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A Covenant Medal Returns to Minnesota

March 5, 2012 

Fr. Mark Joseph Niehaus, ISP

After many weeks of putting things with Fr. Jonathan to rest, chronicles and reflections have come more in the form of first person conversations and times with many of you on different parts of the planet. In justice to his life and the great current of interest and concern shown to our deceased Father, to us as Schoenstatt Fathers’ community and to us his biological family, a whole book should be written. Testimonies and memories, Masses and prayer times have been rich and deep. To start to list them would certainly leave many out. To one and all, thanks a thousand thanks.

That being said the memorial Mass and gathering in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota is worth noting. It started out as a way to fulfill Fr. Jonathan’s last request, namely:

“I request that I not be buried with my covenant medal of the Mother Thrice Admirable, but that my covenant medal be placed in the basement of the Shrine in Sleepy Eye in gratitude for everything which our Mother Thrice Admirable has done for me, especially since April 7, 1974. I request that my covenant medal be returned to the Queen of Minnesota as a small sign of my gratitude and faithfulness. Without her my life would have been empty and void, without her I never would have become a priest, with her I discovered God’s plan for me, the joy of priesthood, and great fullness of life.”  (Last Will and Testament. March 6, 2009. p. 4)

We set a date for this on February 25, 2012 and things started to come together. It was to be a Mass with a “potluck” meal afterwards, ending with the actual placement of the medal in the shrine basement (crawlspace is more accurate).  The Sisters at Schoenstatt on the Lake did most of the preparations and even the weather held. As the word got out it soon became clear that the Mass would be better at the local parish, St. Mary’s, in order to accommodate those who wished to come. This was a very fitting touch from Divine Providence, since that is where Fr. Jonathan was ordained to the priesthood back in 1994.

Becky described it well:

“It was incredible to be at St. Mary's in Sleepy Eye sitting in the same area as when Jonathan was ordained over 17 years ago but this time celebrating his full life of being a priest.  … There were over 300 people participating in the Mass with Fr. Mark as the main celebrant and Fr. Tom and Fr. Francisco Rojas con-celebrating.  Fr. Tom gave the homily, sharing that Fr. Jonathan's life was hand in hand with the Blessed Mother and Jesus, especially marked by his covenant of love on April 7, 1974.  He talked about the significance of the priest's hands in the ordination rite and throughout priesthood, tying them to Fr. Jonathan’s life. His covenant medal was placed in a "shadow box" and accompanied us during Mass at the foot of the altar, reminding us of his greatest love.”

After our meal and some time sharing experience of Fr. Jonathan, it was time to go to the shrine for the placement of the Covenant Medal in its shadow box into the crawlspace. The Schoenstatt Boys Youth accompanied me into the basement while the rest of the adults stayed above, singing and praying. With “The Schoenstatt Boys Song”, a song that Fr. Jonathan had changed the lyrics to for the guys to sing, we sang in the basement to prepare the moment. Then it was just a simple prayer and blessing and the medal box placed on the wall directly under the altar and tabernacle of the shrine. Once the boys had climbed out, most of the other participants also braved the little trap door and ladder to climb down and pay their last respects to the medal Fr. Jonathan had worn so faithfully for nearly 38 years.

Naturally there are many more things that could be said. For now, we are just grateful to have shared in this wonderful experience of celebrating a true man of God. May this give you a glimpse of that as well. Peace to all of you!


Special thanks to the Halls and Strandts for the pictures!

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Fr. Tom preaching  at St. Mary's Church
A few of the folks at Mass in St. Mary's
Picture Board from Fr. Jonathan's life
Fr. Jonathan's Covenant Medal.
Guys in the shrine basement.
Shadow box too!
Those waiting up in the shrine.

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