Since the Middle Ages, travelers have been offered places of rest and devotion. Today we will make a stop at and in the highway church "St. Paul Wittlich" in the diocese of Trier with pastoral counselor Petra Jung of the Wittlich deanery.
Interviewer: Your church St. Paul is located in Wittlich in the Eifel and has a direct connection to a highway, namely the A1. But the church has another connection to the highway. Which is?
Petra Jung (pastoral officer of the Wittlich deanery): The interesting thing is that this highway church, commemorates those who had to create this highway in the period between 1939 and 1942 under inhumane conditions. These were the prisoners of Hinzert concentration camp. In Wittlich there were two satellite camps, one for men and another for women. They were forced to do this work at the risk of their lives. Then the sponsoring association looked for a way of remembering and came up with the Wittlich artist Sebastian Langner, who created a memorial next to the entrance door on the outside wall.
Interviewer: St. Paul himself has a troubled past, however, because it is a former monastery church and was saved, so to speak. But it was not officially built until 1969. How does this go together?
Young: Immediately next to the church you can see a large building almost like a castle. This was the former monastery of the Steyler missionaries. The small oratory was no longer large enough for the number of visitors, who also came from the surrounding area. The Steyl missionaries themselves ran a boarding school on the grounds, so I imagine that the space just wasn't enough anymore. Then around 1969-70 this modern church building was created, which is really very beautiful to look at.
Interviewer: The church is maintained by the sponsoring association with about 200 active people. What is the main task of the association??
Young: The association maintains this church of course. After the departure of the Steyler missionaries in 2004, the grounds, the monastery church, the monastery building and the fields became the property of a real estate company, which mainly bears the financial costs, while the sponsoring association receives a subsidy of approximately 1.400 – 1.500 euros a month to carry. Especially active is a group of about 50 people, who take over all necessary services. A highway church has to be open from eight in the morning until 8 in the evening. There is a closing service, there is a technical management, administration, floral services and liturgical services with sexton, organist and lector. The diocese has withdrawn completely from the financing and this must be carried now everything.
Interviewer: How often do you encounter travelers who take this time out from the stress of the highway?
Young: There is a lively life in the church. You can always see the tree of lights in front of the Taize cross, with lighted candles. It is also proved according to the study that the anonymity of these churches is appreciated. There are many visitors, including joggers, cyclists and hikers on the way. We simply want to offer a space for rest and spiritual impulses and thoughts. The crucial thing happens between God and man.
Interviewer: It is also a bike path church, not just a highway church. That is, is it located directly on a well-known bike path?
Young: It is the Maare-Mosel cycle path, which leads from the Maare in the Eifel down to the Moselle. This is a former railroad line, which now leads through scenic areas for cyclists, where you also pass through several tunnels.
Interviewer: You call your pastoral "passagere pastoral". What do you mean?
Jung: What is meant by this is that it is open to people who simply want to come in, receive impulses, take away suggestions, and sink into the art of this church. The reason for this is a large mural by the artist Werner Persy. In addition, a bookstall offers suggestions. Recently, we have a priest who is available. We are very grateful that the Steyler Missionaries always release a Father for this work, who can also be found for conversation in the churches.
The interview was conducted by Martin Molder.