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Chapter Seven: About Schoenstatt's Organization and Structure

See Apostolicam actuositatem 10, 24 (hierarchy and lay apostolate); CCC 773 (Petrine and Marian dimensions of the Church), 861f, 873-896.

Schoenstatt is an ecclesial movement (è 2) with a distinct structure in keeping with its spirituality and place in the Church.

Its place in the Church is that of a support and supplement to the existing structures in the Church. It supports the aims of the Church in her hierarchical structure (parish and pastor, diocese and bishop, etc.), even while offering impulses and activities typical of the movements: vibrant lay spirituality, additional opportunities for apostolate, community and faith experiences, etc. It is rather like the complementation of the Petrine and Marian charisms in the Church alluded to in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 773), where the accent on renewal and holiness (“Marian” charism) goes hand in hand with the accent on the Church in its “unity of mission” (CCC 873) and as an organized and effective body fulfilling its sacred trust to bring and nourish the Gospel in every part of the globe and through all ages (“Petrine” charism).

In keeping with its spirituality, Schoenstatt has a structure designed to be flexible and effective in cultivating the call to holiness. It wishes to evoke a maximum of freedom and initiative from its members, even while using a loose but concise organizational structure to facilitate the good working of the movement and to secure its identity and mission. These structures include various kinds of communities, including those which secure the overall identity and provide a core of leadership, and basic requirements, traditions and pedagogical tools (è 129) which express and secure the movement’s spirit and vitality. It also includes leadership circles and coordinating bodies which provide cohesion between the many groups and communities and general statutes which secure in writing general guidelines for the organization of the movement.

The underlying principles behind Schoenstatt’s structure and organization could be grouped under the headings “spirit” and “style.” “Spirit” refers to the way it relates to its spirituality, “style” relates to the way it puts this spirit into action.

The principles which underlie the spirit of Schoenstatt’s organization are found in the three parts of the “message” of Schoenstatt (è 20-27):

the covenant of love with Mary,

practical faith in Divine Providence,

and mission consciousness.

The effect of the covenant of love on Schoenstatt’s structure and organization is unmistakable (è 69). At times, Fr. Kentenich called it the “formal principle” which inspires and informs all of Schoenstatt, including its structure. Just as the soul penetrates and animates the body, the covenant of love with the MTA gives a distinct vitality and flavor all its forms and structures. Its organization is Marian, respectful of the freedom and autonomy of each person, ever in search of new ways to show one’s love for God and neighbor, community oriented, focused on cultivating genuine Christian life, attentive to the will of God the Father, Christ-devoted and Christ-centered, alive to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

The effect of practical faith in Divine Providence is to give all of Schoenstatt’s structures the quality of searching for God’s will. Here, too, the paramount importance of the freedom of individuals and communities is clear, for God seeks a free and magnanimous response to his will. It also leads to a strong ethos of working with life and the God of life. The way Schoenstatt is structured is meant to allow a maximum of cultivating life and growth (è 105-111). In this regard it is not forms and institutions which stand in the foreground, but the spirit and life which God stirs in the soul.

The effect of mission consciousness is to give all of Schoenstatt’s structures an apostolic orientation. This is apparent in its official name (“Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt,” è 4) as well as in its desire to do all it can to help renew the Church and world.

The “style” of Schoenstatt’s structures can be described as

confederative,

family-like and

anchored but flexible.

Confederative refers to a style of organization which is

centered (in a common identity and spirituality) but decentralized (in its leadership and structures).

Schoenstatt is not composed of just one community or organization, but many autonomous but related communities. The accent is placed on unity in diversity as well as the richness and creativity that comes from multipolarity (different kinds of communities, different kinds of apostolates, different accents in spiritual striving, etc.). Leading a diverse family such as Schoenstatt is more challenging are requires the ability to work with and appreciate many charisms. One must know how to balance structure and freedom, following the founder’s oft-repeated principle: freedom as much as possible, obligations only but also as much as necessary, cultivation of the spirit as much as possible. Communication is also an essential foundation for leading such an organization, as is the establishment of genuine moral authority built on personal interest in each member, vision, sacrifice, democratic involvement of all members and wise use of the authority with which one has been entrusted.

Family-like refers to a style of organization which is able to resist the tendency of institutional forms to petrify or stifle life. It is a style which works to connect spirit and form (overcoming dead formalism), persons and obligations (overcoming the rigid legalism). Such a style shows in the interest in consulting with one another when mutual concerns are at stake. It shows in a sense of solidarity for one another in which the various parts support and feel responsible for the well-being of one another, even to a certain sense of unity with the others’ mission. It also shows in the fostering of moral authority and respect for those asked to lead. Because of the strong emphasis on freedom, it is much easier to ignore the leaders; this is counteracted by a family-like desire to see in the authority-bearers the embodiment of the unity of the whole and the voice of God speaking through his or her efforts to promote the aims of the group or community.

Anchored but flexible refers to Schoenstatt’s style of seeking flexibility to accommodate much freedom and many kinds of initiative, but without loss of identity or its unique charism. Part of any effective spiritual work in our times is to face the challenge of adapting to constantly changing situations and needs; hence the need for flexibility. But mere activism can also lead to superficiality or a splintering of forces; hence the need for certain forms which help anchor the spirit behind the structures. They can be anchored according to the “law of exemplary cases” (è 122), that is, through groups or places which exemplify an ideal so that others can see the model lived in life, even while giving a certain instinctive flexibility in its concrete application elsewhere.

First, Schoenstatt is organized according to 1) the state of life and 2) the level of commitment of its members.

The organization by state of life (men, women, couples, priests) is a natural outgrowth of Schoenstatt’s accent on personality and faith formation, which is best fostered in groups with others of the same vocation and state in life. There are exceptions, especially on the pilgrim level, where the aspect of formation is not so pronounced.

The organization by level of commitment shows in different ways one can belong to Schoenstatt. One can belong as a pilgrim who occasionally visits the Shrine or as someone who as made Schoenstatt his or her full-time vocation, or one of various ways in between. Organizationally, this leads to the division of Schoenstatt into

- the Pilgrim Movement (or Peoples’ and Pilgrim Movement)

- the Apostolic League

- the Apostolic Federation

- the Secular Institutes

Schoenstatt’s pilgrim movement (or the peoples’ and pilgrim movement) is the broadest base of the Schoenstatt Family. It includes all those with a personal connection or attachment to Schoenstatt. Hence, anyone with a special love for the Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt, or the Shrine, or Fr. Kentenich and who makes occasional contributions to the capital of grace can be considered a pilgrim. Pilgrims are not officially required to commit to any specific apostolate, to join any group or to make a formal spiritual commitment. They may live in a more or less loose communion with Schoenstatt and its Shrine.

Special initiatives and organizations are possible on the level of the pilgrim movement. Examples of this are the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign, where the Pilgrim MTA is brought to many people (è 66) and the Schoenstatt Apostolate of the Sick, with its outreach to the elderly and infirm.

The Apostolic League is the broad organization of those who make the aims of Schoenstatt their own, live its spirituality and engage themselves apostolically according to their possibilities and state in life. Entry into the League formally takes place when one makes the covenant of love. One can belong to the League as an “associate member” or “member” (è 144).

The League is organized into “branches” according to the walks of life. Hence, one belongs to the Family (or Couples) League, the Mothers League, the Women’s League, the Men’s League, the Priests’ League, etc. The League is generally organized by diocese. It is the part of Schoenstatt meant to be most directly useful to the local bishop and the apostolate of the diocesan Church. On the other hand, when the League of a given area is still small, it can be organized on a regional basis until such time as a diocesan structure can be formed.

One belongs to the Apostolic League first as an associate member and then, if one so chooses, as a member.

Associate members have made their covenant of love. They have been accepted by the leadership of the league as willing and able to fulfill its basic commitments:

- occasional apostolate,

- general interest and growth into Schoenstatt’s spirituality,

- contact with the community of the League: ordinarily through participation in a Schoenstatt group and in at least one League event during the year.

Members come from the ranks of the associate members who feel that they are called to a stronger leadership role in the League. After an appropriate time of growth into Schoenstatt, they are accepted at the “membership dedication.” This dedication is a moment of further growth into the covenant of love. Members take on greater commitments in the League and generally form the leadership backbone of the League’s activities (leadership circle, membership circle or the like). Their commitments are:

- a permanent apostolate in keeping with their state in life,

- permanent striving for sanctity through the use of the educational tools proper to the movement: Personal Ideal, Particular Examination, Spiritual Daily Order with written control, and a monthly report, if possible, to a stable confessor,

- committed participation in the community of the League: if possible in a Schoenstatt group, in the activities organized by the diocesan branch of the League to which one belongs, in the leadership or membership circle to the extent this is possible.

Both the members and associate members of the League belonging to the same branch and state in life form a local league branch. This is ordinarily a diocesan organization. The local league branch has regular leaders’ meetings to coordinate apostolic initiatives, new groups, retreats or other special events. When a sufficient number has made the membership dedication, it is customary that a membership circle is formed. Its purpose is to see to the particular needs of the members and to be attuned to ways they can help the associate members.

The local league branch elects a diocesan leader every three years; the election involves both members and associate members and the person or couple elected can be from either group. Ordinarily, the Movement Director and Central Committee of the Movement will provide support to the local league branch by appointing a Moderator, who in turn helps keep the Movement Director and Central Committee informed of the growth and needs of the local league branch.

Two special forms of the League are the Schoenstatt Boys’ Youth and Schoenstatt Girls’ Youth, each an independent organization with its own leadership and customs. Because the youth are in constant growth and transition, the organization and methods of the Youth branches are distinct from those of the other branches of the League.

The Schoenstatt Boys Youth (founded 1914) offers groups and activities for boys of all ages. In the United States it is organized by age groups this way: 6-9 year-olds belong to the “Knights of Jesus and Mary,” boys 10 years and older are organized as the “Schoenstatt Boys,” often with special activities for the high school boys. University aged men (age 18 and older) form their own branch of the Schoenstatt Boys Youth. The Boys Youth in other countries is generally structured the same, but often with different names for the groups and branches of the different age levels.

The Schoenstatt Girls Youth (founded 1931) organizes groups and activities for girls of all ages. The youngest groups (Kindergarten to Grade 3) are called the “Little Crowns,” while girls in Grades 4 to 8 are called the “Marian Apostles.” There is a special High School branch with its own goals; this culminates in making the “acceptance dedication.” Young women of university age (18 and older) have their own branch and can make the “youth dedication.” This structure is essentially the same in other countries as well.

The Apostolic Federation (in South Africa: Apostolic Union) is the part of the Schoenstatt work which unites a maximum of striving for sanctity with a relative minimum of juridical form and norms. It goes beyond the demands of the Apostolic League by forming a permanent community striving for the spirit of the evangelical counsels. But it freely chooses to remain on the level of the associations of the Christian faithful (see Code of Canon Law, No. 298-329), as opposed to institutes of the consecrated life (as in Schoenstatt’s secular institutes), in order to express a maximum of magnanimity in striving for Christian perfection.

In terms of organization, one must speak of federation communities in the plural. As with the League, the Federation is organized into distinct communities according to one’s state in life. Hence, one belongs to one of five federations: the Family Federation, Mothers’ Federation, Men’s Federation, Women’s Federation, Priests’ Federation, etc. Each federation has its own internal structure, including the structures of “official” and “free” community. It normally organizes itself nationally. Each federation branch can also have its own international coordinating council.

One joins a federation community through a formal process of discernment, application and candidacy. Along the way one becomes familiar with what is required of its members:

- a permanent and universal spirit of apostolate in keeping with one’s state in life, especially as leaders,

- permanent striving for the spirit of the evangelical counsels, including through the educational tools proper to the movement: Personal Ideal, Particular Examination, Spiritual Daily Order with written control, and a monthly report, if possible, to a stable confessor,

- permanent commitment to the federation community, especially to one’s course and course ideal (the “free” community), but also to the one’s federation branch on the national and (if applicable) international level (the “official” community).

Central to the formative time of the candidacy is the experience of one’s course. The course is the group of candidates that begins its formation at the same time. They form a unique and permanent community within the federation, and have their own course ideal. Formal membership begins when the course is ready to make its consecration; at that time each member makes his or her consecration. This total gift of self to the MTA becomes the foundation not only for one’s personal striving for the spirit of the evangelical counsels, but also for one’s commitment to the federation community. The consecration is renewed on a temporal basis over the course of 6 years before one becomes a permanent member of the federation through final consecration. This commitment is not secured through any kind of contract or juridical bond but entirely through the generosity of the members and the moral binding force of the covenant of love on the members and the federation community.

See CCC 914-915, 928-929; Perfectae Caritatis 1-6, 8, 11.

Schoenstatt’s Secular Institutes are institutes of the consecrated life (see Code of Canon Law, No. 710-730) which have originated in Schoenstatt and form the most juridically anchored core of the Schoenstatt Work. They are permanently committed to strive for the evangelical counsels of chastity (virginity), poverty and obedience through a juridical bond officially recognized by the Church. Once Pope Pius XII established the secular institutes in 1947, Fr. Kentenich saw this as the appropriate place in canon law for his leading communities. This form corresponded to his own desire to have communities with great flexibility to work in the world and join together the spirit of religious and laity, orders and secular priests, God and world.

Fr. Kentenich founded six such institutes: the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary (1926); the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Brothers of Mary (1942); the Secular Institute of Schoenstatt Diocesan Priests (1945); the Secular Institute of Our Lady of Schoenstatt (Ladies of Schoenstatt) (1946); the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Fathers (1965); and the Schoenstatt Family Institute (1968). The first five have been approved by the Church on either the diocesan or pontifical level; the Family Institute, breaking ground as a possible form of secular institute for married couples, is still awaiting formal approval by the Church.

Although the Schoenstatt secular institutes are independent and each has its own unique traditions and forms, they have certain features in common.

After an appropriate novitiate (in which all who entered at the same time form a permanent course community), members of the secular institutes make a contract with their community in which individual and community agree to mutual faithfulness. It is coupled with a consecration to God and the MTA. This “contract-consecration” is roughly parallel to the vows of other communities, but is deliberately built on a “secular” bond, namely a contract such as any worker might make with a company. This places an increased accent on the member’s freedom, but also on his co-responsibility if the community is to succeed. The consecration is the religious element which lends moral and supernatural strength to the contract, giving it the needed permanence. This form of juridical bond is recognized by the Church. It is made on a temporal basis for at least five years (depending on the respective institute), after which it is made permanent in a final incorporation or contract-consecration. This commitment represents the most juridically binding commitment within the organization of Schoenstatt. Together with it come commitments to:

- a permanent and universal spirit of apostolate in keeping with one’s state in life and the mission of the institute,

- permanent striving to live the evangelical counsels and their spirit, including through the educational tools proper to the movement: Personal Ideal, Particular Examination, Spiritual Daily Order with written control, and a monthly report, if possible, to a stable confessor, and through other practices particular to the institute,

- permanent commitment to the Institute family, both to one’s course and course ideal (the “free community”) and one’s superiors, province and assigned responsibilities (the “official community”).

Each of the Schoenstatt secular institutes have a central international government and smaller national or regional subdivisions (provinces, regions, etc.). Because their members typically have a greater opportunity for formation in Schoenstatt’s history, spirituality and pedagogy, they are looked to as the primary source of leadership within the Schoenstatt Work. Still, the confederative structure of the movement stresses the constant need of the institutes to develop moral authority for them to effectively lead, inspire and join in dialogue with the many other parts of the Schoenstatt Family.

Because the Schoenstatt Movement has so many different branches and communities, it has various levels of organization to coordinate its activities.

• On the diocesan level it is coordinated by the diocesan committee or council (è 152), often with the help of a diocesan director or coordinator (è 153). The branches of the league are also assisted by the moderators (è 154).

• On the national level (or regional, in the case of very large countries) it is coordinated by the Movement Director (è 156), the Central Committee of the Schoenstatt Movement (è 155) and the National (or Regional) Presidium (è 157).

• On the international level it is coordinated by the General Presidium (è 158).

On the diocesan level, the movement is coordinated by a Diocesan Committee (or Council), made up of representatives of the different parts of the movement present in a given diocese. Its role is to provide a venue for discussion of common issues and concerns, for coordination of responsibilities and events shared by all the branches in the local movement, and for decisions on general matters such a local motto, crownings of the diocesan family or the like. The Diocesan Committee works to maintain an optimal spirit of apostolate, prayer and community in the movement on the local level.

Such a committee can be structured in various ways.

• It can be a “leaders’ circle” to which all group leaders in the diocese belong. This is typically the starting point for a diocesan committee.

• As the movement grows in a diocese, more formal structures may be needed and membership to the committee may be limited to the diocesan leaders (with perhaps an alternate) from each League branch and (if applicable) local representatives from each Federation branch.

In either case, the pilgrim movement is ordinarily represented by the Diocesan Director or Coordinator, or by someone chosen from this part of the movement. The Institutes, if present in the diocese, are generally represented by the members working with the movement.

At such time as a more formal link is established between the movement and the diocese, a liaison can be named (nominated by the diocesan committee, appointed by the bishop) to facilitate communication between Schoenstatt and the diocese. Such a liaison would normally be invited to diocesan committee meetings and kept informed of the activities of the local Schoenstatt Movement.

In questions where a diocesan initiative would involve or concern the larger Schoenstatt Family, the Diocesan Committee must work together with the Movement Director and the Central Committee. If necessary, the Movement Director will refer certain questions to the National Presidium, such as the permission to build a Schoenstatt Shrine.

In dioceses where the size of the movement requires greater coordination, the Diocesan Movement Director (Diocesan Director, for short) can be instated. The Diocesan Committee can initiate the process of choosing one by consulting with the Movement Director. Such a director is ordinarily named by a diocesan presidium, confirmed by the National Presidium and submitted to the bishop for his nihil obstat. It is the task of the Diocesan Director to represent and oversee the Schoenstatt Movement (League and Pilgrims) in his diocese and act as a liaison between the movement and the Bishop. He heads the Diocesan Committee and confirms, after consultation with the Diocesan Committee, the diocesan leaders after their election by the branches of the League.

In dioceses where the movement is smaller, a diocesan coordinator can be appointed. This person helps coordinate the work of the diocesan committee and the activities involving the League and Pilgrims.

Although the League elects its own local leadership, it is also generally assisted by a moderator placed at their disposal by the central coordination on the national or regional level. Most often a member of one of the institutes or the federation, the moderator helps facilitate the functioning of the League and acts as liaison between the assigned branch and the Central Committee of the Movement.

The Central Committee of the Schoenstatt Movement is the movement’s main coordinating body on the national (or regional) level. It is made up of the moderators working with the League and the main coordinators working with the pilgrim movement, along with other representatives that the Movement Director feels are important because of important roles and functions in the movement on the national level. The Movement Director is the president of the Central Committee.

The Central Committee possesses no formal powers over the movement, but has the moral authority to inspire and coordinate matters of common concern. It works to enhance apostolic initiative, support the cultivation of the spirit, provide pedagogical assistance, promote authentic Schoenstatt spirituality and keep the spirit of the Founder vital and vibrant. It also helps the movement keep its focus on broader horizons: the issues and needs of the Church, contributing to the development of a Christian society, larger currents and lifestreams in the international Schoenstatt Family. It assists the Movement Director in giving direction to the efforts of the League and Pilgrims, especially through periodic leaders conventions, work with an annual motto, facilitation of special Jubilees, and work with lifestreams.

The Movement Director is the main coordinator of the League and pilgrim movement on the national (or regional) level. He is a Schoenstatt priest named by the national presidium and heads the Central Committee as well as the office which oversees the central inspiration and coordination of the movement. His main task is to support, inspire, oversee and coordinate the activity of League and Pilgrims. He appoints the moderators and works closely with them to foster the growth and prospering of the movement.

In matters affecting the Schoenstatt Movement on the national level, it is ordinarily the role of the Movement Director to coordinate the discussion and help the movement come to clarity about God’s will. He is also the normal liaison between the movement and the Church on the national level, such as to determine Schoenstatt’s involvement at regional, national and international Catholic gatherings.

The National Presidium is the formal body which convenes to consult and, as necessary, to decide on certain matters of central importance to the entire Schoenstatt Family (that is: movement, Federation and Institutes) on the national level. In the case of large countries like Brazil or the United States, it may be more practical to subdivide the country into regions and operate with a Regional Presidium in each zone. Matters of concern for the Presidium include: the appointment of the Movement Director, discernment of criteria for the construction of new daughter shrines, and communication with the General Presidium.

The National Presidium consists of the superiors of the secular institutes present in the country, as well as the national heads of the different branches of the federation. The Movement Director participates in the National Presidium as the representative of the League and Pilgrims.

The General Presidium is the highest international body in the Schoenstatt Movement. It coordinates and consults on matters of concern to the entire worldwide Schoenstatt Family. It includes representatives from all the Schoenstatt Secular Institutes and internationally constituted branches of the Apostolic Federation. Currently, the League is represented by the Movement Director of Germany on behalf of all the national Movement Directors.

The General Presidium considers matters affecting the entire Schoenstatt Family. It can help formulate new moments of challenge for the Schoenstatt Family and urge the entire Schoenstatt Family to take note of new trends or lifestreams, special initiatives, or significant anniversaries and jubilees. The General Presidium is responsible for authorizing new national entities such as national presidiums. When questions from the Church are directed to the movement as a whole, it is the task of the General Presidium to study the matter, make appropriate consultations and issue a response. The elaboration of the General Statutes is also a task of the General Presidium.

The General Statutes of the Schoenstatt Movement are the equivalent of its constitution and by-laws. It spells out its aims and structures and the particulars of its organization, including the place of the Institutes, Federation, League and pilgrim movement. It clarifies the confederative interaction of the various parts of the movement, as well as the relationship between the movement and its parts with the Church as a whole.

These terms are often used interchangeably. “Schoenstatt Family” refers more to Schoenstatt as a body of believers united by a common spirit and who share a family-like sense of identity. “Schoenstatt Movement” refers more to its dynamic of apostolate and spiritual renewal within the Church. “Schoenstatt Work” refers more to its features as a formal organization.

In certain contexts like the assignment of tasks for the Movement Director, the word “movement” takes on a very specific meaning. In such cases it means the League and pilgrim movement in contrast to the federation and institutes. When “Schoenstatt Movement” is being used in this sense, then “Schoenstatt Family” and “Schoenstatt Work” become the terms used to designate Schoenstatt as a whole, including federation and institutes.

Schoenstatt has a broad international presence. Members of the federations and institutes (about 7000 members in 11 distinct communities) are located in 30 countries, while the Apostolic League has a membership estimated at over 90,000 in over 40 countries. As of December 2001, the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign had at least 150,000 Pilgrim MTAs in circulation in 83 countries.

Countries in which Schoenstatt has Shrines (with number of shrines as of December 2001) are: Germany (55), Brazil (18), Chile (17), Argentina (16), USA (6), Portugal (5), Switzerland (5), South Africa (5), Poland (5), India (3), Puerto Rico (3), Spain (3), Mexico (3), Australia, Burundi, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Columbia (2 each), Austria, Bolivia, Czech Republic, England, France, Italy, Peru, Scotland, Tanzania and Uruguay (1 each), for a total of 168. It is estimated that the Shrines receive between 3 and 4 million pilgrims each year.

Schoenstatt Shrines and Schoenstatt Movement are found on all of the inhabited continents, and there is even a wayside shrine on Antarctica (established by the Schoenstatt Family of Argentina).

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