Maria Elena Vilches from Ecuador has belonged to the movement for more than 20 years, participating with the Schoenstatt Girls’ Youth and later the Schoenstatt Family of Guayaquil.
Since March 2012 she has worked for the Communications Office in Schoenstatt, Germany in preparations for the Jubilee.
In this interview, given in the midst of the anniversary celebrations, she tells of her experience with Schoenstatt.
Q: Yesterday you had the audience with the Holy Father; today, Holy Mass at St. Peter’s. How do you feel after these experiences?
Vilches: It was a great experience, with emotions hard to describe. I felt that Schoenstatt has many answers to offer to our Church and society, and that the Pope counts on us as a Movement to go out and evangelize the world thorough our example. I feel that the experiences lived during the weekend are a call to a greater apostolic activity and a deep inner transformation.
Q: What idea or impulse do you take home from the encounter with the Holy Father?
Vilches: The Pope called us to strengthen attachments in a society that tends to reject commitment, where everything is temporary. His petition to live a culture of encounter -- a Covenant culture -- that is what I take with me and will try to live in daily life.
Q: When did you enter the Schoensatatt Movement?
Vilches: I came to Schoenstatt when I was 16 years old, when I was in my junior year of high school.
Q: How do you live the Schoenstatt spirituality in a concrete way in your personal life?
Vilches: The Schoenstatt spirituality consists in achieving sanctity trough the little things in our daily life. This means that every one can do it, without the need of doing great things. It’s all about putting all our effort in doing things the best way possible. That is how I live the Schoenstatt spirituality. Trying every day to make a difference through my actions. Being myself, but in the best way possible. Transforming every effort and every suffering into something good to give to the Holy Mother as a present for others.
Q: How can Families nowadays be more apostolic? Schoenstatt is an apostolic Movement…
Vilches: The first mission must be carried out at home. The education of the children is the main opportunity for the parents to be apostolic. Of course, the best way in which a family can be apostolic is through their example. Pope Francis said it during the audience on October 25th. We have to be an example for others. Words are not enough. We don’t have to try to convince others, we just need to make them “want what we have” through our being. And under no circumstance judge others.
Q: What does Schoenstatt’s internationality mean for you?
Vilches: God made us each unique. The world is filled with many different personalities, cultures and colors. Schoenstatt wants to bring Jesus and Mary to all corners of the earth and be a missionary Movement. We want to accept one another and allow ourselves to be enriched and complemented by the many cultures. God likes diversity. As part of our mission we need to go through a process of education. Relationships are fundamental for this process. In this sense, the learning experiences that we can acquire when we enter in contact with other cultures are indescribable. Schoenstatt is international also because even though we all live the same principles and spirituality, each one does it in accordance to his or her place of origin, faithful to their roots, customs, and traditions.
Q: What do you think is the greatest challenge for Schoenstatt today?
Vilches: I think the greatest challenge for Schoenstatt is to bring God to a world that rejects Him, a world that is closed to God. It is a challenge to transmit an experience of God without “preaching.” We need to be apostles by our being, and our deeds. For this we need to have an intense life of prayer and a deep experience of God ourselves… but the world today goes so fast that it doesn’t leave room for moments of silence, for moments of deep encounter with God and with others. Without a personal encounter we cannot communicate our experience of a loving God to those around us.
Q: What fruits do you expect from the Jubilee celebrations, especially from the audience with the Holy Father?
Vilches: I hope Schoenstatt’s internationality continues to grow and becomes more and more a central charisma. That we can connect ever more and in a more efficient way all cultures and nations so that we can grow in union with our brothers and sisters from all countries where Schoenstatt is present.
About the encounter with the Holy Father, I hope it serves to strengthen the bonds between Schoenstatt and the Church. That we take from his words the strength to serve the Church selflessly and that we can show him by our deeds that he can count on us to go out and work towards a new evangelization.