by Sr. María José Sousa
Towards the end of my sophomore year of high school, I shared with my friends that I was going to travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for part of my summer vacation. My friends looked at me skeptically and asked, “Milwaukee? What’s there to do in the ‘middle of nowhere’?”
Yes, to many people outside of the Midwest, a destination like Milwaukee sounds a little less than exciting – perhaps with the exception of some cheese, sausage, or beer lovers…
But for Schoenstatters, the word Milwaukee opens up a whole world.
Our founder, Father Joseph Kentenich, lived in Milwaukee for almost fourteen years (1951-1965). These were difficult years because he had been exiled from Schoenstatt and could not work for the movement he had been called by God to found.
The Milwaukee years, as we call them, were indeed a time of testing for the Schoenstatt Family, but also a time of great fruitfulness. So, visiting the places in which our founder lived and worked for so many years and hearing the testimonies of those who experienced his outstanding fatherly charism, inspires people to discover God’s loving hand not only behind this challenging part of the history of our movement, but also behind the incomprehensibilities of their own personal lives.
For years, our sisters stationed in Wisconsin have welcomed pilgrims from all over the world who wish to discover the traces of our founder and to let the historically significant places speak for themselves.
Setting out on Pilgrimage from Florida to Milwaukee
Such a longing was what moved twenty-nine families living in Florida to spend their Labor Day weekend in Wisconsin this year. So, from September 3 to 5, our sisters welcomed with great joy the ninety-seven pilgrims (29 couples, and 39 children and youth ages 1-23) to our International Schoenstatt Center in Waukesha.
It was a weekend filled with many natural and supernatural joys. Although two days seemed like a very short time to pass on the richness of our historical places, the pilgrims received with open hearts everything that was offered to them: talks, reflections, tours of our places, testimonies from people who experienced our founder here in the USA, a visit to the Exile Shrine and Movement House in Milwaukee, walks around our land, a family cook-out in our backyard, games of Frisbee and capture-the-flag, holy Mass, adoration, and even a ping-pong tournament during our family night!
The family atmosphere made the graces of the shrine very tangible. And all were grateful for the opportunity to take a break from their hectic lives in Miami and experience: “It is good for us to be here.”
It Was Worth it …
Certainly, spending Labor Day weekend in “Milwaukee” might not have been the most popular option for these families, but the experience of grace made it all worth it! They left with filled hearts and renewed spirits, and with the longing to share with others back home all they had received. Above all, they left convinced of the greatness of our Schoenstatt mission and the fruitfulness of our MTA from her shrines. The life of our founder – the exemplary way in which he carried the crosses which Divine Providence permitted him, the way in which he educated others with great fatherly love and concern, and his great love for God and our MTA – inspired young and old to place themselves once more into Mary’s hands as her instruments for the renewal of the world, in Christ.
God often speaks through the silence of the ordinary. Gratefully, we can attest to the fact that these families discovered a great treasure hidden in “the middle of nowhere.”