Even with all of the recent political controversy weighing on the Roman Catholic Church, a few religious organizations within the Church are on the rise with a number of local and national projects beginning to take root. The Diocese of Austin in particular has much to look forward to in the coming months as the Schoenstatt Movement of Austin prepares to welcome its first Marian Shrine to the community. Bishop Joe Vásquez has already declared Oct. 21, 2012 the day of dedication to the Shrine.
Schoenstatt, an international family of Roman Catholics, is solidifying plans to build a shrine in the hills of Austin this summer. According to the Rev. Jesus Feras, movement coordinator, efforts to construct a shrine have been in the works for 20 years, ever since the movement took root in Central Texas.
While the growing movement is relatively new to Austin, Schoenstatt – a word that translates as “beautiful place,” – made its debut in a small German village nearly 100 years ago. Founded in 1914, the Rev. Joseph Kentenich foresaw it as being a means of spiritual renewal in the Catholic Church. It is based on a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a model for love and purity, as well as a direct spiritual link to Jesus Christ. The original Schoenstatt Shrine in Germany has inspired over 200 replica shrines in more than 42 countries throughout the world, a number that is continuing to grow.
“In the fast-paced and hectic world we live in today, it’s not often we take a chance to stop, to center ourselves, and to rest with our Lord,” said Ferras. “The Shrine is an answer to this need, providing a place to rest, a place to be at peace, a place to come and pray in an intimate setting with Christ and the Blessed Mother.”
The first big step toward building the Shrine within the Diocese of Austin was taken in June 2011 when the movement acquired two houses on 17 acres of land off of Loop 360 and Bee Caves Road. According to Ruben Montez, a member of the movement’s Board of Directors, the current goal is to raise $650,000 for the construction of the Shrine, a small welcome house, a parking lot, and the landscaping around the property.
On March 25, Ferras hosted a Discernment Day for the Schoenstatt community at the main house on Addie Roy Road to discuss fundraising. As of today, the group has collected roughly $150,000, less than half it will take to build the Shrine alone.
That isn’t to say that the cause is hopeless or that progress is not being made. Members of each branch within the movement – including married couples, young professionals, university students, and consecrated men and women – are striving to get the word out about the resurrection of the Shrine, in hopes to raise money with the help of Catholic parishes in the Greater Austin area.
Such members from two of the groups, the Schoenstatt University Men and the Schoenstatt University Women, are going to such heights as to each give up their daily cup of Joe in order to contribute financially to the Shrine, realizing that every little bit counts. A few have even chosen to refrain from eating out during the week to save a few more dollars that will go toward the costs of building.
“The sacrifices are necessary, because nothing will be more rewarding than having the Shrine come to life right before our eyes,” said Colleen Kerwin, junior at the University of Texas and small-group leader within the University Women’s branch. “This is what we’ve been waiting for, and I plan to see it built before I graduate, even if that means spending a little less money on takeout.”
The SUW and SUM combined consist of approximately 50 students from UT and St. Edward’s University, not including the alumni. The two branches are led by UT Seniors Megan McQuaid and James Van Matre, both of whom are considering becoming missionaries for Schoenstatt after they graduate. “This Shrine that we’re working to build is going to be a ‘home away from home’ for the students especially,” she said. “For me, it represents a safe haven amidst the chaos of daily college life.”
With the 100th anniversary of the Schoenstatt Movement quickly approaching, Ferras said that he hopes to have the Shrine finished for the celebrations, set to take place in 2014. “We have a mission,” he added. “Our mission is to build a home for the Blessed Mother here in the beautiful city of Austin.”
[Written April 2012 for J 315 News Media and Editing, a journalism class at the University of Texas.]