AJSC Newsletter

Newsletter # 3

Steyl - February 12, 2008


          Warmest greetings again from the Team of the Arnold Janssen Spirituality Center in Steyl.  We would like to share with you some news about our activities which hopefully will be interesting and encouraging to you in your own ministry of spiritual animation.  It is also intended as an invitation to you to share with us what has been happening in your province/region.

In this bulletin:

  1. Goch as Place of Pilgrimage
  2. Provincials & Spiritual Animation
  3. Led by the Spirit into the Chapter
  4. 30 Day Retreat
  5. AJSC Activities in Steyl
  6. Other AJSC Activities
  7. Keeping in Touch
  8. Appendix 1 - (Importance of Spiritual Animation).


1 Goch as Place of Pilgrimage

On 18 May 2005 Bishop Reinhard Lettmann, Bishop of Münster, wrote the following to Fr. Günter Hoebertz, the pastor of our Founder’s home parish in Goch:

On 12 May 2005 you personally submitted a petition to establish the town of Goch as a place of pilgrimage and the church as a pilgrimage church in memory of St. Arnold Janssen.  You state that ever more people are coming to Goch,  following the footsteps of St. Arnold Janssen.  They come to St. Mary Magdalene church, in which Arnold Janssen was baptized, to light candles and to ask his help for their petitions.  You also state that you have set up a shrine in the church to make this possible in an appropriate way.  In addition the pilgrims like to visit the house where Arnold was born and then also visit St. Arnold Janssen parish church.*

In accord with your request I hereby grant official ecclesiastical recognition of  Goch as a place of pilgrimage in the steps of St. Arnold Janssen.

* (This is a parish in Goch run by the SVD.)

Agents are beginning to arrange trips that would cover Goch and Steyl, as well as Kevelaer, the Marian shrine which Arnold and Mother Josepha used to visit frequently.  Here in St. Michael’s candles have been burning in front of St. Arnold’s tomb day and night since the canonization in October 2003.  More and more groups seem to be coming.

2. Provincials & Spiritual Animation

From May 15 to 29 the generalate conducted a two-week workshop for 32 newly appointed SVD provincial and regional superiors, plus the four zonal coordinators.  Peter was asked to present the section on ‘Spiritual Animation’.  In his talk he spoke of the importance of spiritual animation and developed the threefold task of the Superior as Animator:  1. To foster and enhance the growth of each individual con- frere in his missionary commitment.  2. To promote and enrich our community life.  3. Animate our Mission.

In the provincials’ discussion in plenum two specific points were emphasized:

(1)  Support for the SATs.  The provincials were encouraged to make more use of the resources of the province, especially the SATs; to appoint suitable confreres, who are both interested and acceptable to the others; and to give them their support.  The provincial and council should sit with the SAT members and plan possible ways of animating for the coming year.  This could include inviting the AJSC to offer programs in collaboration with SAT members.

(2)  To make better use of the annual retreat.  Sometimes the social aspect seems to be more important than personal reflection in an atmosphere of prayer.  The value of the personally guided retreat was highlighted.  Provinces may need to encourage more members to be ready to help in this ministry.  The AJSC has conducted several workshops for the formation of retreat guides since there is a felt need of preparing Sisters and confreres as retreat guides and spiritual companions and a growing appreciation of our own members as spiritual guides.  The AJSC would be very happy to offer such workshops, in a province or for several provinces together.  Just let us know.

Peter’s talk to the provincials is appended to this Newsletter with a one-page summary of the conclusions of a joint meeting of the AJSC with the SVD general council in Steyl, 27-30 Dec 2002, to discuss Spiritual Animation.  This sheet was distributed to the provincials in Nemi.

3. Led by the Spirit into the Chapter

Arranging for guided retreats requires more efforts, but with good will a lot is possible.  The SSpS Northern Province of the Philippines held its provincial chapter in January.  To start the chapter there was a guided retreat for all the capitulars and chapter personnel.  This required a large team of retreat guides, both SSpS and SVD.  But, according to Sr. Milagros, the new provincial leader, the extra effort was really worthwhile.

4. 30 Day Retreat

Tony Pates, Matilde and Simon conducted the 30 Day Retreat for the VIII SSpS International Formators’ Course in the Philippines in May and June.  The retreat focused on the elements of our trinitarian missionary spirituality and charism, with special emphasis on such aspects as rootedness in the love of the Triune God, the active presence of the Holy Spirit throughout the retreat, following Jesus as consecrated women in frontier mission, the fullness of the Spirit as the dynamic force in mission, the ongoing mission of the Trinity.  Included also was contemplative exposure to poor areas where simple families live and places where people work.

In this way the team tried to ensure that the retreat process would flow out of the Sisters’ own experience of our missionary spirituality and charism.  In fact in our planning session in December 2004 Sr. Agada challenged the Team to develop a structure and dynamic for a 30 Day Retreat that is based more directly on our spirituality and charism.  The Team have already started work on this.  Fr. Tony Pates, director of the Nemi course and long-time member of the AJSC in Steyl, is facilitating a week of reflection by the Team on this theme.  In the next AJSC Newsletter we will bring a report of what the Team works out.

5. AJSC Activities in Steyl

The three-month SSpS tertiate or renewal course is being held in Steyl.  It  is an English-speaking course with 25 SSpS Sisters.  Our Team are responsible for the sections on our spirituality and charism and on the founding generation, as well as the guided retreat.  Since 2002 the SSpS Tertiate has no longer been held in Nemi.  Part of the SSpS Mother House was remodelled specially for the tertiate programs.  As usual the SVD renewal course will spend two weeks here in Steyl before proceeding to Oies and Nemi.  Having both courses in Steyl at the same time will make possible more interaction between them.

This year the SVD Tertiate will use the newly remodelled wing of St. Michael’s.  For those of you who know Steyl it is the south wing that was remodelled.  For many years this wing was used by the group called the ‘Voorde” and the SVD groups stayed in the north wing, the ‘Bildungstätte’.  The plan is to remodel this north wing also in order to bring the retired and sick confreres over from their separate building in St. Gregor.

Our community is serious about developing Steyl as a place of pilgrimage and a center of missionary outreach to the Dutch and German churches and to people of other faiths and to those who are seeking.  The three congregations have been working on an overall plan for quite some time.  Clearly this will require investment in terms of finance and especially personnel.  Steyl needs confreres and Sisters from other provinces.  This is indeed a worthwhile missionary challenge which we would encourage you to think about.

The SVD German-speaking tertiate spent almost two weeks here in Steyl (June 1-11).  There were 20 participants.  Rudy Pöhl and Lothar Janek are directing it, with Peter helping in Steyl.  Both Rudy and Lothar had been members of the STS (Spirituality Team Steyl).  Rudy is still involved full-time in spiritual animation in south Germany.

6. Other AJSC Activities

To prepare themselves better for their work in the AJSC  Mike and Simon went for courses in spirituality – Mike to Guatemala and Simon to St. Beuno’s in Wales, UK.  Emmie and Matilde did courses in German, perhaps less interesting but necessary for living in Steyl.

With the help of the SSpSAP general council Peter conducted an international two-week workshop for their Formators and Superiors.  It was held in Baguio, the Philippines.  During his stay in that country Peter also conducted retreats and seminars in three other SSpSAP convents, as well as giving talks and recollections for SVD and SSpS.  Sr. Mary Evelyn, as involved as ever, organized a meeting of the SAT members in the Manila-Tagaytay area.

Unfortunately, because of a knee operation Peter had to postpone till next year a planned trip to Poland.  It might be inspiring to imagine that the knee problem was due to too much kneeling in prayer.  Alas, no such pious heights; the cause was more mundane – too much football in younger years!

During the first three months of the year Sr. Franziska was busy writing her latest book Jesus the Missionary, a reflection about Jesus the missionary of the Father in the light of our trinitarian spirituality.  It is meant as a working paper for the SSpS International Seminar for Formators, that will take place in Steyl from September 11 to October 5 this year.  In addition she conducted three contemplative retreats in the Netherlands and Austria, plus a preached retreat in Germany.

7. Keeping in Touch

We are continuing to put articles in the AJSC Folder which is in the Public Area on the Generalate website. You can read and download the material.  The website address is:  http://www.svdcuria.org  Click on Site Map / Mapa del sitio, then click AJSC – CEAJ.

If you have material that could be useful in the work of spiritual animation please send it to us and we can post it on the internet in this way, so that many others can have access to it.  Please send us such material and also news about the programs you have given.  Use the following address: ajscinfo@steyler.nl

The AJSC Newsletter is being sent out in five language versions: English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Indonesian.  Please let us know if you wish to receive another version than the one you are reading.  Use the following address: ajscinfo@steyler.nl

We look forward to hearing from you.

  With best wishes for your work,

  Emmie,    Franziska,    Matilde,    Michael,    Peter   and    Simon.


8. Appendix 1 - (Importance of Spiritual Animation).

I.  Importance of Spiritual Animation

When Fr. General asked me to give this talk, I was in Cebu.  So I asked the outgoing provincial Ding Fabiosa (PHS, 1999-2005) what I should tell the provincials.  He replied immediately: “Tell the provincials that spiritual animation is the provincials’ first and most important duty!”

Ding is not the only superior to think like that.  In his review of the year 1899 Arnold Janssen asserted: “I always felt my first duty was to care for the spiritual develop-ment, the soul of the mission house.  A congregation can only be effective when it is imbued with a good spirit.”  To Joseph Freinademetz he wrote (12.6.85): “Keep going and often give retreats and recollections.  I give them as frequently as I can in order to form the priests, students and brothers…  The most important task of a superior is the good formation of his confreres.”  And to Limbrock in New Guinea (22.9.03): “Please regard it as your first and most important task to promote a good spirit.”

What is ‘spiritual animation’?  The term itself would seem to indicate that it is  animation more on the spiritual level.  This is true provided we take the term ‘spiritual life’ in the fullest sense of being life in the Spirit.  Indeed, one could describe spirituality in its simplest way as opening oneself to the action of the Holy Spirit who works to fulfill God’s dream, to allow God’s Spirit to become my Spirit.  God’s dream is fullness of life for each individual and for all of humanity as a family, a sharing in God’s own life.  Spiritual animation aims to promote this growth towards the fullness of life promised by Jesus (Jn 10:10).

This fullness of life is growth in the three key relationships that make me a person:
- to myself
- to others (+ nature)         in my following of Christ as SVD in a religious
- to God                           community for mission.

  The Constitutions describe this  life-long process as “Growth into Living Missionary Community with the Divine Word.”  They also indicate that the provincial’s responsibility for spiritual animation extends to all in the province, both those in initial formation as well as those in perpetual vows.

ll  Three-fold task of the Superior as Animator.

1.  To foster and enhance the growth of each individual confrere in his missionary commitment.

One’s growth as a person depends on one’s sense of self-worth.  So the most basic help one can offer another is to help him deepen the conviction: “I am loved, therefore I am lovable.”  This cannot remain merely a sterile thought, for the deeper it touches the heart all the more does it transform the person.  The deepest transformation is rooted in the growing awareness of being graced by that deepest Love of all: “I am loved by God and therefore to God I am lovable.”  From this flows the desire to respond in love to God.  How?  By loving others who are seen as equally loved by God and therefore lovable with a God-given dignity.  This leads a person to commit himself to follow Christ in service of others as an SVD.

The basis of this is one’s God-experience.  Some don’t like this term since it hints at a mystical experience of God.  But I use it in the sense of awareness of oneself as loved by God, an awareness so convincing that it transforms one personally and leads to and ultimately sustains one’s missionary commitment as disciple of Christ. It is the source of one’s missionary joy and enthusiasm  and spirit of creativity.  I no longer call you slaves but friends;  and after the Resurrection, brothers (Jn 15:15 + 20:17).  Ours is a missionary spirituality because the experience of God’s Love leads me to mission and it is in mission, in the people I serve and live with, that my experience of God’s love goes deeper.

This experience of God’s love is not a once for all experience, but an ongoing awareness that shapes all aspects of my life.  It is this ongoing nature of one’s God-experience that is the main point of spiritual animation.  The growth of a person comes about through an ever clearer awareness and ever more total commitments.  The experience of Love leads to love.  Spiritual animation is mutual and life-long.

2.  To promote and enrich our community life.

The focus of spiritual animation is the person for a community/province is made up of persons.  Yet, though Christ’s call is individual and the response is very personal, we do not make the response as individuals but in community, which is a communion of persons.  These two poles are a constant source of mutual enrichment.  In other words the life of the community will be enriched in proportion to the enrichment of the members, and vice versa.  Not only each person but also each community and province is touched uniquely with a God experience.  Spiritual animation aims to help the individual and the community open themselves in prayerful contemplation of this experience so that it energizes us to greater commitment and creativity in meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters today.  To do this authentically we need to listen with a discerning heart to the reality of our world in order to hear the Word of the Lord and the groaning of the Spirit within it.

The Handbook for Superiors stresses several aspects of our community for mission.

1)  Community living is intrinsic to our way of life; each member must belong to either a house or district community.  Yet the form is not monastic but mission oriented.

2)  Prayerful communities

a)      Eucharist, the heart of our community life, must always lead us to look beyond the community itself.  The five beautiful colored windows set in the Church in Steyl by Fr. Arnold were to constantly remind the community of its worldwide interest.

b)      Sharing the Word of God is highly recommended.

c)      Praying together.  This too unites the group and can be inspiration for mission.

3)  International (intercultural) communities that are open and welcoming, based on a spirit of dialogue reaching out in dialogue.

3.  Animate our Mission

Our form of community life is for mission.  The growth of the quality of our mission commitment necessarily depends on the quality of life of the individual persons and of the community.  This last point  makes is clear why the three fundamental missionary attitudes stressed by the Chapter are the basis of our attitude to each other and to our dialogue partners in mission.  “Dialogue is an attitude of solidarity, respect and love” (# 53).  They are not merely arbitrary virtues.  They link our lives to the mystery of the Incarnate Word whom we are called to imitate.  God out of love made our problem his problem by becoming one of us, fully respecting our human situation.

These three attitudes thus sum up our lived spirituality.  This how WE are trans-formed into Christ.  The Chapter depicts four conversions in line with each of the fourfold dialogues. But it is also clear that there is just one basic attitude of  solidarity, respect and love.  We bring these three TO mission; we grow in them IN mission.  When we approach them with these attitudes we will be inspired by the people we serve.

This not just a pious abstract notion but must be made very concrete.  Language learning, for example, is not just a necessary hurdle to overcome before doing the real work; it is already a form of ministry and a living out of our spirituality.  In other words language learning can be a privileged place of God’s self-revelation for us.

Thus the superior is at the service of persons, growing and supported in a community for mission.

In section D1, 2.0 the Handbook sets out the threefold objectives of the superior’s role as animator.  How can we make this a bit more concrete?

III.  What can a Provincial do for Spiritual Animation?

1.  On the Personal Level

(a)  Lead by example, in the sense of consciously trying to make the three missionary attitudes your own values you live out of:

-  Solidarity:  see yourself not as the boss with subjects but a brother among brothers.

-  Respect: the members of the province are adults, called as much as you to Christ’s mission in this province.  Involve them as much as possible; try to understand where they are coming from.

-  Love: helping the members achieve their potential can remain a dry cliché unless love makes it personal.  Love develops in proportion to how you make efforts to get to know the confreres.

(b)  Be a reflective person.  Greater awareness is the key to personal growth.  Take time for personal reflection.  Strive to develop greater awareness of your strengths and weaknesses and how these influence each day.  Remember that you are leading all the time, often in small, unintended ways just by the way you  treat others in passing encounters.

(c)   Self-empowerment.  If the superior must help the individuals take responsibility for their lives, this applies equally to the superior himself.  He must try to see his task as an invitation by the Lord to a particular form of ministry.  One can speak of a spirituality of being a provincial.  In other words your growth as a person and in Christ will be found in your life as a superior.  That is where you will meet Christ.  So develop a positive attitude towards your ministry and it will be personally enriching and life-giving.

The Constitutions remind the superior that although he must involve the others, the final responsibility is his (c. 218 + 607).  Further, the respect for each person, stressed above, does not mean that he can adopt a free-for-all attitude.  The Chapter reminds us that it is a serious negligence of duty if a superior does not have the courage to challenge confreres:   “Areas of failure in community living and the problems of dysfunctional members need to be confronted with fraternal love and honesty to bring each community to human and spiritual maturity” (1994, p. 18).  This requires a healthy self-esteem and a reflective attitude so that the superior is in touch with his own emotions and can evaluate better his own motivations.

2.  Make full use of Existing Structures

(1)    Serious preparation for and involvement of confreres in chapters, assemblies, formulating the mission statement, etc.

(2)    Provincial visitation (see Handbook D20, 2.0).   The Personal Talk (Ratio) as in B5.

(3)    Ensure maximum impact of such occasions as “Year of Reading the Bible”.

(4)    “Organize and carefully prepare retreats, days of recollection, bible sharing, etc.”  (B4)

(5)    Use the resources of the province.  In many provinces the AJSC has formed

SATs (Spiritual Animation Teams) to assist  in spiritual animation.  Appoint suitable confreres, ie. who are both interested and acceptable to the others.  Give them your support.  We suggest that the provincial and council sit with the members and plan possible ways of animating for the coming year.  Involve the other province officials (formators, coordinators, etc.) who are also animators.  Invite the AJSC to offer programs in collaboration with SAT members.

(6)    Develop and implement a good program for ongoing education.  But it should not restricted to just offering courses.  Foster growth by stimulating all the aspects of our religious missionary life, promoting fraternity, liturgy, leisure.

Appendix 2.


Joint Meeting of the SVD General Council and AJSC Core Team

Steyl,  27-30 December 2002

A.  Basic Elements of our Religious Missionary Spirituality understood as sharing in the Mission of the Triune God in Today’s World.

·                    Being rooted in our personal and communal God-experience
·                    Discipleship through vows in an international and multicultural community
·                    Being led by the Spirit to respond to reality in its frontier situations

B.  We understand Spiritual Animation as fostering in the light of the Word and docility
       to the  Spirit:

·                    Growth as persons in discipleship and mission
·                    Deeper awareness of one’s God experience, especially in frontier situations
·                    Ongoing reflection / formation at the personal and community level

C.   The Present Challenges in Spiritual Animation are:

·                    Integration of religious life and missionary vocation
·                    Mission as a source of one’s God experience in a pluralistic world
            (contemplation in action)
·                    To live a simple lifestyle and give a prophetic response
·                    Creatively and courageously renew our life-long commitment in a fast and
            constantly changing world

D.  Our Common Goals in Spiritual Animation for the Coming Three Years:

We wish to emphasize spiritual animation as a priority and a key responsibility of the provincial and local leaders.  This requires concrete planning, coordination and follow up.  We commit ourselves:

·                    To promote a deeper understanding and living of our religious missionary
            spirituality rooted in the individual and nourished by the community
·                    To foster the awareness of the importance and centrality of each person’s
            God-experience as source of commitment and enthusiasm in mission
·                    To encourage communal discernment in mission (e.g. in responding to the
         challenges of particular situations)   and in community life (e.g. decision
            making, elections, etc.)
·                    To promote ongoing formation
·                    To encourage a spirituality that seeks collaboration with the laity in mission as
            a source of mutual challenge and enrichment.