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Message for the SSpS Congregational Feast

Author: Sr. Miriam Altenhofen, SSpS
Subject: Feast of Immaculate Conception of Mary
Language: English, Spanish
Year: 2023
Our Lady praying for the Earth - Ana Elidia Neves, SSpS @2023

Dear Sisters and Brothers, dear Friends!

As I journey to the Philippines, our Congo missionaries are still in their retreat in Steyl, which will culminate in sending them off to the new mission in Congo. The beginning in Congo is one of our high points in the “Year of Passion for Global Mission”. It is an expression of widening our tents (Is 54:2) and being committed to God’s mission. 

Sr. Mikaelin Bupu SSpS and two of our sisters from Togo (Sr. Damiana Dan Bao SSpS, Regional of Togo-Benin and Sr. Aldona Wysocka SSpS, Regional Councillor) are already in Bandundu/Kenge diocese to prepare the way. 

The official opening of our new mission will be on December 8, 2023, with a Holy Mass celebrated by Bishop Jean-Pierre Kwambamba Masi (Bishop of Kenge Diocese). This date is significant since it is our Foundation Day. 

We remember our first six “maids” on the vigil to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (07 December evening), walking from the Convent of the Three Linden to the Capuchin monastery, their new home. Similarly, our missionaries to Congo fly to Bandundu to start our SSpS presence in the diocese of Kenge. A dream comes true.

It was similar on the 8 of December, 1889, the day that Arnold Janssen’s and our Mothers Maria and Josefa’s dream would come true in Steyl: The birth hour of the “Missionary Servants of the Holy Spirit”. From there, we started spreading out into all the continents, living our missionary vocation.

Whatever Arnold Janssen did, he did it intentionally. Therefore, it is not by chance that we were born on “The Feast of the Immaculate Conception”. The feast is celebrated as solemnity and honors the belief in the sinless conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary by her mother, St. Anne, without original sin. 

Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. The doctrine states that Mary was preserved from sin by a singular privilege and grace granted by God. So, she became the womb/vessel for the Incarnate Word.

Arnold Janssen loved Mary and wanted her to be our model since she brought Jesus to the world. Mary is the prototype of the “handmaid” of the Lord (Lk 1:28). “Handmaid” is in its old linguistic form the female “Servant of God”. This connects with the Old Testament, the four Songs of the Servant of the Lord (Is 4: 1-4; Is 49: 1-4; Is 50: 4-9; Is 52: 13-53:12). 

In the Old Testament, “Servant of God” refers to individuals and the Messiah.  For example, Moses is called the “Servant of God”. The story of Moses makes it clear that,

  • God chooses his/her servant.
  • God gives him/her a mission.
  • God endows him/her for his/her task.
  • The servant responds to God’s call with
    total dedication and fidelity.

This is also true for Mary in the New Testament. 

  • She is chosen. (Angel: “The Lord is with you” Lk 1: 28)
  • She receives her mission from God. (“Listen. You are to conceive…” Lk1:31)
  • She is endowed for the Mission. (“The Holy Spirit will come upon you…” Lk1:35)
  • She responds with total openness and dedication. (“I am the servant/handmaid of the Lord” Lk 1: 38)

Therefore, these stories apply a pattern that holds true even today, especially for our Congo missionaries. May Mary, our Mother and Handmaid of the Lord, guide and protect them and all of us!

Sr. Miriam Altenhofen, SSpS
Congregational Leader



Miriam Altenhofen, SSpS
Sr. Miriam Altenhofen, SSpS

Sr. Miriam Altenhofen, from Germany, is the Congregational Leader of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit. She studied Pastoral Theology and has a Masters in Psychology. She has worked in Botswana as a missionary, in formation, therapeutic accompaniment and as workshop facilitator.

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