AJSC Newsletter

Newsletter # 4

Steyl - January 10th 2006


          Warmest greetings for the new year from the Central Team of the AJSC in Steyl.  May 2006 be a grace-filled year for you in your ministry of spiritual animation.

        In this bulletin:

  1. Something to Ponder   -   Visionaries in Today’s World  Mike Somers
  2. 2006 - A Special Year for SVDs
  3. SSpS International Seminar for Formators
  4. Two Deaths      Cyprianus Setyawan  --  Former AJSC Member
    Simon’s Mother  -  Birgita Kewa
  5. AJSC Activities
  6. Publications
  7. Keeping in Touch

1. Something to Ponder

Visionaries in Today’s World Mike Somers, AJSC

  I had the good fortune recently to watch Whale Rider, a very interesting film. I was fascinated with the courage of the young girl, Pai, who stands against the tide of tradition, thus enabling her tribe to be reconnected with their ancestral life force. While I could also sympathize with the old traditionalist, Koro, who seemed like an old whale stranded in an alien present, I was delighted at his eventual moving beyond his previous confining vision.

  Perhaps it has been symbolic of my experiences over the past year as I visited different missions between retreats and workshops. While new life continues its relentless birthing, the pain of letting go of the ways of the past are also there. There are so many images of fresh life that confront us: the enthusiasm, for example, of our sisters and confreres in Cuba, their willingness to reflect on what their experiences mean to them; the gathering of groups of young people in different provinces in Europe who prayerfully share their lives in community; the commitment and the desire of so many missionaries to write anew Arnold’s dream in their outreach to the marginalized; the exposure to different and new cultures; the sincerity, the courage and vision of team-work; and the people working for justice.

  There are also instances of clinging to the past, of being yesterday’s people, of the fear of embracing the new reality that is being revealed today. This is seen in the inability to engage with emerging forms of prayer, or to envisage a new future for our institutions, or even to foster a new way of relating with our Church and our world. At times we are tempted to look only to the stories of the past for meaning, to people and things that are dead and gone. But our God is a God of the living. We can miss the voice of the young crying out to us with today’s needs, because like Koro we only hear yesterday’s tapes playing in our heads.

  The preparation for the up-coming General Chapters reminds us that what we do with our hearts affects the whole universe, and invites us to deepen the spirituality of being brothers and sisters in dialogue and in relationship. Our lives very often have been confined within the walls of our “monasteries” and our interests limited to the “church’s mission”. The proposed theme and the work of the preparatory commission for the next SVD Chapter calls on us to look at our world, the whole universe, and to deal with the concerns and issues that confront humankind today.

  The mystics are God’s last resort. They are dreamers, and they are not paralyzed by rule and doctrine. They have encountered a God who electrifies them, who fills them with an entrancing vision and hope for a more wholesome world: the Dorothy Days, the Martin Luther Kings, the Romeros and Gandhis … God’s Spirit rejoices in the visionaries and the peace-makers, as it did with Arnold Janssen. In a world which is hungry, tired and seeking, God’s presence is shown through people who are open to the mystical. We are being challenged to loosen up if we are to experience in our frightened and insecure world God’s wholesome vision and dream for the human race.

2. 2006 - A Special Year for SVD's

  For the SVD 2006 will be a significant year since the XVI General Chapter will take place in June-July.  The general theme of the Chapter is one that has particular relevance to our task of spiritual animation.  Indeed, four of the five sub-topics: Spirituality, Community, Formation, Leadership, which aim to express the implications of our mission as dialogue, are also key themes of our AJSC  programs.  Hopefully the discussions of the Working Paper by the various house and provincial chapters have helped each community and individual to reflect on these themes and to be challenged and inspired in our missionary response to the Spirit.

The months leading up to the opening of the General Chapter on Pentecost Sunday, 4 June, form the second half of “The Year of Divine Word Missionaries Reading the Bible”.  Here in St. Michael’s, Steyl, twice a week the noon prayer has been substituted by a continuous reading of Acts and Luke, and every Saturday evening the community listens to a recorded reading of the New Testament for half an hour.  May the various initiatives in your own province and community help to open hearts wider to the Word of Life.

3. SSpS International Seminar for Formators     (11 Sept - 5 Oct, 2005)

The seminar, in English and Spanish, was held in Steyl.  It was organized by the SSpS general leadership team who also participated throughout.  There were 54 Sisters, one from each country. Two SSpSAP sisters were invited as participants and two SVD Brothers for the whole seminar. With staff and invitees there were 71 participants. The main theme was Ongoing Formation. There were different resource persons for topics in the four blocks.  1st block: Basic principles of integral formation. 2nd block: “Jesus the Missionary.” 3rd block: Our roots and spirituality, with the pilgrimages and guided tours, linking it to our founding generation and our Chapter documents. 4th block: Women disciples of Jesus the Missionary (Vows).  Emmie, Matilde and Mike took part in the full program, responsible for the sections on our spirituality and for the tours to places significant to our Founding Generation, Franziska for the section on Jesus the Missionary.   

4. Two Deaths

                             Cyprianus Setyawan  --  Former AJSC Member

  We were all shocked to receive the news of the death of Fr. Cyprianus Setyawan SVD on 11 October 2005.  Setyawan was born in Bali, Indonesia, on 20 August 1942, his parents being among the first Christians on the island.  Setyawan used to relate that by becoming Christian his parents had to suffer a lot socially, but they continued to show their loving concern for others and not to return hurt for hurt.  Over time this so impressed the others that gradually more and more of the village became Christian.  He entered the SVD novitiate in Ledalero, and was ordained there on 3 July 1973.  As a priest he served in several ministries.  He was prefect in the diocesan seminary in Malang when he was appointed provincial superior of the Java Province, 1989-1995.  From 1996 to 2003 Setyawan was a member of the AJSC, living here in Steyl.  He did a lot to build up the SATs in Indonesia.  In 2005 he was appointed coordinator of the AJSC  in Indonesia.  He was actually coordinating a three-month Tertiate program on Timor when he died of heart trouble complicated by diabetes.

In his sharing in the Team Setyawan liked to speak of God’s ‘womb-love’.  His favorite image of Jesus was ‘Christ, the laughing man of the dawn’.  In his room was a large picture of the Laughing Christ; Setyawan himself had a hearty laugh.  Being Balinese, sunrise had special significance for him.  Setyawan’s unexpected sunset has surely transformed him into ‘a laughing man of the Dawn’.


Simon’s Mother  -  Birgita Kewa

On 9 December 2005 Fr. Simon Bata, who joined the Team in Steyl a year ago, received the news that his mother, Birgita, had just died.  She was 75 years old and in rather poor health, but for Simon her death was a hard blow because he had felt particularly close to her.  On 17 December Simon returned home to the small island of Adonara for the family funeral celebration.  It will be a sad-happy celebration because Simon has not met two of his brothers since his ordination.  He will stay longer in Indonesia to meet with the superiors and SAT members to plan AJSC programs for the future.

5. AJSC Activities

  As mentioned above Matilde, Emmie and Mike were involved fulltime in the SSpS Formators’ Seminar.  Franziska gave several days of input, based on her book Jesus the Missionary, before leaving for Brazil and Paraguay.   There she gave several retreats and a workshop for SSpS and for consecrated lay people, whose keen desire to go deeper intheir spiritual life is very inspiring.  In a similar way she gave four recollection days for members of the MHGG in Germany, with 60-65 participants each day.  The MHGG is an association of lay people who are particularly committed to the SSpS and our mission work.  Reaching out to lay people in this way is something the Team wishes to develop more.  Franziska also continued her special ministry of guiding three contemplative retreats.

  Simon guided the retreat for the Adoration community in Utrecht, as well as for several individuals in Steyl.  Peter too was much involved with the Adoration Sisters, giving retreats, both preached and guided, in their four Convents in the USA.  In addition he gave a seminar to the SSpS on their General Chapter Document, and a day of recollection for the SVDs in Techny based on their Chapter Document.  A guided retreat for a mixed group, SSpS and SVD, was an enriching experience of our common spirituality.

  In a similar way for Emmie and Mike their spirituality seminar and guided retreat for all the SVD/SSpS in Cuba was a deep experience of our common lived spirituality.  Both were very moved by the lifestyle of our Sisters and confreres who, unlike those of us who live in normal communities, do not have to regularly challenge themselves to live simply – that is imposed on them by the poor situation of the country.  Emmie stayed longer to share with the communities the recent Formators’ Seminar.  Mike had to rush back to give a talk to the SVD European Zonal Assembly in Portugal.  His topic was “Spirituality of the Society in a Secularized Context.”  We are considering how best to publish it.  A little later Emmie gave a talk during a public seminar, also in Portugal, on the role of the SSpS in evangelization in India.  The organizers are thinking of publishing the seminar proceedings.

  Following the usual practice, the SVD Renewal Course (Tertiate) spent two weeks in Steyl before proceeding to Nemi.  Mike, Emmie, Matilde and Simon organized this program.  The same four had helped with the retreat and the section on spirituality for the SSpS Tertiate, which is now held in Steyl and no longer in Nemi.  Later on Matilde, Simon  and Peter went to Nemi for the guided retreats for the Tertiate and also for the Dei Verbum Bible Course, which this year had 30 participants, the highest number so far. 

6. Publications

JESUS THE MISSIONARY, A Reflection in the Light of Our Trinitarian Spirituality on Jesus, the One Sent by the Father,  by Franziska C. Rehbein SSpS, published by the AJSC as No. 4 of “Steyl Streams,” 2005, 110 pages.  Commissioned as a working paper for the SSpS International Seminar for Formators (see above).  Originally in German it has been translated into English, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian.

A Book of Antiphons by Ed Peklo SVD.  This was published privately already in 1999 but only came to our attention recently.  It contains a set of antiphons to be used in the Liturgy of the Hours for 29 days of special significance for our Arnoldus Family history, including the 12 Third Mondays.  The antiphons are sayings from Arnold and the Founding Generation, as well as quotes from the constitutions of the three Congregations.  In English.  Ed can be contacted at: Divine Word Missionaries, N 8855 Seminary Road, P.O. Box 107, East Troy, WI 53120, U.S.A.

Fr. Stan Plutz of the Arnold Janssen Secretariat in USS continues to publish shorter booklets.  His latest:  The Holy Spirit and St. Arnold (10 pages),  and  Most Holy Sacrifice of the New Covenant, excerpts from St. Joseph’s conferences (16 pages).

Stan can be contacted at: Divine Word Missionaries, 201 Ruella Avenue, Bay St. Louis, MS 39520-4638,  U.S.A.

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 on  AJSC – CEAJ.

If you have material (articles or program modules) 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.

We look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes for your work,

Franziska Carolina Rehbein,     Matilde Sacardo,     Emmie Vas,    Simon Bata,    Peter
McHugh    and    Michael Somers