Training ground for interculturality
Two Pallottine Fathers move to Weingarten in Upper Swabia (Germany)
Our main topic, interculturality, has got a new concrete place: In February of next year, an Indian and a German confrere will move into the vacant rectory at the pilgrimage site of Weingarten in Upper Swabia, and they will be joined by an African confrere. Together our small community wants to live interculturality and offer pastoral care at the place of pilgrimage.
Father Michael Pfenning was until recently Vice-Provincial of the Pallottine Fathers and, in the Provincial Council with the then Provincial Fr Helmut Scharler, has helped develop the concept of interculturality for the Province and the Vincent Pallotti University since 2020. His confrere Father Ashok Mascarenhas, who comes from India, has been in charge of an intercultural student community at the Friedberg community. Now, in February of 2023, they will move into a currently vacant rectory in the southwest suburbs of Weingarten near St. Mary’s Church.
The decision was preceded by a lengthy search process for a place where such a community could bear fruit. Together with the Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Gebhard Fürst, the two found what they were looking for in Weingarten. “We want to practice intercultural learning with each other and make it fruitful,” explains Fr Pfenning.
Pilgrimage to the Holy Blood
The bishop, those responsible in the diocese for religious orders, pastoral conception and pastoral personnel, and the provincial leadership deliberately together chose the Upper Swabian town of Weingarten as the seat of the community. With the pilgrimage to the Holy Blood, a special spiritual place already existed there. Fr Pfenning will be involved in the pastoral care of pilgrims and will professionally accompany people from the city and the entire region in their joys and needs.
Especially the Pallottine focus on intercultural coexistence fits well with Weingarten. In the Integration Center, the city, Caritas, the diocese and the Franciscan Sisters of Reute, as well as the parishes, work closely together on the topic of migrants and refugees. Students from different continents – many of them coming from India – are enrolled at the universities. Ecumenical university chaplaincy is therefore to become one of Fr Mascarenhas’ areas of work. As parochial vicar, he will be part of the pastoral team of the three Catholic parishes in Weingarten.
A forward-looking Concept
The living and working together of our three fathers from different countries and cultures is accompanied by a supervisor, in order to facilitate the everyday life, the cultural coupling into the German society and church, reflectively, it says in the concept. Also, a constant deepening of the German language for our two foreign fathers belongs to the accompanying program of this community.
The concept of the diocese and the religious community for the small Weingarten community is forward-looking, according to the diocese. As the three clergymen set out on a common path, so the tasks in the city and deanery are to develop. Our three fathers want to strengthen the future of Weingarten as a spiritual place in the region a good twelve years after the departure of the last Benedictines. They had resided high above Weingarten on the Martinsberg in the baroque basilica and the Benedictine abbey.
The Members of the new Community
Fr Michael Pfenning (63) comes from Deilingen, Germany. During his nursing training, he came into contact with the Pallottines through sharing in the celebration of Easter at the Hersberg community based at Lake Constance. The community fascinated him so much that he entered the order, had his first profession in 1982 and was ordained priest in 1987. Pfenning held the office of Vice-Provincial from 2013 to 2022. Before that, he was the city parish priest in Friedberg, Germany and rector of the Freising community for five years. He also served as a home director, educator and youth pastor.
Fr Ashok Mascarenhas (39) grew up in Mangalore in India. He has been living in Germany for one year. Before that, he also spent three years in Canada. His motivation to come to Germany is related to the German-speaking Hungarian Pallottine Father Anton Nenzl, who himself went to India as a young student and worked there as a missionary. Nenzl sparked his interest in the German language and culture, Mascarenhas explains. He currently accompanies an intercultural community in Friedberg.
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Report: Alexander Schweda
Images: GDMpro S.R.O (Weingarten), Bruder Bert Meyer
(Fathers Ashok Mascarenhas (left) and Michael Pfenning (right))
Translation: Steffi Wolf