Extracts from the biography of Arnold Janssen „Journey in Faith – The missionary Life of Arnold Janssen“ written by P. Josef Alt SVD
“It is not surprising that Arnold Janssen used every opportunity to publicize the positive impressions of visitors (to Steyl), just as he did on the occasion of Bishop Vaughan’s visit in the spring of 1876. In the late fall of 1877, he announced the visit of Bishop Comboni. “On 5 and 6 November 1877, we had the honor of receiving the Most Reverend Daniel Comboni, Vicar Apostolic of Central Africa, ordained bishop in Rome on 15 August, together with his secretary and Fr. Noecker, President of the Negro Association in Cologne. |…| The gentlemen were immensely impressed by the important development achieved by the house in the short period of two years. Msgr. Comboni said to the Rector of the house, ‘Non parvam vel mediocrem, sed permagnam benedictionem Dei tu habuisti, crede mifii, scio de hac re! (You have received neither a small nor mediocre, but a very great blessing from God; believe me, I know about such things.)”
Fr. Blum still remembered Comboni’s visit after the passage of twenty-four years, in particular his magnificent mission sermon in Latin.”
Bishop Comboni had asked him to send as many people as possible. “I am ready to accept immediately priests, teachers and crafts men.” (Comboni to AJ, Verona, 20 November 1879) The response had to be negative.( AJ to Comboni, Steyl, 25 November 1879; original in Sludiutn Combonianum Verona.) “I regret that at the moment I can send you neither priests nor brothers, neither clerics nor sisters. |…] We do indeed have seventy students, but of these only six are doing theological studies, and of these six, only one will be ordained this year. For the time being he will teach here. The rest will not be ordained for two and a half years. We have no brothers or sisters yet. |…| Why did Your Excellency not open a school for the humanities? We started off on a modest scale and now we have all classes up to philosophy and theology, eleven teachers and a large number of candidates. We would not have that if we had not begun with the humanistic studies. Open a school and you will have a good foundation for your mission.”
“Year 1878. I made another visit to the tombs of all the saints interred in St. Peter’s, made a few other necessary visits in Rome and in the evening, I left the Eternal City with its living and dead treasures to travel to the Casa Sancta in Loreto. I spent the whole night in the train. At seven in the morning, I arrived at the shore of the Adriatic Sea near Ancona and at 9:45 I stood at the altar in the house where the Eternal Word became flesh. Since the next train northwards left at 5:45, I had plenty of time during the day to pray and reflect in the Casa Sancta and I remembered you all. Once again, I traveled all night and at 4:30 Sunday morning I left the train at Verona. I went to the African College. The rector, Fr. Rossi, who had visited us last winter with Bishop Comboni, clapped his hands in delight when he saw me, so impressed was he by the visit he had made to Steyl.” The Founder then went from Verona to Brixen. Among the friends of the Mission House, he met the young priest, Joseph Freinademetz, who would soon travel to Steyl. Here in Brixen, where he composed the letter for Steyl, he had discussions with various people: Fr. Norbert OFMCap, Msgr. Gasser, Director Mitterrutzner, Rector Schmiderer, and the students Schoepfer and Seeber.”
“I (Arnold Janssen) visited St. Peter’s and various friends of the house and on Monday, 23 April 1883 at 11:30 p.m. I left Rome, the capital of the spiritual world, thanking God for the graces he bestowed on me during my stay. The journey took me to Vienna via Florence, Verona, Brixen and Salzburg. In Verona, as in Milan, I found seven or eight candidates. The rector’s name is Joseph Sembianti. I was welcomed with genuine warmth. |…| They gave me Msgr. Comboni’s room and I slept in his bed. They said they would erect a monument in his honor. In Brixen I met our good friends, Frs. Norbert, Seeberand Schoepfer, and also the former dean of the Cassianeum, Fr. Schmiderer, who despite his age still hopes to visit Steyl.”
“When the House was founded, we already considered the question whether a women’s branch would have to be added to the male branch later on. Meanwhile this was left aside because there was so much else to be taken care of and put in order first. At every possible opportunity, however, competent persons were asked for their advice about such a weighty matter.” Fr. Janssen regarded the Vicar Apostolic of Sudan, Daniel Comboni, as the most significant counselor. During his visit toward the end of 1877, he had explained that “it was, of course, possible to invite the collaboration of other women’s congregations but that this brought a number of difficulties.” “Therefore, he firmly advised me to found my own institute. I could not make up my mind to make a start, however, until I had clearer signs from God.” Toward the end of 1879, Comboni stated that he “was willing to accept Sisters, as well as priests and Brothers, from Steyl in his mission territory. He requested clear and precise information in this connection.” (Comboni to AJ, Verona, 20 November 1879,)
“Even though the early issues of his mission magazine included few articles about Africa, the Founder’s interest in that continent reached back to the years before he founded the mission house in Steyl. At that time, he gave donations to the Prefect Apostolic Daniele Comboni for the ransom of pagan children. His rather theoretical knowledge of mission work became more concrete through Comboni’s and Rector Rossi’s visit in Steyl. “On 5 and 6 November we were honored by the visit of the Most Reverend Vicar Apostolic of Central Africa, Bishop Daniel Comboni, ordained in Rome on 15 August of this year, his secretary, and Rev. Fr. Noecker, President of the Negro Association in Cologne.” Two years after the visit, Comboni asked him to send as many missionaries as possible. “I am ready to immediately accept priests, teachers and craftsmen.” Arnold Janssen had to say no; everything was still in the first phase of development.
Contact with Verona was maintained even after Comboni’s death on 10 October 1881. On his way to Vienna from Rome in early 1883, Arnold Janssen broke his journey at Verona. “I was welcomed with genuine warmth. They gave me Mgr. Comboni’s room, and I slept in his bed.” Arnold Janssen was confronted for the first time with the possibility of starting a house of his Society in Africa towards the end of 1885. In his memoirs he reported, “During an audience with His Holiness Pope Leo XIII on 10 December 1885, His Holiness asked me if we would be prepared to take on a mission in a German African protectorate. I pointed out to His Holiness the difficulties involved but said I would regard the wish of His Holiness as a command.” A year before that, Germany had appropriated its own colonial territories and was interested in German missionaries, in the first place for Africa. On 15 November 1884, the Congo Conference opened in Berlin and concluded on 26 February 1885 with the signing of the Congo Act. With that the real scramble for the division of the countries and tribes of Africa began, for the Act defined the guidelines for the recognition of mutual proprietary and trade rights. The humanitarian obligations in favor of the Africans and the battle against the slave trade were also drawn up, though in the field of education it was taken for granted that the orientation was clearly European or that of the respective colonial power. Article 6 conceded the right to missionary work. And that was the opportunity for the Pope. On 23 December, two weeks after Leo XIII had asked Arnold Janssen about sending missionaries, the Prussian Envoy to the Holy See, Kurd von Schloezer, was summoned to a private audience. The Pope discussed mission questions with him from the ecclesiastical perspective but in the German context. He spoke of his intention to establish a seminary if possible in Germany for Catholic missionaries who would work in the German colonies. He pointed out similar institutes in Belgium and in Steyl,Holland.”
(Comboni died on 10 October 1881; in every issue of its tenth year of publication, 1883, the Sacred Heart Messenger published a series on the life and work of the great Africa missionary. A picture was also published)
Six months later, on 5-6 September, Steyl’s interest in Africa was rekindled by a visit from Comboni’s successor, Bishop Sogaro of Central Africa. He was accompanied by a local priest who had been trained in Rome and Beirut. This was visible evidence that the Catholic Church and divine vocation transcended racial boundaries. (1887)
Arnold Janssen Yesterday and Today – Analecta SVD 63/III, P. McHugh SVD
Page 354 – about the vocation of Bl. Maria Helena
“Having grown up in an isolated village in the Eifel, she did not know how to go about achieving her desire. After vain attempts, she came across Rector Janssen’s address and through the mediation of her pastor she asked him for advice and help. In his reply, Rector Janssen mentioned several convents to which she could turn, but also asked her to send her curriculum vitae to Steyl, since he might be able to do something for her later on. Thus, the petitioner entered into correspondence with the Founder. To her curriculum vitae she added the urgent request: “Reverend Father, I ask you as urgently as I can to assist me for the love of God! As far as I am concerned, it is all the same to me where I am granted admission and whether I am sent to China immediately, or not. What is most important is that a true religious spirit reign in the convent.” The Founder could hardly close his mind to this urgent call. Should he wait for a further revelation of the divine will? His first foundation grew and prospered. China, the great harvest field, had opened to the urgent zeal of his sons. Monsignor Comboni had definitely advised him to go ahead. Yet with one brick one cannot erect a building; it was a question of first collecting several vocations. He could have placed an appeal in the Sacred Heart Messenger, and soon members would have thronged to him, but in this second foundation Arnold Janssen was even more cautious and circumspect than in his first. If God wanted the founding, he should also lead the members to him; and this he did.”
As Wine Pour Out – Biography of Joseph Freinademetz, Fritz Bornemann SVD
During the five years that Freinademetz studied at the Brixen Secondary School, Mitterrutzner, in collaboration with the missionaries, published two works on linguistics which have linked his name for all time to the beginnings of African linguistic studies. The books were published with a grant from the Imperial Academy of Science in Vienna. Then, in 1864, Comboni published his plan for the missionization of Africa which was often reprinted and widely translated. In it, alongside the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, Gregory XVI, Pius IX, the Marian Union, the Mazza Institute in Verona and the Franciscans, Mitterrutzner, the Augustinian Canon Regular of the Neustift Monastery, Camboni is the only private person mentioned as a promoter of the vast Central African mission.
“Meeting with Arnold Janssen. In the meanwhile, Rector Janssen made his first trip to Rome. Following an audience with the Pope. he left the city on the evening of 12 July, a Friday, traveled to Ancona, visited the Holy House of Loreto and then went on to Verona, stopping at the African Mission Seminary whose renowned Bishop Comboni, with Rector Rossi, had visited Steyl in 1877.”
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