Divine Word Missionaries
All because of the Holy Spirit

Blessed Arnold Janssen, SVD

the founder of three missionary congregations

Society of the Divine Word
Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit
Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration
Bl. Arnold Janssen, SVD

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The abbreviation SVD comes from our official Latin name "Societas Verbi Divini," which means Society of the Divine Word.

Born in 1837 in Goch, a village on the lower Rhine in Germany Arnold Janssen was ordained a priest in 1861. He had a passionate interest in the missions. Since the "Kulturkampf" was raging in Germany and the government was putting obstacles in the path of the Church, Arnold Janssen crossed the border into the Netherlands and founded his mission congregation in the little village of Steyl.

Fr. Janssen named his congregation the Society of the Divine Word because he pictured the Incarnate Word sowing missionaries around the world. Above all, he thought of Jesus Christ who is referred to in the beginning of John’s Gospel as "the Word":

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. [Jn. 1:1-5]

But Fr. Janssen set to work with incredible trust in Divine Providence. After only four years, in 1879, he was able to send the first two missionaries to China.

After the first mission in China, a mission was accepted in Togo (West Africa), then one among the native tribes of Papua New Guinea. These were followed by missions in Japan, in the Philippines, among Americans of African descent in the Southern USA and then among the "Indios" of Paraguay. Teams of missionaries were also sent out to care for the spiritual needs of poor immigrants in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Ecuador.

Divine Word International Mission House in Techny IL
In Europe, Fr. Janssen’s mission house in Steyl was no longer large enough to prepare all these missionaries. Therefore, he founded new mission houses: St. Gabriel in Austria near Vienna, Holy Cross in Poland, a house in Rome, Italy and finally a house in the United States in Techny, Illinois near Chicago. This was the last mission house Fr. Janssen founded before his death. Brother Wendelin was the first SVD to come to the United States from Germany.
He knew that women were just as important in the missions as men, and founded the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit. Convinced of the need for prayer as one of the "tools" of mission, he also founded a cloistered community, the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration.


Adoration Sisters
Adoration Sisters
Bl. Joseph Freinademetz, SVD
Bl. Josef Freinademetz, SVD our first missionary to China
Fr. Janssen died in 1909 in our motherhouse in Steyl. In 1975, one hundred years after the founding of the Society of the Divine Word, Fr. Arnold Janssen, the founder, and his first missionary Fr. Josef Freinademetz, SVD were beatified in Rome by Pope Paul VI. Fr. Freinademetz reached China in 1879. He served as a missionary for 29 years, dying in 1908 after devoting himself wholly to the Chinese people. He never returned to Europe. In the summer of 1999, four Polish missionaries were beatified by John Paul II. They are martyrs killed during World War II in concentration camps for witnessing to the Gospel.
In the meantime, Arnold Janssen’s work continues to grow. All three of the congregations he founded have since become international, multicultural communities. At present, there are about 6,000 members in the Society of the Divine Word. Bl. Arnold Janssen’s missionary Priests, Brothers and Sisters are working in 62 countries around the world.
One of the hallmarks of this vigorous religious family is its internationality, its multi-cultural makeup. Teams of missionaries are made up of members from many different nations and cultures working together for the Kingdom of God as a concrete sign for our divided world that such cooperation is both possible and desirable.

The Society fully treasured the inheritance of its spiritual leader Bl. Arnold Janssen, his missionary zeal, his veneration of the Incarnate Word and of the Holy Spirit, "who will change the face of the earth."

Fr. Bernard Latus, SVD
Fr. Bernard Latus, SVD missionary to Jamaica
Missionaries of the Society of the Divine Word carry on the work which Pope John XXIII described in these words: "Mission work is the most important work of the Church." Vatican II said: "The Church is missionary by its very nature... and every Catholic must be a missionary." Pope John Paul II wrote: "Our own time, with humanity on the move and in continual search, demands a resurgence of the Church’s missionary activity."
How pleased the founder would be today! The Society of the Divine Word has spread to all the continents, except Antarctica, and has drawn members from more than 60 countries. The Society of the Divine Word is now the 8th largest religious community of men in the Catholic Church. We certainly consider ourselves blessed. Our work, however, is not yet done - nor is it near the end.

The needs seem even greater now. But as we approach the end of the millennium we look to the future with hope. The challenges have been offered, the seeds have been planted, the fruit will begin to mature. With our good will and missionary zeal and with the help of our benefactors we can meet those challenges and answer Christ’s call.

Society of the Divine Word
in the United States of America
USA Flag more info

Twenty years after founding the Society, Fr. Janssen dispatched Brother Wendelin Meyer, SVD to the United States. He arrived in Hoboken, NJ in 1895.

Within a year, more Divine Word Missionaries were sent to the United States. They eventually settled about 35 miles north of Chicago, in what is now known as Techny, Illinois.

In 1909, encouraged by successful recruiting efforts, the Society opened St. Mary’s Mission Seminary at Techny, the first seminary established in the US primarily to train men for the foreign missions.

In 1923, the Society opened St. Augustine Seminary in Bay St. Louis, MS to provide African American men with the opportunity to become Priests and Brothers.

The Missionaries of the Society of the Divine Word minister among African Americans in the US and in the Caribbean in 48 parishes. The Society also ministers among Vietnamese who are part of our new immigrant Church and among Hispanics who comprise the most rapidly growing Catholic population in the US. We work in numerous hospitals, prisons, educational institutions, and in communications.

Divine Word College
Divine Word College Seminary
Epworth, IA
A Roman Catholic College Seminary training future Brothers and Priests to become missionaries. All of the students are seriously considering a vocation to our missionary congregation of Priests and Brothers. The College offers two bachelor’s degrees: philosophy and cross-cultural studies. Both of these areas are considered most important for future missionaries and seminarians who will be pursuing graduate studies in theology.
Society of the Divine Word
in California, USA
California more info
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Our mission house in Riverside, CA serves the public as a Retreat Center and Retirement Home for our elderly
We concentrate on serving minority groups in parishes throughout the state. We provide care in hospitals and prisons. We educate young people and communicate the Word through mass media.
Mission Statement
As a multi-cultural religious community, we live the spirit of Arnold Janssen, and we proclaim the Word of God in diverse ministries, focusing on the poor and marginalized. Committed to unity in diversity, we are bridges among peoples
We are an international Roman Catholic missionary congregation of priests and brothers counting among its 6000 members men from 62 different countries. Each is ready to leave his home and culture to bring the Gospel to those who have not heard the Good News about Jesus Christ or to local churches that are, at this time, unable to tend to the needs of the Catholic Christians.
Wherever we go we:
preach the Gospel
establish communities of faith
celebrate the sacraments
promote Catholic education
develop lay leaders and teachers
educate Priests, Brothers and Sisters
care for the sick and dying
feed the hungry and clothe the naked
shelter the orphan
tend to the leper
dialogue with world religions
communicate the Word
The Society of the Divine Word is a non-profit organization and is supported primarily by contributions of people of good will. Donations made to the Society qualify as charitable deductions under the IRS Code 501 (c)(3). Our Federal Identification Number as well as further information are available upon request.
Mission Mass League Mission Rosary Prayer eCandles
Mission Mass League Mission Rosary Light a Prayer Candle
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2002 Society of the Divine Word, USA Western Province - All Rights Reserved