ST. ARNOLD JANSSEN, SVD
FATHER, LEADER, FOUNDER
ARNOLD JANSSEN IS AN
OUTSTANDING EXAMPLE FOR
• He started a great mission movement
among his countrymen.
• He worked for the unity of Christians.
• He provided opportunities for prayers
• He developed the apostolate of the
• He encouraged scientific research and
development especially in the field of
• He was a pioneer in sending women to
the foreign missions.
• He encouraged the apostolate of the lay
• He was a man of prayer.
HE WAS THE FOUNDER OF THREE RELIGIOUS CONGREGATIONS:
1875 SOCIETY OF THE DIVINE WORD (Divine Word Missionaries - SVD)
1889 MISSIONARY SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Holy Spirit Sisters -SSpS)
1896 SERVANTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OF PERPETUAL ADORATION
(Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters - SSpSAP)
Yet his life was very ordinary. Arnold Janssen was born on November 5, 1837, in Goch, a small city
in lower Rhineland, Germany, the second of ten children. He was ordained a priest 15th August,
1861, for the diocese of Muenster and was assigned to a secondary school in Bocholt, where he
worked as a strict but just teacher. Due to his profound devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he
was named Diocesan Director for the Apostleship of Prayer. As a priest, he was described as
"humble, simple, pious and a man of prayer and unbounded confidence in God."
He became deeply aware of the spiritual needs of people beyond the limits of his own diocese,
developing a deep concern for the Mission of the Universal Church. He decided to dedicate his life
to awakening in the German Church its missionary responsibility. With this in mind, in 1873 he
resigned from his teaching post and soon after founded "The Little Messenger of the Sacred
Heart." This popular monthly magazine presented news of missionary activities and it encouraged
German speaking Catholics to do more to help the missions.
At that time, Germany had no missionary seminary. Janssen thought it needed one, and since
nobody else volunteered to found such a school, he decided that he should do so himself.
Unfortunately, in the 1870s, anti-Catholic laws in Germany forbade such religious schools. He
therefore crossed the border, found an old inn at Steyl in the Netherlands, and there set up his first
seminary in 1875.
For the Society of the Divine Word, which came into existence in this humble setting, Father
Janssen assigned a double aim: to train missionaries and to cultivate the Christian sciences. These
objectives reflected both the zeal and the scholarship of the founder. While his project was novel,
the number of candidates rose rapidly. Janssen's practical trust in divine providence also proved
very effective: funds were available for the asking, he argued, and he proved his point. His own
generosity inspired generosity in others.
Finally realizing the importance of publicity, he expanded his Little Messenger and launched also
the popular magazine "Stadt Gottes" (City of God), which still remains the largest illustrated
Catholic family magazine in Germany. He likewise enlarged the scope of the order to include lay
brothers, who soon outnumbered the priest members
The volunteers at the mission house included women as well as men. From practically the very beginning, a group of women, including Blessed Maria
Helena Stollenwerk, served the community. But their wish was to serve the mission as Religious Sisters. The faithful, selfless service they freely offered,
and a recognition of the important role women could play in missionary outreach, urged Arnold to found the mission congregation of the “Servants of the
Holy Spirit,” SSpS, on December 8, 1889. The first Sisters left for Argentina in 1895.
In 1896 Fr. Arnold selected some of the Sisters to form a cloistered branch, to be known as “Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration”, SSpSAP.
Their service to mission would be to maintain an uninterrupted adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, praying day and night for the church and especially
for the other two active missionary congregations.
Fr. Arnold died on January 15, 1909. His life was filled with a constant search for God's will, a great confidence in divine providence, and hard work. That
his work has been blessed is evident in the subsequent growth of the communities he founded: more than 6,000 Divine Word Missionaries are active in
63 countries, more than 3,800 missionary Servants of the Holy Spirit, and more than 400 Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration.
All that he had and all that he was were totally at God's disposal. He was willing to be shaped, to grow, to learn, and to be used for His design in
proclaiming the saving love of the Triune God to all peoples. His love for the triune God found expression through his motto: May the Holy Triune God live
in our hearts and in the hearts of of all people.
Pope Paul VI beatified Fr. Arnold Janssen on World Mission Sunday, October 19, 1975.
He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 5, 2003.
His feast day is January 15.