Wayside shrines dedicated
to Blessed Mother Mary
Schoenstatt, a German word that means a beautiful place, is a Marian movement started in 1914 by Father Joseph Kentenich in the Rhine region of west-central Germany.
“The Movement emphasizes a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as we uphold her as a perfect example of love and purity,” said Father Carlos Zuniga, pastor at St. Pius X Church in Weslaco.
“Father Kentenich encouraged those devoted to Schoenstatt to invite the Blessed Mother; hence, her divine Son, Jesus Christ, into the home by establishing a spiritual Covenant of Love with her. It encourages its members to have the faith and purity of children, and to think of Mary as their mother,” he added.
Carlos Cantu, of La Feria, who has been devoted to the movement for more than 50 years, explained the different types of Schoenstatt shrines. The original is located in Germany and replicas, referred to as daughter shrines, number more than 200 throughout the world.
Wayside shrines are smaller and vary from location to location. Additionally, some families set up home shrines.
My mother-in-law, who has a special devotion to Our Lady of Schoenstatt, gave me a small framed image some time ago. In May, as I attempted to post a different picture each day of Our Blessed Mother Mary on my social media sites, I found an unexpected surprise. On the same day I posted a photo of Our Lady of Schoenstatt, I came across the newest wayside shrine dedicated in her honor at St. Pius X Church in Weslaco.
Inspired, I set off to visit each one. There are a total of six in our diocese. I was inspired as well to restart our Close to Home Pilgrimages series in The Valley Catholic.
What strikes me about each of the wayside shrines I visited – the simple beauty. Nothing fancy, nothing large, no sign announcing the location. But each chapel offers a peaceful space for prayer. A small chapel, with three walls measuring not more than five feet by six feet, open always for prayer. No key needed. You won’t find a door. You won’t even find a sign announcing the location.
Yellow roses in Weslaco; a spring bouquet in La Feria; a white and yellow silk arrangement in Santa Rosa next to a red rose and baby’s breath. Someone always places fresh flowers.
Inside on the center wall, an image of the Virgin Mary under the title of Mother Thrice Admirable. The image is from a painting by the Italian artist Luigi Crosio.
You can pray anywhere. We know this. Wayside shrines offer another place to pray. They can even serve as a reminder or a quiet escape. By visiting a wayside shrine, you stop what you are doing and make time to visit with our Blessed Mother, away from distractions and noise of the day. Or maybe while you are driving or in the area, you are moved to stop to say hello to our Mother Mary and pray with her awhile.
Two Schoenstatt sisters, Sister M. Margret Gruending and Sister M. Imma Paul, who arrived in La Feria in 1959, started promoting the devotion shortly after they came to work at St Francis Xavier Church in La Feria. Credited for the birth of the Schoenstatt Movement in the Rio Grande Valley, the sisters recruited members in the community to help build the first wayside shrine for the Mother Thrice Admirable. It was dedicated on Oct. 18, 1964 at St. Francis Xavier Church in La Feria. On the 25th anniversary in 1989, members of the local movement named it “The wayside shrine of loyalty.”
La Feria now has two wayside shrines. The first remains at the site near the old church, and a second was built on the grounds of the new church. Other shrines are located on the grounds of St. Mary Church in Santa Rosa, built in 1966; San Juan Diego Church in McAllen, built in 2010; and the newest one at St. Pius X Church in Weslaco, built in 2014. Another wayside shrine resides in Rio Grande City, on property owned by the Blas Guerra family.
Members of the Schoenstatt Movement selected the Feast of the Queenship of Mary on Aug. 22 as a day to honor the Blessed Mother Mary, Queen of Schoenstatt. This year’s Annual Queenship of Mary Celebration with Bishop Daniel E. Flores begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 22, at St. Mary Catholic Church, 101 San Antonio Ave., Santa Rosa. The feast day, established by Pope Pius XII, celebrates Mary as the queen of heaven and earth.
“In Schoenstatt, we deepen our relationship to God through what we call a covenant of love with the Blessed Mother,” Cantu shared. Adding, “Sometimes it appears like the Blessed Mother is the center. She is not the center but is at the center always pulling us, always wanting us to follow the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
(Published in August 2017 edition of The Valley Catholic)