Social Communication As SVD Apostolate In The Philippines
Franz-Josef Eilers, SVD*
It was as an editor that Arnold Janssen became the founder of the Divine Word Missionaries congregation (SVD). As the director of the apostolate of prayer in his home diocese in Muenster, Germany he learned more and more about the mission work of the Church worldwide and decided to found a monthly mission magazine, the "Little Herald of the Sacred Heart," which started in 1874.
One morning of that year, he read in the newspaper that the bishop of Hong Kong, Msgr. Raimondi, would visit Fr van Essen, a parish priest in a place nearby. During the interview with Bishop Raimondi, Janssen mentioned the need for a mission house in German speaking countries. He had advertised this need in his periodical but never thought of doing it himself. Bishop Raimondi tried to convince the young priest to do it himself and in fact even visited him in the latter's own place in Kempen, Germany.
It was only this way that Janssen finally took the initiative himself to buy an empty pub on the banks of the Mass River in Steyl just across the German border to open a mission house. This became the cradle of the SVDs. Right in the first year, he also ordered his own printing machines for his mission magazine and other publications he wanted to publish.
Thus right from the beginning, communication was one of the essential activities and parts of the Divine Word Missionaries. Wherever they went all over the world, in the years to come, the apostolate of the press and other means of communication became their trademark.
In the Philippines, it was only in 1924 that the first SVD-owned printing press started. This was conceived to be part of a technical school, the "Catholic Trade School," in Manila. In the further development, the school did not really get off the ground. The printing at Tayuman and Oroquieta streets, however, flourished.