For the first time the House of the Covenant in Schoenstatt, Germany, opened its doors to welcome all persons seeking a community to celebrate Christmas. For the hosts, they were “wonderful days of meetings and of going in-depth to this celebration, where all hearts are renewed in the birth of our Saviour.”
Since the project was approved (December 2018) for the House to be a Spanish-speaking Catholic Formation Center, “we had no doubt that for Christian celebrations people could go there and the doors would be open,” said the organizers.
Families run the House. Both its support and maintenance are carried out by volunteers who give their time, talents and capabilities to bring more life to guests’ stay.
The House of the Covenant is in Schoenstatt and has great historical value, as it is very rooted in the early history of the Schoenstatt Movement. Father Joseph Kentenich (whose process of Canonization is underway), began his spiritual retreats here, which were addressed to families, young people and priests during World War I and World War II. Maintained in the House is the historic floor, where the Founder’s bedroom is located and the Chapel where he prayed, for visitors that wish to see them.
Welcome to Pilgrims
The first to sign up were Nicaraguan Francely, her Argentine husband Carlos and their small daughter. They live in Stuttgart and have been strong pillars in the reconstruction of this House, said a married couple that lives in the House.
Then from Kiel, in northern Germany and the Catholic diaspora, a married couple from Bolivia — Willy and Evelyn — their daughter Samantha added their name to the list. They traveled the whole day on highways and arrived a day earlier to help in the preparation for Christmas Eve, added the organizers of the Christmas dinner.
The volunteers in the House at present are Romario of Brazil, Angelina of Uruguay and Eva of Argentina. They joyfully ordered and cleaned the House, said Jorgelina, one of the persons involved in the project and a hostess in the House of the Covenant. “They have looked after every detail to welcome” the pilgrims.
And we thank them again for their availability!”
To Eat “Well and Tasty” Food
For many, to arrive at the House of the Covenant “was like arriving in Bethlehem. a true pilgrimage!” they said. For a Salvadorian family and friends, who live just 40 kilometers from the House, it was very complicated to come because buses weren’t frequent. However, “thank God they were able to come and the food was multiplied and never in short supply . . . they ate well and very tasty” food.
The hosts said that the invitation was not only for the Spanish-speaking but “also for Germans, who wanted to be accompanied on Christmas Eve, as a public invitation was published in the city’s newspaper.” So two German men joined them who were very well integrated, reading poems and singing during the meeting.
Also attending was a mother and her two small children who were from the Middle East and who have been living in Germany for a year. They came to be able to live Christmas with Christians, “otherwise it would have been impossible,” said Jorgelina. “This mother told us that she lived her first period in Tabor Haus, where many people helped her, and that it was a real joy to return to Schoenstatt to celebrate Christmas.”
From the Refugees Camp
Latins also arrived who left the refugee camp for a few days and attended the Christmas Eve and Christmas <Day> celebrations. These people (as hundreds of Latins in this country) have requested the German government for asylum and, until they are inserted in the labor market, they must depend on the installations offered by the government So, “to go out to live the Lord’s birth in a community has been a great gift!,” said the Argentine volunteer.
A Salvadorian youth explained he had to leave Italy as he could not find work; his situation was difficult and he wanted to test his luck in Germany. He has hopes for this country and that his greatest fear is his ability to learn the language well. He was surprised that “last Christmas Pope Francis himself invited him to dine in the Vatican on Christmas Eve, in a dinner for immigrants. And now with us in the House of the Covenant . . . “ added Jorgelina.
Carols Sung to the Child
All those that spent Christmas in the House did so in a very special way, as many were able to celebrate Jesus’ birth for the first time at the entrance of the feast. After the tasty dinner, which included Latin and Spanish food, they processed around the House carrying the Child Jesus to the small Chapel, where they sang to Him and adored Him. It was a “beautiful moment full of joy, where the children were very excited!”
“The House is large and offered areas to converse, dance, play ping pong” (recently donated), and table soccer. There was also a room of games for small children and the House’s long corridors enabled the children to run all night. Although in the beginning none knew each other, the desire “to celebrate Christmas united us all in one same spirit.”
On the night of the 24th to the 25th, some slept in the House and, in the morning, had breakfast together. They took advantage of the morning to tour Schoenstatt and on their arrival back at the House a tasty roast was waiting for them. The Christmas Mass in Spanish was prepared in the afternoon and celebrated by Father Joselo, Chilean priest who belongs to the Community of Schoenstatt Fathers. ”All of us who know him know how much he loves this House and how crucial He is in the life that is emerging,” said Jorgelina.
It all culminated with another get-together to eat and converse, but this time the number of people multiplied. Hispanic pilgrims joined who were staying in other Schoenstatt Houses, and also Hispanics living nearby.