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.
Pentecost, St. Arnold Janssen and the Holy Spirit
May 17, 2018
This coming Sunday, May 20, is Pentecost Sunday, considered the birthday of the Church. It was on the first Pentecost that Christ sent the Holy Spirit to his apostles, who were gathered in the Upper Room. With the Holy Spirit to guide and inspire them, the Apostles were able to establish the Church on earth.
Our founder, St. Arnold Janssen had a particular devotion to the Holy Spirit. He often referred to the Holy Spirit in his writings, such as this excerpt from an 1898 letter: “Provided that we remain humble and steadfast, God the Holy Spirit will always help us.”
St. Arnold inherited his love of the Holy Spirit from his parents, Gerhard and Anna Katherina Janssen, who lived on a farm outside the small German town of Goch. The Janssens were a prayerful couple with strong faith in the Catholic Church. On his deathbed in 1870, Gerhard gave this advice to his children: “Never miss High Mass on Sundays in honor of the Blessed Trinity to thank the Triune God for all the graces of the week, and attend Mass in honor of the Holy Spirit each Monday to implore the blessings of the Holy Spirit for the week.”
It is often remarked that the Holy Spirit is the least understood person in the Holy Trinity, but in his writings, Father Arnold revealed he understood the Holy Spirit well. He understood the Holy Spirit as the counselor Jesus sent to dwell within us. The Holy Spirit is our companion on earth, offering strength in times of adversity and guidance in times of uncertainty. As Father Arnold wrote in 1874, “Just as the eternal God unites himself to his Son Jesus so does he love, sanctify and unite himself with us in the Holy Spirit.”
Our founder prayed to the Holy Spirit to give him the wisdom, piety and fortitude necessary to lead a new missionary order. In his letters to superiors overseas, he often advised them to do the same. To the newly appointed Bishop Augustin Henninghaus SVD, missionary to China, he wrote in October 1904, “May God the Holy Spirit preserve this agreement of hearts and strengthen it ever more in order to fulfill with blessing the so difficult mission work.”
Then there is the example of Brother Wendelin Meyer, the first Divine Word Missionary in North America. He was sent to cultivate support for our fledgling order among the fast-growing population of German immigrants in the United States. In May 1896, not long after Brother Wendelin’s arrival, Father Arnold sent him the following instructions: “You should now intensify your prayers all the more so that God, the Holy Spirit, may lead you to the right place and enable you to recognize where He wants us to be.”
Brother Wendelin’s prayers led him to the home of a German parish priest in Chicago. The priest told him of a large farm north of the city owned by a German orphanage. Within a year our founder approved the purchase of the farmland soon to be known as Techny, home to our Mission Center and base of operations for Divine Word Missionaries in America. Reading them today, St. Arnold’s words to Brother Wendelin stir the soul. How can there be any conclusion except that we are where the Holy Spirit wants us to be?