by María Francisca Barbé Gerschberg, Chile
Last June, I traveled from Chile to the United States because I wanted to get to know the so-called “exile land” where Father Joseph Kentenich lived for 14 years. I was told it was a place full of graces, very special, rich in history, and where the presence of Mary and Fr. Kentenich is tangibly felt. I stayed for a month at the Retreat Center in Waukesha (Wisconsin, USA): a vast land with incredible vegetation that fills you with peace and silence, where the heart is truly transformed through the presence of God and the graces that Mary gives in her shrine.
One feels that it is a place full of graces where souls are filled with peace, not only because of the shrine but also because of the vivid green color of the pine trees, the Sisters of Mary we encounter, the pilgrims who attend the events take place there, and the long trails that remind us of eternity… Walking through the vast land surrounding the Center, one is undoubtedly reminded of the Original Shrine in Germany or the Bellavista Shrine in Chile. And it must be so! All these places are one in our Mother Thrice Admirable, who radiates and transforms both the physical place and every heart she touches.
During my stay, I had the privilege of participating in a program called “Time Off”, with young women from Mexico and Puerto Rico. The main goal of this program was to get us out of our comfort zones and daily routines so that – with open hearts and attentive ears – we could listen to God’s voice in our souls.
The program was facilitated by two Sisters of Mary: Sister María José and Sister Gabriela María. They led it in an original, entertaining, and dynamic way so that it was a perfect time for everyone who participated. It was indeed a time of formation and personal growth. Each day we discussed a different topic from the point of view of Schoenstatt’s spirituality. Through the workshops and discussions we realized that, despite our cultural diversity, we shared in the same needs and longings.
The program was not only about the workshops. We also had the opportunity to visit places of great historical significance for the Schoenstatt Movement: the Exile Shrine, the Founder Shrine in Madison, the city of Milwaukee, Lake Michigan, etc. We went sightseeing, too! Every element of the program transformed our time together into a perfect space for the soul.
It is said that the Sisters of Mary have a special charism that sets them apart. I have experienced that, regardless of where you encounter them, they radiate a little Mary on earth. I thank the Sisters’ community in Waukesha (Wisconsin) for my stay at the Center. It was a perfect time and an immense gift from God.
Thank you very much!
María Francisca Barbé Gerschberg