First of all, it is important to note that Fr Kentenich did not build the Chapel of St Michael in Schoenstatt; it was already there. In an outward and juridical sense he was also not personally responsible for it in the sense that he was able to treat it as his personal property. The ultimate responsibility for the building rested with the Pallottine Province in Limburg.
Fr Kentenich’s essential achievement was that he discovered and became convinced that the Blessed Mother wanted to choose the cemetery chapel to be her shrine. Through his co-operation which it is possible to describe in greater detail he laid the foundations for it to become a place of grace, and he then made it known as a shrine with a very specific character and function.
Nevertheless, some information about jurisdiction needs to be give at this point; it will then not be necessary to refer to it again as we depict the history of the shrine.
It is not possible to demarcate the periods exactly, but it is possible to distinguish between three main periods: the time up to 1919, the time until after the Second World War, and the time that followed.
Until 1919 it was generally accepted that the owner of the chapel, with unlimited responsibility for it, was the Pallottine Society, which had purchased it in 1901. The government of the Society in Limburg, was seen as the legal owner. It was for this reason that Fr Kentenich turned to his Provincial Superior in 1914 with his wish to use the chapel for the gatherings of the Marian Sodality. A letter to Josef Fischer of 21.4.1916, who wanted to donate the pictures for the Stations of the Cross in the chapel, shows that Fr Kentenich observed the juridical requirements. He wrote, “Of course, I can’t decide anything in this regard.“
After 1919 this changed. The competent Provincial Superior, Fr Kolb, assured the new Apostolic Federation in all due form that it had unrestricted use of the Old House and the shrine. Fr Kentenich became the leader of the Federation and as such he had to take over responsibility for the administration of these two buildings.
In a brief letter to Fr Muehlbeyer of 5 May 1953, Fr Kentenich reminded him of the history of the legal status.
He wrote: “Let me remind you that from the first (note: this referst to the time after 1919 when I became leader of the Federation) the shrine was my responsibility, that is to say, from the beginning the Leader of the Federation was responsible for it. Very early on he transferred this firstly to Fr Kolb, than to you. So what was changed in the shrine with his agreement was juridically correct. Of course, it is true that at least implicitly the responsibility for the shrine was placed in the hands of the Leader of the Federation in dependence on the Province. However, since it was not clearly defined in how far the Provincial government wanted to have a direct say in these things, the juridical situation developed over time in such a way that in practice the final responsibility lay with the Leader of the Federation. Since the Provincial government did not take back its rights, the situation was simply and naturally regarded as legal …“
This situation remained unchanged until after the Second World War. This showed, for example, in the post-war years when a number of symbols in the shrine were changed or installed. The light frame around the MTA picture was renewed by the Institute of our Lady of Schoenstatt, the tabernacle was modified by the Women’s League, the holy water font was installed by the refugees, etc.
In these years after the Second World War things gradually changed. On the one hand, the Provincial government in Limburg wanted to take over personal and direct responsibility for the shrine; on the other hand, the members of the movement gradually lost interest in caring for the shrine, so that in the above-mentioned letter of 5.5.1953 Fr Kentenich wrote, “Quite apart from the fact that the keen interest in the adornment of the original shrine had been disappearing for quite some time.“ However, decisive changes and discussions only came to the forefront of everyone’s interest after Fr Kentenich’s death.