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" To witness to God's love, as told in the Scriptures, sending us to transform all creation through self-giving and dialogue. "

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What is SVD?

It stands for Societas Verbi Divini, which is Latin for Society of the Divine Word or Divine Word Missionaries. It was founded in 1875 by Saint Arnold Janssen in Steyl, Holland and had as its main purpose the training and sending of missionaries to where the Gospel has not been preached.

History of SVD

Arnold JanssenSt. Arnold Janssen

Fr. Arnold Janssen was a German diocesan priest, born at Goch, on November 5 1837, who had made it his one great concern to pray for the world-wide vineyard of the Lord and to train missionaries who would work in it. As a young student at the University of Bonn, he distinguished himself by winning an essay on a botanical subject. His brilliance qualified him for professorship at the age of 22. The University of Berlin offered him a teaching position in the natural sciences. He rejected the prestigious offer. The glory and salary of a university position did not succeed in baiting him into the secure and serene existence of European intellectuals. He chose to be a priest, risking the restlessness of a life spent for the redemption of the many. He was ordained a priest in August 15, 1861. At 24, the scientist became a priest, somehow reconciling the secular and the sacred.

He knew his Christianity better - a creative tension between the human and the divine. As a priest, he was unassuming, frail and pious. His first assignment was to teach mathematics and the sciences in the high school in Bocholt, Westphalia. While handling these secular tasks, he managed to act as the director of the apostleship of prayer in the diocese of Muenster, finding no incompatibility between the two tasks.

As he immersed himself deeply in the life of prayer, his missionary zeal grew. The contemplative and the active in him interacted vigorously and shaped him into the dynamo that he was. Two desires grew ardently and urgently in his heart: he wanted to work for the reunification of the divided Christians in Germany and the propagation of the kingdom of Christ in the mission lands. These aspirations finally moved Fr. Janssen to give up his teaching position.


At this time, Germany was torn by political storm and strife, a period of dictatorial leadership historians call the Kulturkampf. It was a time of cold rationalization, of autocratic compulsion, of deification of the state. In May 1873, the Prussian state passed laws affecting the whole religious structure. It became a criminal offense for any priest to exercise his priestly functions without authorization from civil power. Seminarians were declared subject to military service. Subsequently, fines and taxes were collected. Prison sentences were meted out. Bishops and priests were thrown into prison. Those were times that tried the church and in many ways cleansed her soul in the fires of struggle. Those times had a strong impact on Fr. Janssen and like many churchmen at that period he came out purified and burning with new fire. The power that he saw rise into the heights of evil led him to seek the good in the depths of total service for God and man. He recognized the power of authority in the humble service to broken man.

He saw the true empire in the rule of the meek man of Nazareth, who came not to lord it over men but to lay down His life so that others may have life abundantly. He did not see the good in the desire of his country for world-wide conquest but in the desire of Christ to build a Kingdom worthy of His Father and man. He saw the vision of the Kingdom of the gospel and made it his mission to help in building it up in the world. His time devoted to the publication of the magazine, Messenger of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Janssen kept all these thoughts in his heart and at an opportune time, he started to take proper steps. He called on all the priests, exiled by the German regime, to work for the missions. In his magazine, he put out the challenge:

"Is there no one who feels the call to devote himself to the cause of the missions? Would it not be possible for German priests to band together and found a German Mission Seminary in some safe region outside the homeland?" But how could one entertain the idea of missions during a Kulturkampf? It was all so seemingly ill-timed that a bishop newly released from prison answered: "We live in a time when everything is threatening to collapse and you want to build up something new?" Another bishop exclaimed: "Janssen is either a fool or a saint." And events showed that the humble and modest Arnold Janssen was not a fool. He opened his first mission seminary in 1875 in an old dilapidated inn across the border in Steyl, Holland. This was done under the most modest circumstances. Fr. Arnold made strict demands on those he admitted: first of all a spirit of prayer and humility, then hard work and a simple style of life in evangelical poverty; missionaries would have to be prepared for great sacrifices. Yet numbers steadily increased. In 1889, after a prolonged period of preparation, he founded a congregation of mission sisters in the service of love - the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit (S.Sp.S.).
In 1896 he formed the branch of the cloistered sisters for contemplative work - the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration - since 1917 an independent congregation. The founder never left Europe, but his priests and brothers soon set out to make the world their parish: in 1879 he sent the first two to China; in 1892 the first were sent to Togo; in 1896 to New Guinea; in 1905 to the colored in North America; in 1906 to Japan; in 1908 to the Indians in Paraguay. From 1889 onwards he sent men to several of the priest-impoverished countries in South America: Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile. Shortly before his death, he made arrangements to send priests to the Philippines. When he died on January 15, 1909, his initial community of four had expanded to the big Arnoldus Family of three congregations working all over the world, building God's Kingdom.

He was beatified in Rome by Pope Paul VI in October 19, 1975 was canonized on October 5, 2003 by Pope John Paul II. Janssen was canonized after the healing of a Filipino teenager living in Baguio who fell from a bike and was not expected to recover from a head wound. According to her relatives and the Church, she was healed miraculously following prayers to Janssen.

Arnold JanssenSt. Joseph Freinademetz

Maybe it was while dreamily looking over the magnificent view of the deep valley from the ancient little Holy Cross Chapel perched 2000 meters above sea level on an outcropping above his home in the Dolomite Mountains of South Tyrol or possibly during the daily family rosary or through the encouragement of family and friends, but somehow, the young man, Joseph Freinademetz, was inspired to become a missionary to proclaim Christ's word in a far-off land.

Joseph was born on April 15, 1852, the fourth child of Giovanmattia and Anna Maria Freinademetz. The family eked out a living on their poor and simple small farm as did their neighbors. He studied theology in the diocesan seminary of Brixen and was ordained priest on July 25, 1875. Years later, the little farm house and quiet hamlet of Oies in the Gader Valley changed when Joseph Freinademetz, SVD, was beatified in October 19, 1975 by Pope Paul VI and then canonized a saint in the Roman Catholic Church on October 5, 2003, by Pope John Paul II in Rome. Pilgrims regularly find their way to pray at the small parish church of St. Martin where Joseph served as a curate for three years. Or they visit the little mountain chapel high above the family farm or visit his ancestral home. It is a surrounding that seems to speak of prayer and devotion Joseph's early years were uneventful.

He helped with the farm chores, attended daily Mass at his local parish and, on the advice of the parish priest, attended a school some eleven hours walk from his home. He eventually entered the major seminary and was ordained a priest for the Brixon Diocese in 1875. His initial assignment was to be a teacher. But soon an article in the local diocesan newsletter about the new Mission House at Steyl, Holland, founded by Fr. Arnold Janssen caught his attention. Joseph went to visit the Mission House. The visit was enough to convince Joseph that this is where he could follow his vocation to be a missionary priest. He joined the fledgling group at Steyl in 1878, and barely a year later he received his mission cross along with Fr. John Baptist Anzer, SVD. He had one more brief visit to his family home to say goodbye for the last time, as he would never return to his homeland again. He was to be a missionary in China. In 1881, the Mission House had received its own mission territory, the Province of Shandong. Joseph was so devoted to his mission that, except to recover from an illness, he never left Shandong.

One thing you might notice when looking at a picture of Joseph is that he looks Chinese. He so enculturated himself to China that he took on a form of dress similar to the local Chinese spiritual leaders. He most frequently repeated words were, "I would like to be a Chinese in heaven." He truly loved the Chinese people with whom he lived and worked, and Joseph was especially energized by the local clergy and catechists. He promoted the idea that they should become the leaders in the local Church before Rome was quite ready for this. It was decades later that Rome appointed the first Chinese bishops and also the first non-white Cardinal, Thomas Tien, SVD. As so many missionaries have discovered, the grounding of their mission work is first supported by a strong personal prayer life. Joseph had promoted this amongst the clergy along with the words, "Do you imagine you can become holy without meditation, something no saint was able to do? Without meditation life is lost." He said his daily Mass and prayed his Divine Office with the same intense dedication as he did with his missionary work. Joseph had unwavering hope and belief in the power of God and the sacraments. During such difficult times as the Boxer Rebellion in which two young Divine Word Missionaries were martyred, he remained at his mission post. Well before his death, the Chinese people and others with whom he worked recognized him as a saintly man for his humility, for his firm yet gentle approach to his work, and for his total love of his people. Toward the end of his all-too few years, he was appointed the Provincial for the Society of the Divine Word, a post he held until his death from tuberculosis in January 28, 1908 at age 46.

SVD Foundations Worldwide

The Divine Word Missionaries, also known as SVDs are members of the Society of the Divine Word (Latin: Societas Verbi Divini). They are an international order of Roman Catholic brothers, priests and seminarians numbering 6,102 members (as of 2006) working in 67 countries. Members usually live in multicultural communities reflecting their rich ethnic diversity.

The ultimate purpose of their mission today is the same as it is has been since the time of their founder, "to proclaim the Kingdom of God's love" (Mark 1:14-15) as the common destiny of all humanity and the horizon toward which they travel. It is from the internal loving dialogue of the triune God that this mission emerges, a dialogue of love and forgiveness with all humanity. They do not invent their own mission -- it is Missio Dei -- they are called by the Father, sent by the Word and led by the Spirit.

They give witness to the Kingdom in a world deeply divided by belief, social class, culture and religion. And so they reach out to others in prophetic dialogue, seeking to bridge the divisions that keep human beings separated from one another and from God. Their mission in prophetic dialogue is at the service of communion and it points to the final manifestation of the Reign of God.

They give witness to the Kingdom in a world deeply divided by belief, social class, culture and religion. And so they reach out to others in prophetic dialogue, seeking to bridge the divisions that keep human beings separated from one another and from God. Their mission in prophetic dialogue is at the service of communion and it points to the final manifestation of the Reign of God.

They understand dialogue as an attitude of solidarity, respect, and love that is to permeate all of their activities. In solidarity, they reach out to others to share their lives with them in their concrete situation. In respect, they revere the uniqueness and the dignity of each person and of every human community. Above all, love binds them together in spite of their failings.

In prophetic dialogue, they especially commit themselves to people who are (1) faith-seekers and who have no community of faith, engaging in primary evangelization (missio ad gentes) and re-evangelization; (2) poor and marginalized, seeking to promote integral human development; (3) of different cultures so as to learn from and share in the diversity of gifts given by the God of Life; (4) of other Christian Churches, followers of other religious traditions, and those committed to diverse ideologies.

The Society of the Divine Word or SVD missionaries work primarily where the Gospel has not been preached at all, or only insufficiently, and where the local Church is not yet viable on its own. The SVD's membership reflects the international nature of the congregation and representative of the areas of the world they serve. The SVD missionaries serve according to the needs of the local Church and the particular expertise they bring to the task.

In Asia, the SVDs are involved in education, especially in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Japan. They are also involved in pastoral and developmental work, and other specialized ministries such as Bible apostolate, the youth, communications, and refugee apostolate in Africa and South America. Their work in the United States involves the minority communities, especially African-American and Hispanic communities, as well as, poor areas such as Appalachia.

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SVD Foundations Worldwide

  • 1875 SVD Foundation - Steyl
  • 1975 Netherlands
  • 1882 China
  • 1888 Rome
  • 1889 Austria
  • 1889 Argentina
  • 1892 Togo, Africa (1974)
  • 1892 Germany
  • 1893 Ecuador
  • 1895 Brazil
  • 1895 United States of America
  • 1896 Papua New Guinea
  • 1900 Australia
  • 1900 Chile
  • 1906 Japan
  • 1909 Philippines
  • 1909 Death of St. Arnold Janssen
  • 1910 Paraguay
  • 1911 Mozambique, Africa (1997)
  • 1913 Indonesia
  • 1920 Poland
  • 1920 Switzerland
  • 1923 Slovakia
  • 1924 Hungary
  • 1928 Belgium
  • 1930 United Kingdom
  • 1932 India
  • 1938 Ghana, Africa
  • 1938 Italy
  • 1939 Ireland
  • 1945 Spain
  • 1947 Czech Republic
  • 1949 Portugal
  • 1950 Canada
  • 1951 Congo (Kinshasa), Africa
  • 1962 Mexico
  • 1962-1965 II Vatican Council
  • 1964 Colombia
  • 1965 Angola, Africa
  • 1965 Panama
  • 1970 Serbia-Montenegro
  • 1971 West Indies
  • 1979 Croatia
  • 1980 Nicaragua
  • 1981 Botswana, Africa
  • 1982 Bolivia
  • 1984 Kenya, Africa
  • 1984 South Korea
  • 1985 New Zealand
  • 1986 Zambia, Africa
  • 1987 Benin, Africa
  • 1987 Zimbabwe
  • 1989 Cuba
  • 1989 France
  • 1989 Madagascar
  • 1991 Romania
  • 1991 Belarus
  • 1993 Jamaica
  • 1994 Russia
  • 1994 Ukraine
  • 1996 Moldova
  • 1998 Thailand
  • 1998 Vietnam (first establishment in 1936)
  • 2001 Tanzania, Africa
  • 2002 Timor Leste (part of Indonesia since 1976 until Timor Leste acquired independence)
  • 2003 Chad, Africa
  • 2004 South Africa
  • 2006 Costa Rica
  • 2012 South Sudan
  • 2008 Zimbabwe

SVD Philippines

  • Mission

SVD Philippines Central Province

  • Vision Statement

    A religious missionary community of priests and brothers inspired by the Holy Triune God, proclaiming the reign of God by sharing intercultural life and mission among ourselves and our dialogue partners, following the example of Saints Arnold Janssen and Joseph Freinademetz.

  • Mission Statement

    To witness to God's love, as told in the Scriptures, sending us to transform all creation through self-giving and dialogue


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