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St. Arnold Janssen

His Eminence Cardinal Rossi, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, in his address to an assembly of Roman Cardinals on 28 November 1972, said:

- Arnold Janssen deserves to be proposed as a model to all the people of God.”
- “Before us rises the gigantic figure of an apostle of recent times.”
- “Arnold Janssen is a brilliant and very fitting example for the men of our times.”
- “Arnold Janssen is like a tree that is rich in fruit for the entire missionary Church.”


He was a paradox ………

  • A mathematician and a mystic
  • A dreamer and a practical man
  • A strict yet endearing leader

He was an outstanding example for Modern Christians:

  • He started a great mission movement among his own people.
  • He worked for the unity of Christians.
  • He provided opportunities for prayer and retreats.
  • He encouraged the apostolate of the laity.


He is the founder of three missionary groups:

  • Society of the Divine word (SVD)
  • Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS)
  • Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (SSpS AP)

Saint Arnold’s family consists of  more than 10,000 members from all over the world. These men and women are active throughout the world bringing Chirst’s message to those who have not heard it.. The Word of God is the daily good news of the missionaries. They lead people to God and witness to his presence in their life.

Arnold Janssen was born in Germany in 1837. His Father was a hard-working farmer who also maintained a transport business. In his horse-drawn wagon he crossed and re-crossed the border between Germany and Holland carrying salt and other goods. This supplemented the small income he gained from his farm to support his growing family.

Arnold was the second child of the family, and it was within this atmosphere that he absorbed and developed:

  • A deep personal relationship with God the Father, Son and Spirit.
  • An awareness of the needs of people far beyond the borders of the homeland.
  • The ability to take up and follow through difficult tasks.

As the national director of the apostolate of prayer, he became  convinced of:

  • The need for the Good News of Jesus to be brought to the billions who had never heard it.
  • The Value of the printed word to motivate a deeper prayer life, and the desire to participate in the mission life of the church.
  • The need for men in his homeland to offer their lives for the broader mission of the Church.

In the journey of following God’s daily call to him, he began to publish a small magazine in which he frequently challenged his countrymen to think seriously about founding a college where young men could prepare for work in overseas missions in countries such as China. He saw a great opportunity arising from the persecution of the Church by Bismark, Governor of Germany at that time. Priests who could no longer perform their ministry in Germany could offer their lives to the overseas missions

The greatest difficulty lay in the fact that no one seemed to take up the challenge. Finally, even though he could not see himself in the role of Founder, he approached the Bishop of Roermond in Holland, where Bismark could not touch him, and asked  permission to found a missionary college there. The Bishop gave permission, but with  personal reservations about the viability of the plan. He said to himself, “That man wants to start a missionary college and he doesn’t have a dime to his name. He is either a fool or a saint!”

The mission seminary of St. Michael was opened for German aspirants to the missionary vocation in 1875. From the first, the group was made up of people of different nationalities – and this was to remain a hallmark of the new missionary society up to the present time.

Since his childhood, Arnold had learnt how God had revealed himself through,  Jesus, His Word. Since the new mission Society was to spread the knowledge of Jesus, he gave it the name: “Society of the Divine Word.”

Shortly after opening the College, he installed a printing press to continue promoting the Word. Even today this publishing house issues magazines in many languages to further the knowledge and love of God in the lives of its readers..

Four years after the inauspicious foundation, the first missionaries left for China. After that the great need of the migrants in Argentina was brought to Arnold’s notice, and he sent his men there. So the pattern was set. His First response was to those who had never heard of Christ – but other needs were not rejected.

At that time there were seven young women eager to spread the Good News. They were overjoyed when Arnold led them to their “Convent” to begin their religious life as Servants of the Holy Spirit in the year 1889; and  in 1895 sisters were traveling to Argentina as missionaries. Soon after, sisters went to Africa and New Guinea. The Word of God was spreading quicker and far wider than Father Arnold had envisaged.

Always conscious that it was God’s work and not his own, Arnold saw the importance of prayer for the success of the missions. In 1896 a third branch came into being – Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration, destined to spend their lives in prayer for the mission of the Church.

In promoting and finally founding three congregations, Father Arnold had proved himself a man of vision. His life continued to be open to the realities of the world of his day. He always insisted on the need to make a distinction between European culture and the Faith; it was the Faith that was to be shared with the people of the world, not the European culture. He encouraged his priests to study the natural sciences, especially anthropology, to provide for the Church knowledge an understanding of differing cultures. This would enable the Gospel to be presented as an enrichment of the values of the culture in question.

Arnold Janssen died in 1909 at the age of 72. At that time his missionaries were taking the Gospel to China, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Africa and working among the neglected Catholics of Argentina, Brazil, Philippines and U.S.A.

His Prophetic Mission

It is explicit in the Bible that the prophets were individuals who brought God’s word to others. In the sight of the people, prophets were very strange individuals. Even today an individual who plays a prophetic role is considered to be a strange and odd person in the society and St. Arnold was no exception to such thinking.  When he wrote and discussed the idea of founding a German Mission House, he was thought to be out of his mind. He was criticized and looked down upon even by the people who are supposed to have discerned the signs of the times.

The prophets had direct and personal connection with God. They listened to God and His message attentively. Sometimes in spite of unwillingness they were compelled to speak (Amos 3: 7; Jer.1: 7-8). So was St. Arnold who was deeply and intimately connected with God through his unceasing prayers (e.g. his quarter hour prayer). Consequently, he could listen to God carefully. It was God’s will that he always did.

It is true that prophets are not welcome in their own country, for the obvious reason that they are so familiar that there is nothing special to expect of them. Another reason for not accepting prophets is that it is not easy to be sure whether they are true or false. In the Old Testament there were many prophets who claimed to be true prophets (1Kg. 22). The New Testament too warns, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7:15).  St. Paul, says “Do not quench the spirit, do not despise prophesying but test everything, hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:19-21). Keeping in mind all this, it must have been difficult for Bishops and others to judge as to whether St. Arnold was truly led by the Holy Spirit. St. Arnold was not disturbed by all these. They were moments of darkness but for him they were also moments of prayer and hope. 

God raises men and women in history with a particular message for his people. The founders and foundresses of religious congregations belong to this category. St. Arnold believed in the spirit, the affirmation of higher authorities and others, and in the signs of the time, that he was called by God to play a prophetic role in Germany.

Many thought that the period of ‘Kulturkampf’ a destructive and unfavorable time, but for St. Arnold it was something positive. He believed God was communicating something to the people of Germany. St. Arnold knew that Germany was in a critical situation. He believed that Germany needed conversion of heart and mind and had to learn to be generous.

St. Arnold believed that it was an appropriate time to speak to the Germans about the need for establishing a mission seminary which would train the missionaries for foreign missions. He convinced the people that a German Mission Seminary was necessary. The role St. Arnold played was daring and unacceptable but he felt that was the right thing to do. In the beginning he faced resistance but he persevered in his determination and eventually his appeal was accepted and approved.

After long prayerful deliberations, he made up his mind that he should begin the project. He started to visit the hierarchy and explained his plan to the bishops. He requested them to be supportive with finance and personnel. He approached his own bishop of Muenster who after hearing his plans expressed doubts; however, he gave the letter of approbation. Next, he went to the Archbishop of Cologne, who looking at St. Arnold intently, said, “What? We are living in times when everything seems to be tottering and collapsing, and you want to start something new!” St. Arnold’s immediate reply was, “We live in times when much is going to pieces and disappearing; in those places something else must be erected.” He also visited Bishop Paradise, diocese of Roermond, Holland, who  commented , ‘He does not have a penny! He must be either a fool or a saint. I have no faith in Father Janssen’s project.” 

It was said, “Father Janssen was not the right man to carry out such a work.” In spite of meeting all these resistance, it is remarkable to note that St. Arnold neither expressed nor showed any disrespect towards bishops and his fellow priests. Meanwhile, there was a ray of hope as some financial help arrived and adding to this, one priest and two seminarians gave assurance of joining St. Arnold. By now, according to Bornemann, “In all, 33 Bishops of Holland, Germany and Austria had given their blessing to the mission seminary.”

It was propitiously on 8th September, 1875, the birth day of Blessed Virgin Mary, that St. Arnold’s mission seminary was inaugurated, bearing the name, St. Michael’s Mission Seminary. On the same day, the foundation of the future religious missionary congregation, the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) was laid.  He felt the need of religious sisters in assisting the SVD priests and brothers. Thus, in 1879 he founded a missionary congregation of sisters and named it the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit (SSpS). He was a man of prayer and he saw a great need for sisters who would support the active missionaries by their Prayer. So, in 1896 he established the cloistered Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (SSpS- AP)

St. Arnold’s life and mission,, indicate very clearly that he was indeed a prophet. And this prophetic mission of St. Arnold has made a great impact on the SVD Mission in India.

St. Arnold Janssen was declared a Blessed on 19th of October, 1975, and a Saint on 5th  October , 2003. His Beatification and Canonization not only testify to his personal sanctity but also to what he accomplished as the Father and Founder of the Divine Word Missionaries, Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and Holy Spirit Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

The Divine Word Missionaries arrived in India in 1932. Under the leadership of Fr. Valentine Zimmermann, SVD, the Society of the Divine Word was started in Central India (Indore, Madhya Pradesh). In 1948, five Divine Word Missionaries arrived at the Gangapur Mission as the Jesuits had decided to handover the mission to the SVD missionaries.

Looking back what the Divine Word missionaries have achieved in this part of the world (in India Eastern Province), one can say without doubt that the Divine Word missionaries of India Eastern Province have made a great effort to respond to the needs of the people and to the signs of the times. This is certainly the impact of St. Arnold’s Prophetic Mission. (Edited version of the article written by Fr. Emile Soreng, SVD, one of the former Provincials of INE)



(1837 - 1909)

dBlessed Arnold Janssen was born on November 5, 1837, in the Diocese of Münster, in Germany. After his ordination to priesthood he dedicated himself to the teaching and the spread of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and igniting the missionary spirit among the German speaking peoples of Europe. Full of zeal for the Kingdom of God he consecrated all of his energies for the formation of priests, sisters and lay people so that he could send them to evangelize, especially among peoples who did not know Christ. For this purpose he founded the Society of the Divine Word in Steyl, Holland, and the missionary Congregations of the Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and of the Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration. These Institutes, wisely guided and formed by their Founder, grew rapidly and carried on a fruitful apostolate in various countries.  The Blessed, rich in merits and surrounded by a solid and widespread reputation for sanctity, fell asleep in the Lord on January 15, 1909.

On October 19, 1975, during the course of the Holy Year, the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI proclaimed him Blessed together with Blessed Joseph Freinademetz, Priest and Religious of the Society of the Divine Word, missionary in China.

     Recently the Postulator of the Cause, taking into account the desire of many of the faithful who looked forward to the canonization of Blessed Arnold, submitted for judgement to this Congregation for the Causes of Saints a presumed miracle which took place in Baguio City, Philippines. The case concerns a fourteen year old girl, Pamela Avellanosa, who at about 2:00 p.m. of January 2, 1995, fell from her bicycle, suffering a grave cranial-encephalic trauma. Admitted to hospital several hours later after losing consciousness, she was diagnosed as being in a profound coma, with pupilar mydriasis and respiratory arrest after a period of grave respiratory difficulty. In the intensive care unit she was intubated and placed on assisted respiration. Initially, the doctors, seeing the profound state of the coma and the gravity of the situation, concluded that a surgical procedure would be useless; but, then, at about 7:30 p.m. on that same day, without the necessary physical tests, they went ahead and performed a craniotomy on the right side revealing a very large epidural hematoma which was removed. The doctors feared for the girl's life and, in the event that she survived, they predicted very grave after effects from the injury and even a vegetative state.

     Meanwhile, from about 6:00 p.m. onwards the grandmother of Pamela and the Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration had begun to invoke the intercession of Blessed Arnold to obtain from God the girl's healing. And in fact, she rapidly began to improve until she had reached complete recovery. In 1999 the Apostolic Vicariate of Baguio opened up a diocesan investigation into the presumed miracle, an investigation which was recognized as juridically valid by this Dicastery with the Decree of April 7, 2000. The Medical Commission, in its meeting of April 18, 2002, admitted that the cure was rapid, lasting and scientifically unexplainable. On October 8, 2002, there was a special Session of the Consulting Theologians. On November 19, 2002 there was the ordinary Session of the Curial Fathers, Cardinals and Bishops, in the presence of the Relator of the Cause, Most Rev. Giuseppe Coppa, Titular Archbishop of Serta. In both Sessions, that of the Consulting Theologians as well as that of the Cardinals and Bishops, to the question as to whether in this case one could speak of a genuine and authentic miracle, the response was affirmative.

A complete account of everything that has taken place has been presented by the Cardinal Prefect, whose signature is appended below, to the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II. His Holiness accepted and ratified the Votes of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and ordered the publication of the Decree on the above mentioned miraculous healing.

     This having been done, he summoned the Cardinal Prefect, the Relator of the Cause, myself the Episcopal Secretary of the Congregation, and all the others who, by custom, are convoked on these occasions, and said to them: It has been established that we are dealing with a genuine miracle obtained from God through the intercession of Blessed Arnold Janssen, a Religious Priest and Founder of the of the Society of the Divine Word and of the Missionary Congregations of the Servants of the Holy Spirit and of the Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration, that is to say the rapid, complete and lasting healing of the girl Pamela Avellanosa from a "serious cranial-encephalic trauma with the formation of an epidural hematoma on the right side, profound coma, central apnea, endocrenal hypertension and a parietal fracture".

His Holiness wished that this Decree be published and transcribed into the Acts of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Giuseppe Card. Saraiva Martins

+ Edward Nowak
Titular Archbishop of Luni



Weekly Special Devotions

First Fridays: Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Third Mondays: Devotion to the Holy Spirit.
Special Novena: Christmas and Pentecost
Others Devotions: To the Holy Trinity and the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Quarter Hour Prayer of St. Arnold Janssen

Leader O God, eternal truth
All We believe in you
Leader O God, our Strength and salvation
All We trust in you
Leader O God, infinite goodness
All We love you with all our heart
Leader You sent the Word into the world as our savior
All Make us all one in him
Leader Fill us with the spirit of Christ
All That we may proclaim your name everywhere. Amen.


May the darkness of sin and night of unbelief vanish before the light of the Word and the Spirit of Grace. And may the Heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all peoples. Amen

Special Patrons of the Society of the Divine Word

  1. Incarnate Word of God
  2. Mother of God
  3. Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael
  4. Sts. Joseph, Joachim and Anne
  5. Sts. Peter and Paul, John and Andrew
  6. Sts. Gregory, Augustine and Vincent
  7. Sts. Arnold Janssen and Joseph Freinademetz (SVDs)
  8. Blessed Maria Stollenwerk (SSpS)
  9. Blessed Ludwik Mzyk and Alojzy Liguda
Blessed Stanislaw Kubista and Gregorz Frackowiak

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