CRETE (SNR) May 10, 2012 was a day of much rejoicing for the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary from Germany and the entire worldwide Schoenstatt Family. That was the day one of their founding sisters, Sister Emilie Engel, was given the title "Venerable" by Pope Benedict XVI, the first step in beatification.
The Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary at the Cor Mariae Schoenstatt Shrine, 340 State Hwy 103 Crete, invite all to learn more about Sister Emilie Engel, through a presentation entitled, "A Gift and a Message for people today!"
The presentation will be held Sunday, Nov. 18, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Shrine, and all are welcome to attend.
Sister Emilie was born in 1893, the fourth of 12 children who grew up on a farm near Husten, Germany.
Her family life was a happy one, where parents and children gathered together in a large, warm parlor each evening to talk, sing and pray together. Still, young Emilie was frequently attacked by crippling fear or anxiety.
Sister Emilie’s parents lovingly and faithfully brought all their children up to know, love and serve God with religious depth, spiritual openness, integrity and strength of character. However, Emilie was often distressed by the thought that she might offend God, a fear exasperated by her religious instructors at school, who depicted God as a very severe master.
Educated as a teacher, Sister Emilie went to work in the Ruhr area of Germany, where there was much poverty and other social problems. Her motherly heart was especially attuned to loving the poorest and helping lighten their burdens.
While working there, she became acquainted with the Schoenstatt Movement, founded by Father Joseph Kentenich. In 1926, she left teaching to become the formation director of the new community, becoming a valuable co-worker for Father Kentenich. She offered her life to God so that the community would bring forth saints.
Through her consecration to the Blessed Mother in the Schoenstatt Covenant of Love, and her deep trust in Father Kentenich as her spiritual director, Sister Emilie was finally able to overcome the fear and anxiety that had plagued her all her life.
Looking back she wrote: "At the time I did not know that the Blessed Mother had drawn and guided me in order to help free me here at this place of grace from great afflictions of the soul in the midst of which I had already begged so often for help."
In the Schoenstatt community’s shrine of grace of the Mother Thrice Admirable, she found not only a home and shelter but also a wise educator. She strove to penetrate more and more deeply into the covenant of love with the Lord’s mother until she could say without fear, "I can do anything for the Blessed Mother!"
Sister Emilie became a beautiful reflection of faith, hope and charity. She loved everyone, but her heart went out in a special way to the poor. She offered instruction, nursed the sick, found employment for her students when they left school and found good families to adopt orphans.
Through it all, Sister Emilie was bravely withstanding her personal suffering from tuberculosis and other illnesses. Despite her physical weakness, Father Kentenich appointed her to the general government and gave her the responsibility to care for the other sick sisters. He knew she would understand their needs on all levels.
Sister Emilie proclaimed to all that God is a loving Father, who in His wisdom, kindness and omnipotence designed not only the great world plan, but also that of our own little lives.
Indeed, in her very last written words, Sister Emilie summarized the divine love fatherly care, which she experienced in such abundance during her life: "Praise to divine providence in my life. Extol the mercies of God and the Blessed Mother! Throughout eternity, I will sing a hymn of praise to the merciful father love and mother love. I want to be a victim of praise of God’s mercy."
Numerous people who met Sister Emilie spoke of a supernatural influence that radiated a deep sense of joy and peace from her lovely eyes.
In 1935, Sister Emilie became seriously ill and had to leave her home in Schoenstatt. She was hospitalized for months, undergoing multiple surgeries that had excruciating painful aftereffects. For years afterward, she made long visits to sanatoriums (precursors to today’s rehabilitation hospitals), but her health was not restored.
Even so, she gave all her strength and time to others. A slowly progressive paralysis bound her to a wheelchair. She became as helpless as a child, eventually losing her ability to speak.
After Sister Emilie’s death, Father Kentenich said, "Sister Emilie was a child of divine providence from head to toe…It is her mission to lead people out of the prison of fear and anxiety and to give them a home in the father heart of God."
When the Holy Father promulgated the decree of Sister Emilie’s heroic virtues the Schoenstatt community published a statement that reads, "Her example inspires us to open spaces in our lives for the wonderful work of God from the most genuine sources of our spirituality. She is willing to help us direct our lives to what is essential, to put it in God’s hands."
Now that the cause for Sister Emilie Engel’s sainthood has reached the first step, the Church awaits "the divine confirmation" of the verdict proven by a miracle through the intercession of the Venerable.
All are welcome to make pilgrimages to the Schoenstatt Marian Shrine, 340 State Hwy 103 in Crete, Nebraska. For more information, visit www.schoenstattne.org.