Arnold Janssen’s Second Foundation
Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters SSpS
Servae Spiritus Sancti
We, Missionary Sisters, Servants of the Holy Spirit are an international group of women -founded by Fr Arnold in 1889, and now numbering about 4000 – who, in our communities witness to the mystery that our God is one, and our God is three; the mystery of Christ in his global church where all nations are at home; the relationship of unity and love between the
Father Son and Holy Spirit.
We share our lives our giftedness our resources for the growth of the Kingdom of God.
Aware of our woundedness and need for conversion and aware of the healing redemption won by Jesus we are convinced that it is good for Christians to share community ministering healing to each other and growing together in constant conversion.
And so we witness to the love our God has for each of us by loving and supporting each other by accepting each other as God accepts us in our growth to wholeness by trusting each other as God trusts us by challenging each other to be ever more a person open totally to the call of the Holy Spirit since we have named ourselves his servants.
And from the courage and strength generated in community we are enabled to reach out to those who cross our path day by day.
Called by God
We are a group of women caught up and enthused by the mystery of our God Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We rejoice that God has shared with each of us the Good News that Jesus is our brother … and that he freed us to walk in his pattern through his death and resurrection, and through the personal gift of the Holy Spirit whom the Father has poured into our hearts.
We are convinced that our lives are meant to be centered in this God who loved us before we were even capable of knowing him.
The core and center of our lives is our personal and communal relationship with our God.
We touch the high point of this relationship daily in the Eucharist where the Lord gives himself to us under the symbol of bread, so that as he becomes bread for us we also may be bread for others -and all we meet in the strength of the Spirit of Jesus.
Since the church is the mysterious presence of Jesus through his Spirit in the world today we consider ourselves women of the church – ecclesial women.
Daily we join with the church in its global prayer morning and evening knowing that we are part of a continuous acknowledgement to our God that He is the Lord of life and that all we are and all we do tries to make his love known to everyone.
Together in our communities we plan our time so that we have special moments when we -a church in miniature -share together pray together reflect together so that we may gain strength and light, so that we may be bread for each other on life’s journey.
Daily each of us withdraws also into the solitude of our personal desert there to spend time with the Lord of our life and we go forth strengthened to be a revealer of the Good News who is JESUS.
Called to serve
The Holy Spirit Missionary Sister is called to move out… to go to the ends of the earth if there are persons there who have not recognized Jesus in their lives and who are in need of the freedom which Jesus brings.
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.
Lk 4 :18
First and foremost we bring the Good News of Jesus, and of God who is Father and the Spirit sent in Jesus’ name.
We work for the building of Christian communities so that the local church may itself become an evangelizing church.
We move to places where we are most needed and to peoples who are not being reached by others.
In the spirit of the gospel we enable a growth in awareness of the value and dignity of each person ; we enable people to rejoice in their own value and dignity so they in turn can assist their brothers and sisters to come to this same growth, in freedom – for salvation brings freedom.
We work in education bringing literacy to the unlettered the wisdom and learning of the ages the call of the church to Christian responsibility to all who attends our schools and colleges that they may be leaders in their turn leading their own peoples to a quality of life becoming to human persons .
We work in primary health care and in clinics in hospitals and in homes for the elderly ministering healing and wholeness – gift of Jesus – struggling to conquer disease and enabling the local people to continue this ministry of hope.
We work with and for those who are marginal peoples – slum dwellers, prisoners, migrants, refugees, outcasts, peoples who live far from modern civilization.
In countries where modern technology provides for many a high standard of living we work especially for those who are on the fringes of society whom technology and materialism have broken for those whose poverty is that they do not really know Jesus Christ; for those who still need guidance towards responsible Christianity.
We also endeavor to conscientize Catholics as to their duty to the global church and to the suffering in their own areas – bringing them to awareness that the work of evangelization is theirs as baptized Christians.
The Holy Spirit Missionary Sister belongs where she is NEEDED for the gospel.
The first Servants of the Holy Spirit
In every life, there is always sorrow and joy. The life of Jesus Christ was also a series of “little deaths” of being hurt and disappointed, and “little resurrections ” of joy which his friends gave him. All this led to his real death and resurrection. His journey through this world still touches many lives. In the same way, lives which are often simple and unrecognized in their own time can touch the lives of many who come after in a way never dreamt of. To put that another way, many a person whom the world now calls great, must look from eternity in surprise at their fame and honour today. This could be said of two women born in Germany in the second half of the last century. Without their loyalty and cooperation, Arnold Janssen’s missionary foundations would possibly have now a different thrust in their spirit of prayer, their community way of life, and their enthusiasm for their apostolates.
When we first meet Helena Stollen-werk, born in the village of Rolles-broich in the Eifel district in 1852, attending the village school for eight years, and growing up in an environment (which even the youth of Ger-many today would not easily understand) we may find ourselves trying to grasp a way of life that we have to come to understand. Yet the pain and the joy of her struggle to answer life’s call is an expression of the faith that still moves young women to give their all to the work of spreading the Kingdom of God.
Like some young women of today, reading of the great numbers who had never even heard of our God – in her day especially in China – she tried to find a way in which she could personally become involved in the work of spreading the faith. At that time Germany did not have any groups of religious sisters who worked in the overseas missions such as China. Again and again, she tried to find ways of answering the call deep within her to be a sharer of the Good News which is Jesus Christ. Finally she heard of Arnold Janssen’s work at Steyl; this at least might offer some possibility of responding to the urge within her. Helena was to learn that while always trying to do what God wanted was an outstanding trait of Fr Janssen, the time he needed in discerning was often a long test of faith and hope. Fr Arnold told Helena that he realized the need for missionary sisters in the places where he intended to send his missionaries, but the time was not yet ripe for a decision to commence a group of women missionaries. However, he invited Helena to work with the Sisters of Divine Providence who cared for the kitchen of the mission house. He would be aware of her desire if and when God made his will clear. Hoping against hope that at least here she would realize her dream, Helena made her decision. With faith in God she moved to Steyl not being deterred by the nebulous nature of this promise.
From time to time her hope was revived as other young women joined her in her work there; and in 1884 she and the others were joined by Hendrina Stenmans. Hendrina was about the same age as herself, but had been caring for her motherless brothers and sisters up till this time. She too experienced that inner urge which she knew she had to satisfy -an urge to give her life for the spread of God’s Kingdom. With her she brought a lot of practical skills learnt first of all when her district enjoyed a ” mini-boom ” of the silk industry in her early teens, and she became a competent silk weaver. Then her years caring for her father’s house ensured that here Arnold Janssen had gained a very practical household manageress. Yet, that is not how she saw herself. Writing to Fr Janssen she indicated her willingness to do anything that those who did not know God would soon come to know Him. In her letter to the Founder she wrote : “I long for nothing else than with God’s help to be the least of all, and to offer myself that the work of spreading the faith may be successful.
The first glimmer of hope came for the group of young women now numbering four when Fr Arnold decided that with enough missionary brothers to take care of the kitchen in the mission house, the Sisters of Divine Providence could be withdrawn. One of the treasured stories of those early challenging and uncertain days is about the very small house to which the young women transferred at this time. Because of the three lime trees shading it, the students dubbed it ” The Convent of the Three Lime Trees”. But no matter how dignified the title may have tried to be, it did not keep the rain out, or create the extra space really needed as the group took care of the laundry and mending for the staff and students of the mission house. Better times were just around the corner – almost literally. The Capuchin Friars vacated their monastery, and so was born officially the Mission Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit on December 8, 1889. The group transferred to the empty monastery, and the dreams of many years seemed closer. The very next year, a real convent, even nearer to the mission house complex was vacated by the Augustinian Sisters. Here at last the founder had found a suitable convent for his missionary sisters.
The founder busied himself about preparing a rule of life for them, as this was needed before they could commence their novitiate. In August 1891, he named Helena the superior of the group ; in January of 1892 he gave them their light blue religious dress. Helena became Sister Maria, and Hendrina’s religious name was Sister Josepha. But they had to wait till January 1893, when their rule of life was approved, to commence their novitiate. Just over one year later, the group professed their vows as Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit.
Even though the founder had taken a long time to get started with the foundation of the missionary sisters, once started he did not let the grass grow under his feet; but he still acted with the thoroughness typical of him. While Sister Maria and Sister Josepha made sure the future missionaries had the practical skills needed, Fr Arnold commenced his mission preparation courses which included the study of English and Spanish, and also trained some of the sisters to be teachers. The tasks performed by the sisters varied and expanded. In keeping with the policy of Fr Arnold, they opened their house for women retreatants. This entailed not only extra work, but also great inconvenience, as the sisters had to vacate their beds to make way for the retreatants. All this time the number of young women asking to become missionary sisters was increasing, and the house had to be extended twice.
1895 was the year which saw the realization of the dreams of many -in this year the first sisters were sent to an overseas mission, Argentina; and one year later another group left for Togo in West Africa.
Yet, for the man of faith that Arnold Janssen was, all mission work was based in deep prayer life. For years he dreamed of having a group of sisters whose work was to support missions and missionaries by a life of prayer and sacrifice. When he was choosing candidates for the missionary sisters he was careful to include young women who showed a desire for a deep prayer life. Waiting to be sure of God’s will as he always did, it was in 1896 that he decided that this was the time to establish a third group of missionaries – missionaries who would never be involved in the active apostolate ; but who through their fidelity as Servants of the Holy Spirit would ensure that day and night Jesus in his Eucharistic presence was praised and honored and petitioned for his priests and missionaries throughout the world. On December 8 of this year, he admitted the first group to the novitiate of the Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration, and clothed them in the rose coloured habit which signified their openness to the Spirit of God.
In the beginning, Sister Maria was supposed to be among the first group, but at the time of the transfer, the will of God seemed to point in another direction. Two years later Arnold Janssen returned to his original plan, and asked her if she would like to join the adoration sisters. It seems that his plan was that eventually she would be the superior of both the “cloistered” and the missionary groups. She died as a novice in 1900.
When Sister Maria transferred to the cloistered sisters, the founder named Sister Josepha as the superior of the missionary sisters. Seeing God’s call in this appointment she said: ” The Holy Spirit is at the spearhead of this congregation”. And she went ahead with complete trust in the Spirit. It was during these few years that sisters went to New Guinea, Brazil and the United States of America. Rather unexpectedly, she died in 1903.
Since their deaths, both of these sisters have been given the title of Mother in recognition of the part they played in bringing the congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit to birth. Currently their beatification is in process in Rome. It is the prayer and wish of many that the title ” Blessed ” will be given them when the Congregation celebrates its centenary: December 8, 1989.