German-Russians' Pilgrimage to the Mother of God Shrine in Deggingen

Russlanddeutsche Wallfahrt zur Mutter Gottes in Deggingen

Bata, Josef. "German-Russians' Pilgrimage to the Mother of God Shrine in Deggingen." Volk auf dem Weg, October 2005, 8.

Translation from the original German text to American English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

Once each year, this year being the 27th time, the ecclesiastical gathering of German-Russian Catholics took place on September 11 in Deggingen in the Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Getting together during the pilgrimage: (left to right) Ruth Kloetzel, Deacon Kurt Reinelt, Pastor Anton Heinz, Magdalena Merdian and Stefan Kloetzel

All of these people trace their homeland, their roots, to Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirghistan, the Ukraine or White Russia. A few of the elder generation are part of those who were driven out of their homes, others are descendants of these, while others are people who, as Aussiedler, left their homes to resettle voluntarily. What unites all of them is belonging to an ethnic as well as a faith community. Once again, most of them took upon themselves a long journey of hundreds of kilometers on the autobahn, whether by special bus or by personal car, to participate in the pilgrimage to the Capuchin monastery church "Ave Maria."

Adding to the festive atmosphere on this Sunday was the presence of Auxiliary Bishop Gerhard Pieschl of Limburg. He is Ecclesiastical Visitor for Germans from Russia and, at the same time, Official Representative of the German Conference of Bishops with responsibility for the spiritual care of immigrant and refuge Germans from Russia. As has been their custom, the German-Russian chorus "Heimatmelodie," under the direction of Aljona Heiser of Ausgburg, was in attendance and inspired some three hundred pilgrimage participants with their beautiful singing.

Furthermore, the faithful were able to experience, up close and personally, Auxiliary Bishop Pieschl, who did not adhere to the common custom of delivering his sermon from the pulpit, but -- like Jesus in His time -- simply walked amidst the throng of his listeners and addressed them in his direct manner and expressed his joy over the attendance of such a large number of faithful. As an act of his eprsonal gratitude he explained, in a very stylish talk, the various paintings in the monastery church. In addition, he emphasized the meaning of the concept of Heimat, while weaving in Pope Benedict the Sixteenth's thoughts on the Special Heimat Day. For Auxiliary Bishop Pieschl it is improtant not only to contempalte the idea of Heimat, but also to keep alive the memory of the old Heimat. In his view, it is far more important that particularly those in attendance at church look at each other and be aware of who stands next to them, behind them, and in front of them. For it is only then -- when they get to know each other -- that people can experience the true meaning of Heimat.

During the second part of his sermon, the auxiliary bishop talked of the significance of the role of Holy Mother Mary, by her own life, and from the perspective of the story of salvation. He did this, of course, also because the people had gathered in Deggingen especially to honor the Mother of God. Since the feast of Mary's birth had been observed just before the pilgrimage, he asked the faithful to join him in greeting the Mother of God with a secular song wishing her a very "Happy Birthday."

The sermon was followed by prayers for the community of faithful. The female prayer leader expressed, on behalf of all in attendance, their attitude toward life, their needs and worries, as well as their readiness for forgiveness and reconciliation. She also prayed for the millions who are still fleeing from their Heimat; she prayed for a peaceful end of upheaval and the radical changes still in process in the East, that people might live in justice and freedom. She included in her paryer hundreds of thousands who had died and are buried and forgotten, that the might find rest and peace in their eternal Heimat. In conclusion, Auxiliary Bishop Pieschl prayed for the intercession by the Holy Pople Clemens, patron saint of Germans from Russia.

Following the service, there were expressions of appreciation for the efforts and accomplishments of the main organizers, Ida Hosmann of the Diocese of Augsburg and Dr. Wendelin Mangold of the Office for Spiritual Care of Catholic Germans from Russia.

Near the Memorial Cross for German-Russian Victims in the cemetery, the festivities were concluded by the remembrance of the dead, and with the signing of the Song of Fate of the Germans from Russia. During the relaxed social gathering, the participants in the pilgrimage had the opportunity to renew old friendships and acauaintances. The Eisener family had seen to the bodily comfort by providing coffee, kuchen, and sandwiches.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller