Father Ferras seeks Jesus through Mary

By Peggy Moraczewski 

Two years ago, Bishop Joe Vásquez appointed Schoenstatt Father Jesus Ferras to serve as the director of the new Schoenstatt Shrine in Austin, the first Marian shrine in the Austin Diocese. He also serves as the Schoenstatt Movement Director for Texas, a movement that cultivates a Marian spirituality. 
As a teenager, Father Ferras attended Catholic schools and went to Mass on Sundays, but his relationship with the Blessed Mother was “not at all,” he said. During college he began to experience the joy of a relationship with our Blessed Mother, which ultimately illuminated the path to his vocation.
Father Ferras was born in Cuba and his family immigrated to the U.S. when he was a small child. His maternal grandfather worked as foreman of the American power company in Cuba prior to the Fidel Castro regime. Now, he enjoys visiting his family a couple times each year in Miami where he spent most of his youth. 
Initially college plans for him as a teen included seeking a degree in business administration, but plans changed after a friend invited him to a campus gathering. There he found an appealing family dynamic and college students discussing inner freedom and how seriously the Blessed Mother takes her role in one’s life. It was his first experience with a Schoenstatt group and the first time, “I felt at home in a Catholic group,” he said. 
After participating for a while, he began to see a change in himself and fell in love with Our Blessed Mother, Mary. 
“If I am so happy here (in the Schoenstatt Movement), why don’t I just stay and go to seminary,” he thought. His parents insisted he finish college, but following graduation, he entered the Schoenstatt Fathers’ seminary in Santiago, Chile. Ten years later, on March 6, 2004, he was ordained a priest in Miami and within a couple of years, he moved to Texas.
Prior to his current position, Father Ferras worked as the diocesan moderator of Hispanic Young Adults and served in the diocesan Office of Youth, Young Adults and Campus Ministry. Today, his work with young adults continues through the Schoenstatt University Branch at Austin Community College and on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin where weekly adoration of the Blessed Sacrament draws approximately 150 students. The majority of Schoenstatt vocations evolve from university and young adult groups who experience the serenity of adoration and the peacefulness of the shrine, he said.
The Schoenstatt Movement in Texas was established nearly 50 years ago; however, the Schoenstatt Fathers did not arrive in Austin until 2006. At the request of the local Schoenstatt Family, an invitation was extended to the Schoenstatt Fathers by then Bishop Gregory Aymond.
Currently, there are six Schoenstatt priests serving in Austin, and 10 in the entire U.S. They live in community and their responsibilities include ministering to families, offering spiritual direction, days of recollection and missions. In 2011, Bishop Vásquez assigned two Schoenstatt priests to the administration at St. Paul Parish in Austin.
The Marian Shrine is fundamental to the Schoenstatt Movement because it offers a physical place to encounter the Blessed Mother. Father Ferras explained that people make a connection with the shrine, as with any place of pilgrimage. 
He said visiting the shrine in Austin, which is located at 225 Addie Roy Rd., is a spiritual experience, where people bring their prayers and intentions, just as they do to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal or the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, which Father Ferras recently visited.
“(The shrine) becomes a place of grace because of all the good things that happen there. We think the shrine is a blessing for our diocese. People leave renewed, transformed, with a desire to start over. You find comfort and relief in whatever your situation is,” Father Ferras said.
The international Schoenstatt Movement was founded in the early 20th century. There are more than 200 shrines throughout the world; all identical to the original shrine located in Schoenstatt (meaning, “beautiful place”), a part of the city of Vallendar, Germany. 
“It is our spiritual home for all of us fathers,” Father Ferras said. Texas has three shrines: Austin, Rockport and San Antonio.
Radiating the joy he finds in his vocation, Father Ferras encourages everyone to visit the Austin shrine, participate in the celebration of Mass or the sacrament of reconciliation, visit with Jesus in adoration, or simply enjoy the serenity the shrine offers.
There will be a special celebration of the feast day of Our Lady of Schoenstatt on Oct. 11. Bishop Joe Vásquez will celebrate Mass at 11 a.m. on the plaza of the Schoenstatt Shrine in Austin. The public is invited to celebrate this feast.
For more information, visit www.schoenstatt.us or www.facebook.com/SchoenstattAustin.