By Pilar Huerta
The second half of the decade of the 1990’s brought even greater blessings from a loving Father. In an “act of confidence,” the altar for the future daughter shrine was ordered in November 1994 from Ecuador; and before the altar arrived, we received the gift of a 52.8 acre property in Helotes to build the daughter shrine!
The general motto of the Texas Schoenstatt Family for 1996 was Crown for Crown! In 1973, we had crowned our Mother as Queen of Unity with the petition for a daughter shrine where she could reign in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. On August 12, 1996, our Queen of Unity offered a crown in return to her children – the gift of the land and also a spiritual gift of the grace of unity and of trust in great measure for it would be yet 12 more years for the realization of her throne of grace -- her victory for her small instruments who loved their Mother, the Triune God, and one another.
Part Six – A crown for a crown
The act of confidence in ordering the altar for the future daughter shrine was offered with a great petition for the perfect land for the future shrine. With this great petition, was our part – the “nothing without us.” We promised to have monthly Eucharistic Adoration in the Fountain of Family Unity Shrine. Our Schoenstatt Family kept this promise for 20 years.
How did our Mother Thrice Admirable reveal to us the perfect land she had chosen for her throne? In late fall of 1995, two members, Linda Silva and Mary Tamez, were driving on the historic Scenic Loop Road in Helotes after work and saw a “for sale” sign for a 52-acre property. They could see through the barbed-wire fence. It had many oaks, mountain laurels, cedar, a spacious wildflower meadow and a beautiful hill. The land was used for (longhorn) cattle grazing. A call was made to get the information about it and the information was related to Sister M. Corelia Bechold who contacted our potential benefactor about the hill-country property that was available. Our benefactor believed that we had discovered our Mother’s choice and he began the process to purchase the property for a future Schoenstatt Daughter Shrine in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. In early January 1996, some branch leaders and officers of the board were shown the property by the owner, Dr. Haddock. He granted permission for a Mass and blessing of the property. On February 24, 1996, Fr. Vega celebrated an outdoor Mass and blessed the property. Closing on the property was set for August 12, 1996.
The Fountain of Family Unity Wayside Shrine continued to be the spiritual home of our Schoenstatt Family. It was four months after the official gift of the land that the altar, ordered in confidence, would arrive – on December 11, 1996. The altar was blessed by Fr. Hector Vega on April 18, 1997 before celebration of the covenant Mass.
On August 12, 1996, after signing all the documents at the title company for the transfer of deed, the board officers and branch leaders went directly to the property. Words cannot express the joy and gratitude in our hearts. We took with us the Father Eye from 1985, first symbol for our future shrine. There was only a wood storage shed on the property. The roof extended on one side, similar to a covered patio. On the exterior wall of the shed that had this covered area, we enthroned the MTA picture! It had a rustic wood frame. It “fit” so perfectly. We prayed together in thanksgiving for this great gift for our Mother’s throne of grace. In one voice, we renewed our consecration.
The next day, we came down from the clouds and with our feet firmly planted on the beautiful country property and lovingly offered another “nothing without us.” We said our “yes” to maintaining the agricultural exemption. The property taxes on such a large piece of land were high and we were not ready to build the shrine to qualify for a religious exemption. For ten years, 1996-2006, our Schoenstatt Family, mainly the men of the membership community, had responsibility for a cattle-grazing operation. These ten years are a part of our unique story – of unity and offerings to the capital of grace.
I return to August 12, 1996, the day that we received the gift of the property. While waiting to be called in for signatures on the documents, we sat with our benefactor and conversed with him. Theresa Ochoa, whose husband Deacon Jesse Ochoa was recently deceased, shared that he offered his life for the realization of the shrine. She also shared that it happened that the owner of the property our Mother chose for her throne of grace was the cardiologist of her late husband. Our benefactor listened to her intently and remarked to her that in three days the Schoenstatt Family would receive a card. In three days it would be August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the BVM. It was a great surprise of a monetary gift for the beginning of the development of the property by bringing in utilities. The gift was a significant amount. Our Mother and Queen is not outdone in generosity and he was her instrument. His generosity made it possible that by 1999 we had electricity and a public-use well on the property.
Our holy history continues. It would be in the next decade of the 2000’s, after more than 35 years of a holy longing, that the daughter shrine in the plan of God as a gift and task would be dedicated with a name and mission of profound significance.
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