Divine Word Missionaries blog will share some of the latest mission updates from around the world. The more than 6,000 Divine Word Missionaries are serving in 84 countries with a variety of provinces/regions that are then grouped into four zones, namely, the European zone (EUROPA), the Pan-American zone (PANAM), the Asia-Pacific zone (ASPAC), and the Africa-Madagascar zone (AFRAM). The zones may work as geographical sub-zones wherever this seems suitable. Check back often for real-time stories from the missions.
Great Missionaries: Maria Helena Stollenwerk
Jan 13, 2017
Maria Helena Stollenwerk
Helena Stollenwerk was born in Rollesbroich, Germany in 1852. While still in elementary school, Helena participated in the Holy Childhood Association, a group which helped children in the missions. She decided that one day she wanted to become a missionary in China.
Maria Helena wanted to become a religious missionary sister, but at that time there were no convents of missionary sisters in Germany. She heard that Fr. Arnold Janssen had begun a group of missionaries and so she wrote to him about joining the community. Fr. Janssen informed her that his community only had priests and Brothers. Some day he might also begin a group of Missionary sisters, but he could not give her any guarantees.
With that little information, Helena went to visit Fr. Janssen. He invited her to stay, but she would have to work in the kitchen, at least in the beginning.
Other young women also came to assist the Divine Word Missionary community, waiting for the day when they could become sisters. Some grew tired of waiting and left, but Helena remained. Finally in 1889 Fr. Janssen chose Helena to be co-founder of the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters. Within seven years there were over 100 sisters and some were already serving in Argentina and Togo, Africa.
Fr. Janssen decided that he also wanted to found a group of contemplative sisters who would pray and make sacrifices for the missions. A year after establishing the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, Fr. Janssen asked Sister Maria Helena to move to the Adoration Sisters. She took a new name at that time, Sister Maria Virgo. She would have preferred to remain a missionary sister, but responded generously to Fr. Janssen’s request. Maria Helena’s desire to be a missionary in China was never fulfilled. Shortly after joining the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, Maria Helena became very sick and died in 1900.
"The Great Missionaries" of St. Arnold Janssen, father, leader, founder, Blessed Helena Stollenwerk co-founder of the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters and St. Joseph Freinademetz was first featured in Divine Word Missionaries Magazine, Vol. XLVIII No. 3 Fall 2005, issued quarterly.