite small. At present, we have 6 priests in the U.S. and 2 seminarians (studying in South America). We have been blessed with 3 ordinations in the 1990s and are grateful for our blessings. We maintain two community houses: our national headquarters in Waukesha, Wisconsin (near Milwaukee) and a further center in Corpus Christi, Texas. Here we maintain our community life in the midst of the demands of apostolate; our work across the U.S. is maintained form these centers.
For further information, contact:
W284 N746 Cherry Lane
Waukesha, WI 53188
Fr. Christian Christensen
7839 Wheel Rim Cir
Austin, TX 78749
Our web site: www.schoenstatt-patres.org