By Sister M. Isabel Bracero
When viewing a Christmas pageant, it’s interesting to watch how each child tries to represent the corresponding character. For example, the cow and the donkey should quietly remain at the side of Joseph and Mary and not move around like the angels who announced the coming of the Messiah. The shepherds should not bring gifts like the kings. The star cannot compress itself to shine inside the stable. No, everyone has to properly do their part so that the story of Christmas can be portrayed at its best.
Similarly, we, too, are meant to fulfill our role, and not a different one. We should do it in the best way possible, wherever God places us, and not in any other place. This could be highlighted in the case of consecrated souls. But, when speaking about the role of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, we stress a distinct calling. We have the task to represent, or rather, to embody the image of Mary – not once a year, but every single day of our lives.
Our specific mission is to resemble Mary in the midst of our Church and world of today, for one another, and even more so for our Schoenstatt Movement. Among the manifold areas of work our sisters can have, some of our sisters dedicate all their time and strength to provide the formation, guidance, and orientation that the members of the Schoenstatt Movement need. We are here also to introduce people to Schoenstatt’s spirituality, to its ideals, and most importantly, to Schoenstatt’s source of grace: the Schoenstatt Shrine. Of course, these are not the only tasks we fulfill in reference to the Schoenstatt Movement. We could be more specific. But from a general standpoint, indeed, we are here to embody Mary for those who connect with Mary in her shrine.
Since the year 1926 we have been at the service of people from all walks of life who decide to grow in their faith through the covenant of love with our Mother Thrice Admirable. This is the core experience of Schoenstatt. It is also the original way in which Schoenstatt enriches the Church and anyone who is open for it. It is our core experience of Mary, too. In the course of our history – approaching the 100 years’ mark – we have discovered various methods to convey the message and dynamism of this covenant of love with Mary. We could mention how as the community expanded and reached out to other continents outside of Europe, in many cases, diversity enriched our way of providing spiritual formation. But this year 2020, the circumstances have taken us beyond our aspirations or expectations of newer venues.
The online platforms are, at present, our principal means for connecting with the people and providing spiritual formation. Our team of Movement Sisters behind the scenes continues to have the weighty responsibility to let the light of Christ break through into our darkened world, because this is Mary’s role, to this day. This fact places the professional training and technological mechanics under a different perspective. What does this mean? Well, the most important aspect of the task is not the savvy-ness or expertise, but the love with which we do it and the mission that we are called to fulfill.
Now, of course, inevitably we have been through a learning curve. For example, when we saw how websites needed to be created and maintained, we also found out how much editing and graphic design work is needed for that. But our call to be Mary gave us the thrust to continue inspiring our web visitors. When we discovered how blog posts have to regularly feed our sites, we also enjoyed seeing the many experiences of God’s guidance our people are willing and able to share online. The call to be Mary gave us the orientation to build up on those experiences to lead our people higher and deeper. When we found out that Facebook pages have to constantly be updated, we also came across wonderful collaborators. In representation of the Blessed Mother we have tried to balance the reality of extremely difficult moments with the hope, consolation, and down-to-earth message of Schoenstatt. When we ventured into live broadcast or opening Zoom rooms, we learned the first steps from those we were connecting with or inviting to join. We literally learned from them, by the minute, on the hour, shortly before going on the air. They would walk us through until we could hear: “Now we can hear and see you!” And, only then, we knew what broadcasting entails. Again, on account of our role of being Mary for the world, we saw the need to step into this unknown field of online communication in order to continue being who we are, in our day and time.
Seen from the perspective of the Christmas pageant, the children don’t necessarily know from a Gospel reading what the donkey and the cow, the angel or the shepherd may have been like. Similarly, none of us came to the community exactly knowing what our tasks would specifically include in 10, 20, or 30 years. Because we are instruments in the hands of God, we do our part with total trust that our Heavenly Father will always show us how to ensure a fruitful and effective apostolate. Before the pandemic, it may have been a trip to another state where one has to train leaders, school new members, or introduce participants to the beautiful world of our spirituality. At present, it may take the form of a prayerful moment in the shrine or of a reflection via Zoom, a webinar, a post, or a pre-recorded presentation. Whatever the task may be, we continue facing the same challenge: to embody Mary for our Church and world of today.