Austin’s Schoenstatt Shrine is now open
By Michele Chan Santos
After years of prayer, hard work and sacrifice, Austin’s first Schoenstatt Shrine –– the third one in Texas and one of more than 200 around the world –– has been dedicated and is now open for visitors.
It is located on a quiet hilltop in West Austin with a beautiful view at 225 Addie Roy Rd., near the intersection of Loop 360 and Bee Cave Road. The shrine is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is a place of pilgrimage and prayer.
The Schoenstatt Shrine is a small white chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Inside is a hand-carved altar surrounding a serene painting of the Blessed Mother with the baby Jesus. Every Schoenstatt Shrine is a replica of the original shrine, located in the valley of Schoenstatt near the city of Koblenz, Germany. The original shrine in Germany is the movement’s spiritual home and center.
The Schoenstatt Movement was founded by Father Joseph Kentenich (1885-1968), a German-born priest who spent three years in a concentration camp at Dachau, Germany, for defying the Nazis. Father Kentenich is being considered for sainthood.
It was at the original shrine that Father Kentenich and his students entered into a covenant of love with Mary and learned to see her as a bridge leading to a deep and fervent love of God. The worldwide movement emphasizes spiritual renewal through Mary’s example and intercession.
Schoenstatt Father Jesus Ferras said everyone is invited to visit the shrine. He is the director of the Schoenstatt Movement in Texas and works with the youth, young adult and university branches of the movement here.
“In every place where the Schoenstatt Movement develops, the shrine is a place of grace where the Blessed Mother forms and educates her children,” Father Ferras said. “The shrine is for the whole diocese. It is a place of pilgrimage dedicated to the Blessed Mother.”
Bishop Joe Vásquez dedicated the shrine at a Mass on Sept. 13. The dedication Mass was a joyful and beautiful outdoor celebration with temperatures in the 60s and continuous rain.
“God and Our Lady are blessing us with rain,” Bishop Vásquez said to appreciative laughter from the crowd of hundreds gathered under umbrellas and tents, wearing ponchos and rain jackets. “She is sending us wonderful blessings from Heaven.”
Builder Rodney Winter, engineer Javier Barajas, building designer Cammi Klier and Greg Ruhl, chairman of the building committee, presented the bishop with the ceremonial keys to the shrine.
More than 25 priests (Schoenstatt priests and diocesan priests) concelebrated the Mass.
Bishop Vásquez alternated speaking Spanish and English during his homily. There were many visitors from Mexico and from South America, where the Schoenstatt Movement has an especially strong following in Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Paraguay. The movement has followers in 110 countries.
“Shrines are places where pilgrims come to find healing and strength,” Bishop Vásquez said. “The Christian is a pilgrim and ours is a pilgrim church. Shrines are places where we can more clearly see the presence of Jesus.”
“We are united with the Schoenstatt family today,” he continued. “This is a day of joy and celebration.”
The fact that the Austin shrine was finished in 2014 – the 100th anniversary year of the founding of the Schoenstatt Movement – is a tremendous blessing, Father Ferras said.
“Divine Providence made the opening of our shrine to fall on the 100th anniversary year,” Father Ferras said. “It’s a huge, huge gift. Three shrines are being dedicated this year – ours, another in Bangalore, India, and the third in Santiago, Chile. I never imagined such a tremendous blessing as being able to accomplish the building of this shrine by the centennial. We have been striving for many years.”
The shrine is small (it seats about 30 people.) For large events like the dedication Mass, people gather on the spacious, tree-shaded patio in front of the chapel.
More than 500 people belong to the Schoenstatt Movement in the Diocese of Austin. They belong to different parishes, but gather in groups (family branch, university student branch, etc.) for prayer and fellowship.
Many of the members of the movement, who have spent years working toward the goal of this shrine, were tremendously moved by its completion. They named the Austin shrine the “Bethlehem Cradle of Sanctity.”
For Lizette Anglin, a member of Schoenstatt’s family branch, the shrine’s dedication “is the biggest dream and hope ever realized. It’s a beautiful gift to the Blessed Mother.”
Marcela Pinto is the chair of the dedication event. “For me, this day represents a day to share with the Diocese of Austin all the beauty of Schoenstatt spirituality,” Pinto said. “It’s the beginning of a new stage. Now more people can grow to love the Blessed Mother as we do.”
Carlos Licona is a board member with the movement. “For me, this day is proof that we can change the world. This is a gift that has to be shared with the world,” he said.
Father Ferras explained, “Visiting the Shrine should feel like when you go home and see your mom. She welcomes you here. This is a place where Mary acts, and where she dwells.”
Visiting the Schoenstatt Shrine
Where it is: The Schoenstatt Shrine is located at 225 Addie Roy Rd., Austin, 78746 (off of Bee Caves Road near the One World Theatre). There is parking at the shrine.
Hours: Open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
Masses: Masses are held on Sundays at 11 a.m. and on Wednesdays at 7 a.m.
What to expect: It’s a small chapel with a lovely, handmade altar inside surrounding a painting of the Blessed Mother and the baby Jesus. Volunteers will be available at the site each day to answer questions.
To learn more: Visit www.schoenstatt.us or on Facebook, look for Schoenstatt Movement of Austin.