By Sister M. Jennifer Carlson, ISSM
CRETE (SNR) - The Schoenstatt Marian Mission team of Nebraska will host the fifth annual Valentine dinner for couples Feb. 14 at the Schoenstatt Center in Crete.
As in the past, highlights of the evening include holy Mass, renewal of marriage vows, an elegant dinner, entertainment, and fun door prizes.
“It is a great opportunity to support a worthy cause,” said Sarah Harrison, the diocesan leader for the Schoenstatt Girls’ Youth in Nebraska. The dinner has been a great success in past years, with some couples attending every year.
All proceeds of the event will support the Nebraska Schoenstatt Youth who are going on pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Poland this summer. The pilgrimage, organized by the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, will include about 30 young women from around the country, four of them from the Lincoln Diocese: Catie Welty from St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln, and Katy Michels, Lucy Polk and Madelaine Polk from Sacred Heart Parish in Lincoln.
“Just thinking about it gets me excited,” Catie said. “To be at World Youth Day with Pope Francis and thousands of Catholic youth from around the world… I’ve always wanted to see him!”
Katy agreed, saying she is “excited to see the universality of the Church,” and hopes “to make a deeper connection to God through this experience.”
“I am looking forward to go to Krakow where St. John Paul II was from,” Madelaine added, “because we share the same birthday, and I have always had a special devotion to him.”
The Schoenstatt pilgrimage will travel not only to Poland, but also to the founding place of Schoenstatt near Vallendar, Germany. A highlight of this trip will be the covenant celebration of two of the pilgrims, Lucy and Madelaine, in the Original Schoenstatt Shrine.
When members of Schoenstatt make their covenant of love, they are in a sense entering into the “founding act” of Schoenstatt. On October 18, 1914, the founder – Servant of God Father Joseph Kentenich – and a group of seminarians invited the Blessed Mother to come dwell in their tiny sodality chapel, which today is called the “Schoenstatt Shrine.” They offered Mary their hearts, believing that if they took their striving for holiness seriously, she “would be pleased to dwell in their midst, to dispense gifts and treasures in abundance, and to work miracles of grace.”
All those who join the Schoenstatt Movement are invited to enter into that original covenant of love of Father Kentenich, dedicating themselves to the Mother Thrice Admirable, Queen, and Victress of Schoenstatt as her instruments for the building up of Christ’s kingdom from the shrine.
“It will be amazing to make my covenant at the place where Schoenstatt started,” Madelaine said.
“I feel very lucky that it works for me to make my covenant of love there,” Lucy added.
Both girls became involved in Schoenstatt through their parents, Tony and Stephanie Polk, who have belonged to a Schoenstatt couples’ group for many years.
Having grown in their love for the Blessed Mother, the girls said they feel very blessed, not only to participate in the World Youth Day pilgrimage, but also to make their covenant of love in the Original Shrine. They realize it will take hard work to raise funds for this endeavor. That is where the Valentine Dinner comes into play.
Kristen Harrison, member of St. Leo Parish in Palmyra and also a member of the Schoenstatt leaders’ circle, said she is excited for her friends who will be going on the pilgrimage.
Although she will not be joining the WYD pilgrimage, she is very happy she can help with the fundraising efforts, especially with the planning of the dinner.
“The trip to World Youth Day and the original place of Schoenstatt is a once in a lifetime experience for them,” she said. “I almost feel like I get to go, just knowing that they will be there representing us.”
Leader Sarah called the fundraiser “our way to say ‘thank you’ for all the support we do get.”
Sarah and the other Schoenstatt girls hope this Valentine dinner will again, like in past years, draw a nice crowd to help fund their pilgrimage costs.
Having spent several months in Germany for the 100th jubilee of Schoenstatt’s foundation in 2014, Sarah knows the value of visiting the original shrine. “Being part of the Schoenstatt Youth has been the biggest blessing of my life. It has helped me find direction, and inspires me to keep striving for holiness.” She hopes the same for these young women.
The Cor Mariae Schoenstatt Shrine in Crete is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and is located just 30 minutes southwest of Lincoln, at 340 State Highway 103, Crete, NE 68333.