Schoenstatt Tampa Bay Inc. 2021 Report to Bishop Gregory Parkes
What is Schoenstatt?
A Marian Apostolic Movement of Renewal within the Church for Modern Times.
Mission of Schoenstatt:
- “We wish to work totally and untiringly in Christ Jesus…” [As Christians living out our Baptismal vows]
- “from ‘Schoenstatt’…” [German for “Beautiful Place;” What more “beautiful place” than in the arms of Mary! For the Schoenstatt Family, the loving embrace of Mary is experienced at the Schoenstatt Shrines, Home Shrines, and in each person who becomes a living Marian shrine for others.]
- “As an instrument in the hands of Mary…” [By means of establishing and living out a “Covenant of Love with Mary” (a Marian Consecration), we seek to be Mary’s collaborators who contribute to the mission of Evangelization entrusted to the Church.]
- “For the Marian transformation of the world.” [We aspire to be “living apparitions” who inspire and encourages the world to be more like Mary, “Handmaid of the Lord,” receptive in surrender and obedience to the loving will of God for the salvation of the world]
Threefold Aim of Schoenstatt:
1. Forming new persons within the new community [Individuals who establish and live out a “Covenant of Love” with Mary, and who allow themselves to be educated and formed by Mary within the context of small communities of faith.]
2. Continuing the salvific mission in the Western World [In the Western World we find the philosophical roots and living practices which has shaped the dominant culture of our modern times. Schoenstatt seeks to permeate the Western World with philosophical, theological, and spiritual practices which would provide pastoral responses to the challenges of our modern times.]
3. The Apostolic World Confederation [Amidst a fragmented, divided, and polarized Church, Schoenstatt seeks to be a “handmaid” of communion by drawing into federation diverse Lay Apostolic Movements. Each Lay Apostolic Movement preserves its autonomy, but freely joins into federation with other Lay Apostolic Movements to better communicate and collaborate (1 Cor. 12:12-13). As a mission, Schoenstatt seeks to develop and cultivate healthy bonds of interdependence among lay apostolic movements, under Mary’s mantle of love, to do together as a family what cannot be done alone.]
The Beginnings of Schoenstatt in the Diocese of St. Petersburg:
Schoenstatt Tampa Bay Inc. began as a pastoral respond to the closing and merge of Transfiguration Catholic Church into Holy Martyrs of Vietnam (October 18, 2019).
How did the parishioners of Transfiguration feel? → What did Schoenstatt offer as a pastoral respond?
- Abandoned Orphans → Through the Covenant of Love made children of Mary
- Spiritually Homeless → Multitude of Home Shrine collaborating towards a Shrine
- Losing my community of faith → Belonging to the Schoenstatt International Family
- Powerless and Defeated → Empowered Missionary Disciple of Mary
On August 6, 2019, the feast day of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, a month after the official announcement of the closing, a bold proposal was presented (Similar in spirit to the “Founding Document” of the Schoenstatt Movement on October 18, 1914):
Let us reinterpret our narrative! Instead of saying: “They are taking away my parish!” let’s say: “I freely give my parish of Transfiguration in exchange for a multitude of Home Shrines who collaborate towards the building of a Schoenstatt Shrine in the diocese of St. Petersburg which will be called: “The Marian Shrine of the Transfiguration.”
On Friday, October 18, 2019, the weekend of the closing, more than one hundred parishioners of Transfiguration made the “Covenant of Love” (Marian Consecration), established their Home Shrines, and began the journey of collaboration towards a Schoenstatt Shrine. Thus, officially founding the Lay Apostolic Marian Movement of Schoenstatt in the diocese of St. Petersburg.
[* It is important to mention that before Schoenstatt Tampa Bay Inc. was founded in our diocese, Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, for more than 25 years, has had a parish mission in the Dominican Republic in direct relation and collaboration with the Schoenstatt Movement of La Victoria, DR.]
First Two Years of Schoenstatt Tampa Bay Inc. (October 18, 2019, to October 18, 2021):
- A Diocesan Executive Board of Schoenstatt Tampa Bay was established.
- Incorporated → 501C3 under the USCCB → Official Catholic Directory for 2020
- Monthly gathering with a Mass every 18th of the month to renew the “Covenant of Love.”
- Day-retreats for continual formation when the 18th falls on a Saturday.
- Schoenstatt began to expand in the parishes where the former parishioners of Transfiguration began attending: St. Joseph, St. Catherine of Siena, Cathedral of St. Jude, Sacred Heart.
- Schoenstatt began to flourish in Clearwater with the new assignment of our Spiritual Director Father Carlos Rojas at Saint Cecelia, and the beautiful testimony of our “Protomartyr” Andres.
- Amid the pandemic, “Home Shrines” flourished as a pastoral respond to ALL the churches being closed. The closing of Transfiguration was re-interpreted as a providential act of God in which few were trained (by the experience of having their parish closed) to be of service to the many (all the churches being temporary closed due to the pandemic). This was seen as an opportunity to invite others to make a “Covenant of Love,” establish their “Home Shrines” and join the movement towards the building of a Schoenstatt Shrine. Once again, Schoenstatt became a pastoral response to the needs of the time.
- Schoenstatt Tampa Bay went virtual with livestream masses, conferences, bible studies, retreats, pilgrimages, monthly shows, programs, etc. which helped expand Schoenstatt Tampa Bay into other parishes within the diocese [https://www.schoenstatttampabay.org/teachings/].
- Small communities of faith have emerged for men, women, couples, and the youth.
- The Rosary Campaign was established with missionaries, who in the spirit of “The Visitation,” take the image of the “Pilgrim Mother” from house to house and encourage families to pray together the Holy Rosary.
- We have been in direct communication and under the direct guidance of Schoenstatt at a National level and have been honored with several visitations from National Leaders. Twice, we have participated in the National Annual Leadership Convention at Waukesha, WI.
- Retreats for couples with “Advance Themes” in Spanish and English at the Bethany Center led by Deacon Ron, Ms. Isabel Rojas, and Father Carlos Rojas.
- Retreats for the youth in collaboration with St. Cecelia and under the direct guidance of the Schoenstatt Sisters.
Three-Fold Aim of Schoenstatt in service of the Diocese of St. Pete:
1. “Forming the new man (or person) in the new community”
- “Covenant of Love”: Encourage individuals to make their Marian Consecration on the 18th of the month together with all who are renewing their consecration during the Mass.
- “Home Shrine”: Once the Consecration is made, the devotee takes Mary into their homes (Jn. 19:27) by inviting her to take perfect possession of their “Home Shrine.”
- “Capital of Grace”: In the spirit of the Totus Tuus, as a daily practice, write down in a piece of paper all that is being offered to Mary and deposit it at the “Home Shrine.”
- “New Communities”: Encourage consecrated individuals to form small communities of faith to grow and be encouraged to faithfully practice the Schoenstatt Marian spirituality.
- Ongoing Mariological Formation: We seek to provide a mature Mariological foundation that would help devotees grow and mature beyond the superficial, sentimental, and devotional level, without losing the tender and filial love which is necessary to nourish a true devotion to Mary.
2. “Saving the salvific mission of the Western World”
- Continue the Rosary Campaign and form new missionaries to receive the “Pilgrim Mother” and become instruments of Mary’s Visitations throughout our diocese.
- Continue increasing the network of “Home Shrines” (aiming for two hundred) as to collaborate towards the hopeful building of a Schoenstatt Shrine in the diocese of St Petersburg.
- Looking into the area of Plant City as location for the Shrine. Reasons why:
- Land available at a reasonable cost (former strawberry fields).
- Able to provide a pastoral respond to the needs of the farm working community.
- In close vicinity to Nativity, Brandon (where the longest standing relation with Schoenstatt is already existing).
- Close to the I-4 corridor (providing a strategic location to expand into the diocese of Orlando and a central position regarding the state of Florida).
3. “The Apostolic World Confederation”
- To be in the service of collaboration between Lay Apostolic Movements:
- Marian Lay Apostolic Movements collaborating in service of our annual Diocesan Marian Congress.
- Hispanic Lay Apostolic Movements collaborating to strategize most effective ways to minister to the Hispanic community of our diocese.
- The encouragement of a diocesan “central command” for ALL Lay Apostolic Movements active within the diocese of St. Petersburg.
To fulfill the abovementioned goals, we are in the process of forming a small community of 5 to 7 diocesan priests who in “Covenant of Love” establish together their “Home Shrine” under the guiding supervision of the Secular Institute of Diocesan Schoenstatt Priest and commit to the three-fold aim of Schoenstatt Tampa Bay Inc. in service of the diocese of St. Petersburg.