The Missionary Servants of the Holy Spirit celebrated their XIV General Chapter in Steyl from April 27 to May 31. The theme of the Chapter was “With the Power of the Holy Spirit, we share Good News among peoples” and the focus was “The mission of Jesus, our mission”. We have proposed, as congregations founded by Arnold Janssen, a mutual collaboration in the mission of making God’s Kingdom present in the world. The following is a reflection on what we can do together in the light of continuing the mission of Jesus today.
Arnold Janssen had a purpose, a goal and a vision for founding two women’s congregations – each with very distinct characteristics. Arnold founded the Congregation of Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit in 1889 in Steyl along with the co-founders Maria Helena Stollenwerk (1852-1900) and Hendrina Stenmanns,called Mother Josepha (1852-1903). This Congregation is now an international group of women numbering 3156 members working in 51countries around the world.
When we reflect on what we have to do together with our sister’s Congregations, in the light of continuing the mission of Jesus today, we realize that we have the same spiritual roots and the same mission. There may not be clear-cut and well-defined ways of collaboration, but we are already involved in some sharing, planning and executing some projects in a given place.
As congregations we set out on a mission to collaborate with each other to actualize the Kingdom of God in the world. Arnold was so passionate that we help one another and give a genuine and fruitful witness to our missionary calling. Over the years, each Congregation has grown autonomous, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, each works independently. Still our roots bind us together, and our founder Arnold connects us with the sister congregations.
Because of the charism and spirituality of our founder Arnold and the common ties, our congregations “seek to work closely” (SVD Con. 311 and SSpS Con. 313) with one another for mission endeavors. The SSpS constitution states, “Where possible, we work with the members of the Society of the Divine Word, as our Founder intended both Congregations to share in the same missionary mandate.” (SSpS Con.107.2) The SVD constitution says, “because of our common ties we seek to work closely with the missionary congregations of the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit and the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration, who have the same father and founder as ourselves.” (Con. 311) Over the years, we have tried to work together for our common mission in some areas.
The Arnold Janssen Spirituality Centre in Steyl as well as in other provinces works in spreading the spirituality of Arnold and the founding generations. In this way, confreres and Sisters work together to bring forth the treasures of our legacy to the people so that we and our mission could be strengthened and enlivened by this spiritual fountain. VIVAT International is another platform where we work closely to promote justice and peace and make an impact at the international secular arena, promoting justice on behalf of local concerns. This is carried out both at the top administrative level as well as on the ground level where we are working in different parts of the world.
Probably the community in The Hague was the only place where confreres and Sisters ‘live together’ under one roof as ‘one religious family’. Certainly it is edifying to see all pray, eat and work together. There are many places in the world where there is close collaboration between the two congregations on various levels in social projects, pastoral works, school apostolate, bible apostolate and so forth. In St. Gabriel, Vienna, the SSpS live in our community and take care of the elderly confreres. There is a good collaboration too in the MaZ project (Temporary lay missionaries) which sends missionaries from Europe to other continents.
The Generalates of both the congregations show how to strengthen our spiritual ties. In 2013Last year the general council members of both congregations had their annual retreat together in Nemi. They have Bible sharing on a regular basis in Rome and also twice in a year both councils meet together to share and plan some of the common concerns of the congregations. There are many places where both congregations have activities like the Way of the Cross, recollections, retreats, celebration of Arnold Janssen’s Feast and so forth. In the XIV SSpS General Chapter, for the first time two confreres participated in the Chapter as representatives from the SVD. Our Superior General also addressed the capitulars.
Since our constitutions point out that we seek to work together closely, where possible and viable we could strive to undertake a common mission. Together we could envisage plans, projects, and decision making processes to carry out the mission in a fruitful way. This could be a sign of a life-giving community to the people to demonstrate how men and women religious in the Church continue the mission endeavors with passion and zeal. We see this clearly in the outreach programs to minorities in The Hague, Netherlands, where confreres and Sisters work together to execute their common vision. Such mission endeavors are encouraged and need to be promoted as a value and witness to the people. Leadership can play a great role in identifying the areas where we could be involved in more effective collaborative mission.
Prayer is the heartbeat of our religious life, and we have the duty to pray for one another. Making a special effort to pray for the SSpS and their mission endeavors is like a duty within the family to support one another. Arnold send a note to the first Sisters in the United States in 1901 saying, “May you always remain faithful daughters of the Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit! So may God the Holy Spirit bless you in his love, he who has chosen you as the pioneers for the propagation and transmission of the Congregation in North America!” Thus he always blessed them and prayed for their welfare and progress.
Pope Francis says that every Christian should realize, “I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing.” (EG 273). In this complex world, supporting and collaborating with others seems to be the only option to live our vocation fully and to bring the blessing of God on people effectively. Knowing what we want to accomplish will determine whether we need to cooperate, or coordinate, or collaborate. Therefore, it is not living together as religious congregations in a same place, but more of why our communities exist and what we want to achieve together which would pave the way for growth.
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