Our community, the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, was founded in 1926 in Schoenstatt, Germany, by Father Joseph Kentenich. Our heritage is deeply Marian because it is connected with Schoenstatt, a Marian and apostolic movement of renewal in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Founding of Schoenstatt
Schoenstatt had been founded twelve years earlier, in 1914. Prayerful discernment and alertness to the signs of God’s providence led Father Kentenich and a small group of boys at the Pallottine Minor Seminary in Schoenstatt to invite Our Lady to come and take her dwelling in an old chapel on the property. They asked her to transform this seemingly insignificant spot into a place of her special activity, a Marian place of grace, a Marian place of pilgrimage, for the moral and religious renewal of Germany and even of the whole world. In return, Father Kentenich and the boys promised to strive for holiness and to bring her all their efforts as “contributions to the capital of grace” for her activity from the shrine.
Father Kentenich was convinced that Our Lady accepted this invitation, and with that a mutual “covenant of love” was sealed between her, the Blessed Mother, the founder and the boys. Over the next years, Schoenstatt spread outside the seminary to other young men and eventually also to women. Many people began to make this same covenant of love with the Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt. The Schoenstatt Movement which developed from the original covenant of love began to grow and flourish.
The Growth of our Community
Our community was founded in order to serve this growing Movement. The form of life, structure, values and goals of our Institute unfolded gradually from inspirations received from individuals and the community as such. Father Kentenich worked creatively with these ideas, which led to even further development. In those early years, the community was blessed with rapid growth as many young women found their calling within its ranks.
In 1933, when the National Socialists came into power in Germany and the political situation became more dangerous, Father Kentenich sent the first sisters to South Africa and then to America. It was in Uruguay, South America, that our sisters built the first replica of the Original Shrine in Germany. Throughout the following years, Our Lady took care that we could spread to more countries and continents.
There are presently about 2000 Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary worldwide on six continents in almost thirty countries.