Joseph Kentenich

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Joseph Kentenich
Religion Roman Catholicism
School Pallottine College
Order Pallottines
Nationality German
Born Peter Joseph Kentenich
16 November 1885
Erftstadt, Germany
Died 15 September 1968 (aged 82)
Schoenstatt, Germany
Resting place Church of the Blessed Trinity, Schoenstatt, Germany
Senior posting
Rank Priest
Religious career
Ordination 8 July 1910
Profession Theologian, educator

Father Joseph Kentenich (b. 16 November,[1] 1885, Gymnich, Rhine Province; d. 15 September 1968 in Schönstatt) was a Pallottine priest and founder of the Schoenstatt Movement. He is also remembered as a theologian, educator and pioneer of a Catholic response to an array of modern issues, whose teachings underwent a series of challenges from political and ecclesiastical powers. He attempted to teach Christians how to live out their faith.

Considered by many of those who came into contact with him to have been a saint, his cause for sainthood is currently at the diocesan level in the Diocese of Trier, pending the compilation of his writings and correspondences.


He was born November 16, 1885, in Gymnich, near Cologne,[2] and christened Peter Josef Kentenich November 19 at the parish church of St. Kuniberts. His mother was Katharina Kentenich, his father, Matthias Köp, a manager on a farm lived in Oberbolheim, where Katharina was one of the domestic staff. Peter Joseph was born in the house of his maternal grandparents, Anna Maria and Matthias Kentenich, where he spent the first years of his life.[3]

From the end of 1891 until the second half of 1892 Joseph lived with his mother in Strassburg, where she worked as housekeeper for her elder brother, Peter Joseph, after his wife’s death on 25 December 1891. The boy attended a school there for a few months. After her brother re-married on 25 June 1892, Katharina and her son returned to Gymnich. Katharina had to look for a permanent job in order to support her child. Joseph Kentenich was sent to St. Vincent orphanage in Oberhausen on 12 April 1894. When he completed his schooling there on 23 September 1899, and was accepted into the Pallottine College in Ehrenbreitstein, near Koblenz.[3] He was ordained a priest on July 8, 1910.[2]

Although he wished to become a missionary in Africa with the Pallottines, his health prevented him. In the first years of his pastoral ministry, he was Spiritual Director at the Pallottine Minor Seminary in Schoenstatt by the Rhine.[2] Fr. Kentenich was found inspiration in an article about the conversion of Bartolo Longo and the place of pilgrimage that had grown from the Marian shrine he had begun.

Founding of Schoenstatt[edit]

Fr. Kentenich interpreted the ideas of his order's founder, Vincent Pallotti, to be calling for a worldwide effort to involve lay people in apostolic work, and to unite the various factions in the Church. On October 18, 1914, Father Kentenich, together with a small group of students - entered into a covenant of love with Mary in the chapel (now known as the Original Shrine) at Schoenstatt. This was the beginning and the lasting foundation of today’s worldwide development of the Schoenstatt Movement. This movement was named after its place of origin, a word meaning "Beautiful Place".[4]

In 1926, Father Kentenich founded the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary.[4]

On September 20, 1941 Fr Kentenich was arrested by the Gestapo in Koblenz and subsequently sent to Dachau concentration camp.[3] He spent over 3 years in the camp, where he became a support for many, especially among the priests, and according to firsthand accounts, he guided many prisoners to show compassion, to be good men even in the midst of certain death. In Dachau, new branches of the Schoenstatt Movement, including its first international and family branches, were founded.

Further challenges[edit]

After the liberation of Dachau by the Allies, Father Kentenich continued his work in building the Schoenstatt Family all over the world. With a Vatican passport, he travelled to South Africa, the United States of America and many nations in Latin America.[5] During this time, the Schoenstatt Movement was examined by authorities of the Church in Germany. In Bellavista, Chile, on 31 May 1949, Kentenich wrote a letter as an answer to the report of the visitation, which set forth his teachings about the mechanistic thinking that he claimed was endangering modern theological thought.

In 1951 Fr. Kentenich was ordered to leave Schoenstatt by order of the Church authorities, although with little or no knowledge of the highest Vatican authorities, and sent to Milwaukee in the USA. He remained there for 14 years, showing loyalty and obedience to the Church to his followers by his silent and powerful example. On Christmas Eve in 1965, he returned to Schoenstatt.[5] However, as the reforms of the Council confirmed what Fr. Kentenich had prophetically been teaching for decades, he was permitted to stay in Rome for the closing of the Council, rehabilitated by Pope Paul VI, and sent back to Schoenstatt.

A father to many[edit]

Statue next to a Sanctuary in Argentina

In the three years left to him at the end of his exile in 1965, he dedicated his time and energy to be a father to countless visitors from his international Schoenstatt Family, as well as spending hours in prayer. He was known to throw fruit from his window, and an amazing number of people still own small gifts, cards, and letters that he showered upon those who sought, and found in him the assurance of a loving God, and the courage to attempt to change the world for the better.

On September 15, 1968, the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, immediately after celebrating the holy sacrifice of the Mass, Father Kentenich died in the sacristy of the newly constructed Church of the Blessed Trinity on Mt. Schoenstatt.[5] He is buried in this room, in a large stone sarcophagus inscribed with the Latin words DILEXIT ECCLESIAM (He loved the Church).

The process for his beatification was opened on 10 February 1975. When some of Fr. Kentenich's supporters greeted Pope John Paul II with the words, “Canonize Father Kentenich!” he smiled and returned, “YOU canonize him!” implying that canonization is not to be seen as merely a bureaucratic process, but an acclamation of a heroic, virtuous person by the people. To this day, devotion to Joseph Kentenich is spreading and awareness of his contributions to educational, philosophical, theological, social, and other thought are being translated and disseminated.


  1. ^ According to the book “Die verborgenen Jahre” Kentenich was born on 16 November, but 18 November is his commemoration day
  2. ^ a b c "The Founder: Fr. Joseph Kentenich", Schoenstatt Apostolic Movement
  3. ^ a b c "Peter Joseph Kentenich's Childhood",
  4. ^ a b "Our Founder", Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary[dead link]
  5. ^ a b c "Biographical sketch", Pater Kenterich Sekretariat

External links[edit]