It 1875 Divine Word Missionaries began with Father Arnold Janssen, a young German Catholic priest with a dream of bringing the Gospel to places where it had never been preached. Since the German government had enacted harsh anti-Catholic laws expelling religious orders and repressing the Church, Fr. Arnold, steadfast in his determination, crossed the border into Steyl, Holland, and settled in a little inn on the banks of the River Maas. Soon other priests and laymen joined him and, on September 8, 1875, he inaugurated the Mission House training center and founded the Society of the Divine Word, an order of priests and Brothers devoted to preaching the Gospel in foreign lands.
From 1888 to 1913, the Society experienced rapid expansion, with new European mission centers established in Rome, Austria and Germany. After training and sending numerous missionaries to Argentina, Africa, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and India to spread the Word of God, Fr. Arnold dispatched the first missionary to the United States. Brother Wendelin Meyer SVD arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1895, assigned to seek financial support for the Society through sales of Divine Word publications. He was soon joined by Brother Homobonus Stiller SVD and three others, who together took the first steps to establish a community of Divine Word priests and Brothers in the new world. Father John Peil SVD arrived to lead the growing community and, in 1899, they settled on a farm north of Chicago in what is known today as Techny, Illinois. They quickly developed the property to serve the Society and the local community. They established St. Norbert parish, a trade school for orphaned teenage boys, elementary and high schools, a printing press, a home for the elderly and, in 1909, St. Mary’s Seminary "the first seminary in the United States dedicated to training candidates to serve as missionary priests and Brothers in foreign lands.
Today, Techny is home to the Mission Center, a Religious Gift Shop, Techny Towers, the headquarters of Chicago Province, a residence for over 60 Divine Word priests and Brothers and the Society’s novitiate in the United States. Techny is just one of the many thriving communities in the United States where Divine Word Missionaries live, work and pray. Across the globe, there are more than 7,000 active Divine Word Missionaries in more than 70 countries. Our missionaries dedicate their lives to sharing Christ’s love, teachings and compassion while working to build vibrant Catholic communities around the world. We remain one of the few Catholic congregations of religious men to sustain steady growth in membership. Each year close to 1,000 seminarians prepare for their final stages of formation before ordination.
1879 – The first Divine Word Missionaries were sent to China
1946 – The consecration of the first Chinese Cardinal, Thomas Cardinal Tien Ken-sin SVD, Archbishop of Beijing.
1966 – Bishop Harold Perry SVD became the first African-American Bishop in the United States.
1985 – Fr. Joseph Tri Vu SVD was the first Vietnamese priest to be ordained as an SVD.
2003 – First SVD house is established in Russia. Fr. Arnold Janssen and Fr. Joseph Freinademetz canonized by Pope John Paul II.