Elisabeth M. Helmich

43 years old; Dipl. social worker/pedagogue; Germany
Ladies of Schoenstatt

What experiences have shaped you as a woman?

The first experiences were of course already in childhood. I have a mother who likes to be a woman herself and who lives her womanhood consciously and with joy. She and my older sister have strongly influenced my image of a woman: to stand by oneself, to accept oneself, to be benevolent towards others, to enjoy life and to shape it consciously, to make one’s own decisions and to let oneself be shaped by life, by people and by God in order to find and follow my own very special way in life.

I came into contact with Schoenstatt at an early age. The Schoenstatt Girls’ Youth has accompanied and shaped me intensively since 1989. In its protected space I could develop fully as a young woman. During puberty I had become very shy and insecure; through the community and activities of the Girls’ Youth I was able to build up self-confidence and self-esteem. I could get to know myself better and I experienced myself – as I am – accepted. The experience of the “Living Crown” in the year 2000 is for me a basic experience of my life and also of being a woman. It was an event that allowed me to grow more into the womanhood of the Blessed Mother. The development to the “Living Crown” within the Girls’ Youth at that time was also an experience that made me grow into the Fiat of the Blessed Mother and let me grow further. She, who said yes to God in her life, the yes to the fact that He may work on her and in her, and that through her He wants to meet mankind.

Where in your life have you experienced God?

The earliest experience of God also lies in my childhood: we used to go to the Eucharist in our village church on Saturday evenings. Often I was already tired at that time and cuddled up to my mother and looked forward to the delicious food after church. Afterwards we always had a nice meal as a family, just as others do on Sundays. For me, this was the epitome of security, of love: this interweaving of worship, with its songs and prayers, the beautiful atmosphere in the church and the delicious family meal afterwards.

Through the community meetings in the Girls’ Youth I was able to experience God in even more diverse ways. In particular, the hours of adoration at night in the shrine or in the house chapel of Sonnenau, our youth centre, fell into my soul and left deep traces of God there. Before the rare days of consecration, we mostly held night adoration. I enjoyed taking the hours in the deepest night, between sleeping and waking. This being alone in front of the open tabernacle touched me deeply each time. The togetherness with Jesus gave me security in the sanctuary. In some restless times of youth, these hours put peace in my heart. They often brought relief from a deep restlessness on my path of searching; at least until the next storm.

And today every visit to a Shrine is for me an experience of God, a coming home to the arms of the Blessed Mother.

What do you see as the challenge for women today?

It is really hard to be a woman today and I think it is even harder to become a woman than it was in my youth. When I have a possibility to experience girls and young women from our Schoenstatt Movement, I am happy and grateful to see how it offers the way for girls and young women to be a woman today and how it courageously takes up this challenge.

There are so many options for me as a woman to pursue any of my inclinations and to lose sight of myself and my being. Everything is right today. What is there to hold on to or orientate oneself by? Differences between being a woman and being a man are something that some people no longer want to name: Anyone can be everything. What is certainly important and right for individuals is sometimes presented as if this is the norm. How does one position oneself to diversity, to transgender, to the “queer movement”…? How can I want to be a woman completely if gender is reduced to a social imprint or social construct, if gender identities are not to be separated from each other and their meaning is supposedly constantly shifting due to the power relations in a society, as the “queer movement” sees it?

So it can be incredibly liberating when a group of like-minded women talk about what it means to be a woman today. And perhaps to read and discuss together texts by our founder, Fr. Josef Kentenich, who even then – in the 1920s and 1930s – rejected role stereotypes and spoke of a “more”, of a “plus” of woman: “I can only speak here of a strong plus or more; for all the values that woman has, man also has. But vice versa too: it is only a plus.” He holds firmly to the original peculiarity of man and woman, and in his writings and lectures he gives much orientation to womanhood. Such conversations and common readings were enormously important for my path as a woman in my youth and still are.

What do you want to change through your life in this world?

My profession is my vocation. I want the people I meet to meet Christ in my heart. A short thrusting prayer in my everyday life is always: “Jesus, touch the hearts of people through me.

Through my life, through my normal and imperfect everyday life that I live with Jesus, I want to show that He is really there in this world. I want to remind Him and give Him the opportunity to work in my life and to reach other people through my life.

“For God nothing is impossible.” Lk 1,37 This statement of the angel in Mary’s Annunciation is a constant promise and encouragement to me that God wants to and will bring about great things with my life, even if I cannot recognize it.

My wish and my aspiration is that people feel and experience God’s love through me: through a benevolent atmosphere, through kindness and recognition. And that people in my environment can grow and develop and perhaps thus discover the greatness – finally God – in their lives, in themselves.