BY SCO Admin | October 17 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

8-AGAP-PERFORMERS

Drama for movement’s centenary

Ian Dunn talks to AGAP’S Stephen Callaghan about the Arts in the Autumn play on Fr Kentenich, the founder of the Schoenstatt Movement, which is touring parishes

The Archdiocese of Glasgow Arts Project (AGAP) just marked the eighth anniversary of its founding and later this month will be continuing its fine tradition with a new play based around the life of Fr Kentenich, the founder of Schoenstatt.

Father Kentenich: Champion of Freedom, will chronicle the life of this remarkable German priest, who founded the Schoenstatt movement, based on devotion to Mary, which has since spread all over the world. In his own life he was sent to Dachau concentration camp by the Gestapo and faced criticism within the Church being exiled to Milwaukee for 14 years after the Second World War before his teachings were accepted during the Second Vatican Council.

ACAP director Stephen Callaghan, the play’s writer and director, said Fr Kentenich’s life was a powerful example of fidelity to the Church.

“This is someone who was exiled by the Church for 14 years,” he said. “Like many founders of movements within the Church he was considered quite radical in his own time. But despite everything he goes through, he loved the Church and always maintained his obedience and childlike confidence in the Church. I think that’s a powerful example for today when many people feel dissatisfaction with the Church.”

For Mr Callaghan, Fr Kentenich and the Schoenstatt Movement—the Catholic Marian Movement he began as a means of spiritual renewal—have often featured in his own life. “I first became aware of him as a young boy,” he said. “There was a Schoenstatt house on Langside Drive in the parish I grew up in Glasgow, and Sr Xaveria from there, was always around the Church when I was an altar boy. She would give me pamphlets to read about him but it didn’t really impact on me until I visited World Youth day in Cologne in 2005.”

While there he visited the original Schoenstatt and the tomb of Fr Kentenich, which had a profound impact on him.

“Not long after that we were setting up the arts project and I had to give a talk to the priests of the archdiocese, about what we hoped to achieve, and that was at the Schoenstatt house in Campsie Glen,” he added. “And now AGAP’s priest, Fr Michael Savage, is also part of the Schonstatt movement.”

In addition to Fr Kentenich’s life being a compelling tale, Mr Callaghan wanted to work on it as a tribute to Fr Savage.

“He’s been a wonderful support of us, both pastorally and artistically,” he said. “He takes videos of the plays and photos, submits his own art and because Schoenstatt is a big part of his life, I thought it would be good to do a play about this, and also it is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the movement this year.”

Certainly Fr Kentenich’s life story provides no shortage of dramatic material.

“There were many ways I could have written it,” Mr Callaghan said. ”It could have been all set within Dachau or during the deliberations at the Vatican that ended his exile but in the end, I took a snap shot approach, touching different moments of his life from the age of 8 through to his death.”

After he founded the Schoenstatt Movement, Fr Kentenich, became incredibly influential among the German clergy, with over two thirds of them attending his retreats, a level of influence which earned him enemies both within the Church and the Nazi party.

“At that time, It is understandable how people in the Church might have viewed him as unorthodox,” Mr Callaghan said. ‘His retreats introduced elements of psychology, looked at the role of laity in the Church, the role of women, so eyebrows were raised.”

Many of his ideas would be embraced by the Second Vatican Council, but before that he was viewed with suspicion by many within the Church. His popularity in Germany also aroused the ire of the Nazi party and in 1941 he was detained by the Gestapo and send to Dachau were he remained until 1941.

One small incident from that terrible period, particularly stuck with Mr Callgahan.

“In the famous picture of him, you see him with this huge Santa Claus beard but when he went to Dachau the guards shaved it off,” he said. “And he said to the guards, ‘My beard will grow back.’ And it may be a small thing but it spoke to me about his tremendous personal strength to see beyond the horrors of his own situation and into a brighter future.”

Mr Callaghan said he was also inspired by the epitaph Fr Kentenich chose for himself, ‘He loved the Church.’

“Despite everything that happened to him, all through his life he had this spirit of child like acceptance,” he said “Which is quite a very powerful response of love to how he was treated. So I would hope that if someone who is struggling with their Faith came to see this play, they might find an injection of hope in that.

“People are all wound up at the moment about parish closures, Christians suffering in the Middle East and this dramatic synod that’s about to begin,” he said “But it’s important to remember the core what we believe doesn’t change and I think Fr Kentenich is a wonderful example of living a life entirely devoted to a convent of love.”

He is also confident that his cast can bring this remarkable story to life.

“Rehearsals have been going very well,” he said. “We have a range of people in the cast, one of whom actually met Fr Kentenich as a young man. So there are people with a special connection to Schoenstatt, people who wanted to try acting and the people who have been involved for a number of years. I’ve asked some of the cast to write wee things for the programme about what AGAP means to them, and it’s remarkable, and incredibly touching how many of them talk about it being like a second family.

“That’s a very special thing, especially as we don’t have our own specialised arts centre, though if any budding philanthropists reading the SCO want to rectify that, they should definitely get in touch!”

— ian@sconews.co.uk

— Fr Kentenich, Champion of Freedom will be on at the venues below in October and November, Tickets are £5 and under 16’s get in free. For more information visit www.agap.org.uk or call 0141 554 1333.

— Friday Oct 24: St Mungo’s, Townhead

— Saturday Oct 25: St Gregory’s, Wyndford

— Sunday Oct 26: St Helen’s, Langside

— Monday Oct 27: St Maria Goretti’s, Cranhill

— Saturday Nov 1: St Stephen’s, Dalmuir

— Sunday Nov 2: St Margaret Mary’s, Castlemillk

— Thurs Nov 6: St Joseph’s, Milngavie

— Friday Nov 7: St Joseph’s, Cumbernauld

 

Pic: Robert Wilson

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