February 12, 2008
Warmest greetings from the members of the AJSC
Central Team in Steyl.
Usually we send our AJSC NEWSLETTER after our half-yearly
AJSC Planning Sessions in December and June/July. This time we are sending it out
earlier because of the SVD General Chapter, starting on June
4th. Two of the
Team will be assisting the General Chapter: Mike as main facilitator and
Peter as general services manager.
In this bulletin:
- The Brothers are Part of the Founding Generation
- Br. Bernard -- Little-known Face on Our Website
- Indonesia --
- Keeping in
1. The Brothers are Part of the Founding Generation
Matilde W. Sacardo
stay here in Steyl as a member of the AJSC Central Team the life of the Brothers
in St. Michael’s community has particularly impressed me. They are a
happy, praying community and give witness by a life of quiet work.
As I thought about the complex of foundations in Steyl: St. Michael’s
Mission House, the Convents of the Mission and the Adoration Sisters, St.
Gregory’s (the SVD retirement home) and the printing press, it struck me that it
was the Brothers who had built most of these buildings, dedicating their lives
for the mission. And I asked
myself: Why are the Brothers not included in the story of the founding
generation, and even more, why are the Brothers not included when we study and
reflect on the history of the Founder and the Co-foundresses?
So I started to do some
research on the life of the first Brothers of the Society. We looked for information about the
first SVD Brother, Br. Marcolinus Elskemper, and found that he made his first
vows on 23 May 1881. But we could
not get any more concrete information about him, even with the help of Fr.
Ommerborn, head of the Arnold Janssen Secretariat. Inquiring further I discovered that
Robert Schwerdtfeger und Martin Juergens were the next two who made their first
vows on 30 April 1882. Robert, later Br. Bernard, was the first technical
director of the printing press. He
contributed much to the development of the press and was the Founder’s right
hand man in this field.
The Brothers were important in the development of the
three Congregations and contributed much also to the retreat movement for lay
people in Steyl. Without them the
Congregations would not have developed as quickly as they did in the beginning.
In this way were the Brothers foundation stones of the Steyl religious
family. The Founder had first in
mind workers for the printing press and then the constructions, but he soon also
began to train the Brothers for the overseas missions. He promoted the training of a variety of
craftsmen, who performed valuable service as plumbers, cobblers, tailors,
gardeners, etc. Those who promoted
the magazines were called the ‘Reisebrüder’, the travelling Brothers.
On the occasion of the Founder’s Silver Jubilee in 1886
the Catholic press published the following: “The impression one gets when one takes
part in the morning prayer or the evening prayer of the future missionaries is
quite indescribable. The Mission
House comprises 300 members.
Everywhere one notices exemplary order and cleanliness. The Brothers run the printing press,
which is equipped with the most up-to-date machines. There is also a workshop for paintings
and carved wooden figures. The
press, the kitchen and the mill are powered by steam.”
The Founder made great efforts to instil in the hearts
of the Brothers a love for prayer and qualified work. He used to say: “The first goal of the
Brothers is mission work.” Love and
enthusiasm for the missions was the sap which circulated in them and between
them and nourished them. On the
occasion of the Jubilee celebration of the first four Brothers, Arnold said:
“The Brothers are part of the founding generation.”
There was a very rapid development at the beginning of the
foundations. In 1892 there were
already 191 Brothers and in 1908 312.
Till today Brothers have been pioneers in mission work and dedicate
themselves energetically to the Kingdom of God in our great Steyl religious
2. Br. Bernard
Little-known Face on Our Website Folder
When you open the AJSC Folder in the Public Area of the
SVD Generalate website, you will notice the photos of six members of the Steyl
founding generation. Five are
familiar to all of us: Sts. Arnold and Joseph, Bl. Maria Helena and Mother
Josepha (the two co-foundresses of the SSpS) and Michaela (Mother Mary Michael,
co-foundress of the Adoration Sisters).
The sixth is perhaps not so well
known. He is Br. Bernard (Robert Schwerdtfeger, 1859-1909), mentioned
above. He entered Steyl on 4
October 1878 as the second Brother candidate, though at that time the
development of the Brother vocation was still not fixed. Fr. Arnold simply accepted the first
dozen lay helpers with no clear idea as to what form their mission commitment
He asked permission to study for the
priesthood. Fr. Arnold suggested
that he first spend some months working at a trade before making such a
decision. During these months he
became so interested in his work that he happily saw his vocation as a Brother
rather than as a priest. This
decision had immense implications for the development of the Society. He set the trend for a new image of the
lay brother — highly qualified men
called to commit themselves to the missions through their work.
He had learnt the trade of hat
making, but Steyl didn’t need a hat maker! So Bernard was assigned to work in the small
printing press. He soon displayed a
particular talent for printing and Fr. Arnold sent him for training. He returned
to Steyl with great enthusiasm. He
managed the primitive equipment and was exceptionally good at training the
apprentices. When other Brothers came to help, he turned his full attention to
the printing machines. Here he
really found himself in his element.
What the gifted Fr. Abel was in terms of editing the Steyl magazines,
Bernard was for the technical
side. They formed a good team. As the press developed, fresh problems
were constantly arising, but Bernard
was quite ready to face them.
This was clearly seen when about 1890
the rotary press was installed.
Only a few printing houses in Berlin and Leipzig had dared to take such a
step. He simply said: “If they can do it, so can we!” Fr. Arnold trusted Bernard’s
judgment and gave his approval.
Installing the huge machine brought many difficulties and only Bernard’s
persistence brought it to success.
It was a tremendous step forward and enabled them to produce a larger and
better magazine. The circulation
increased enormously so that one rotary press was soon not enough. A two-color press was bought, then a
Installing these machines brought a lot of new tasks for him. He had to learn how to operate them and
then to train the young Brothers.
Naturally, the other departments also grew. Bernard was the soul of the
whole enterprise. Nothing seemed too difficult for him, always striving to make
the press more efficient and competitive.
His last great undertaking was the electrification of the printing press
Under his direction the tiny press
had grown into an impressive business concern; a team of qualified brothers had
been trained. For 25 years he was
the confidant of Fr. Arnold. On the
very day of the Founder’s burial, a wagon came to deliver paper for the
press. Bernard helped with
unloading and in the process his hand was bruised. It seems this led to blood
poisoning. In summer a small but
very painful open sore developed on the leg and would not heal. Cardiac inflammation set in. He died on 14 September 1909. The large
crowd who came for the funeral showed how loved and respected Bernard had been,
one of the finest of the early Steyl Brothers.
by Simon Bata
For the SSpS and SVD Indonesia is very important, both
because of the work there and the large number of members. From the beginning the AJSC Team
conducted many programs for spiritual animation, paying special attention to
forming SATs in the provinces.
Since the country comprises many provinces/regions (4 SVD and 5 SSpS plus
the new East Timor Region), the SATs work together according to the three larger
islands. They have regular meetings
for reflection, planning, running the programs and evaluating the
activities. As in Timor so in Jawa
there is one SAT, working as a team. In Flores besides the province SAT, an SSpS
and an SVD were appointed to be responsible for the common spiritual animation
in the four provinces.
On the national level they
established SESAJI. It is an
acronym in Bahasa Indonesia and means
the Arnold Janssen Spirituality Secretariat Indonesia. The word ‘sesaji’
itself is very striking. Sesaji or sesajen is an offering made to the
Divine, or also to a person who is highly respected because of the presence of
the Divine in him/her (e.g a king or queen, a spiritual person, etc) . The verb
means to serve, to offer food to others and to serve during the meal. Therefore
the word sesaji reminds us very strongly how the
ministry of spiritual animation should be. It’s about serving our sisters and
brothers, about respecting every person as a dwelling place of the Divine, so
that each one can grow in awareness of the presence of God in him/herself, and
then become a person serving others.
The provinces take turns in leading
this Secretariat every three years. The SSpS-SVD Timor provinces are currently
responsible. National programs, such as the three month renewal program or
Indonesian Tertiate, are conducted by SESAJI. The SATs and SESAJI have run spiritual
animation programs for various groups: those in leadership, the SAT team itself,
those in initial formation, those under ten years in perpetual vows, the elderly
(over 60’s). Also common programs with specific themes offered for all, or the
yearly retreat both preached and guided. Sometimes the participants are lay
people, who are close to us and support our common mission. In most provinces
this group of lay people has the name ‘Soverdia’.
I had the opportunity to visit all
the provincial/regional leaders and the SATs in their respective provinces
(except SSpS Kalimantan Region). I also met the SSpSAP Superior. From the sharing, one thing is very
clear to my mind, namely, that spiritual animation needs both the zealous spirit
of the SAT members and also the commitment of the superiors. Aware that
spiritual animation is their main task as superior, they are very supportive of
the work of the SATs in various ways, e.g. spending time with the SATs and
SESAJI for reflection, planning and evaluation. May it continue!
4. AJSC Activities since our Last
The combined SSpS-SVD Tertiate (20 Feb-19 May;
Spanish/Portuguese-speaking) began in Steyl for three weeks and then moved on to
Oies and Nemi. Matilde was
co-director with Tony Pates.
Franziska and Emmie helped with input on our spirituality in Steyl, and
Mike with the retreat in Nemi. Mike
had been in Brazil and Argentina giving seminars to the Adoration Sisters. He also spent an additional month in Sao
Paulo studying Portuguese. This
will help him when he works with future Spanish/ Portuguese-speaking
tertiates. It will also be an added
benefit for his work at the coming General Chapter.
Besides giving a seminar on
contemplative prayer, Franziska has been working on a guide to the Upper Church
in St. Michael’s in Steyl. The
church is very much as it was when built by the Founder and the new book aims to
bring out the main features of the spirituality of Arnold and the founding
generation as expressed in the church’s art work.
Emmie and Peter were in Poland to
give a longer seminar to prepare SSpS-SVD SAT members from Poland, Slovakia,
Ukraine and Russia. It was a
smaller group than usual since the seminar was in English. But the participants are
enthusiastically planning a similar seminar later this year in Polish/Slovak for
a larger group. Peter stayed a bit longer for an SSpS-SSpSAP guided retreat and
a seminar for the Adoration Sisters.
It was very cold in Poland and snow covered the ground all the time we
were there. Emmie is now
experiencing quite a different climate since she is presently in India for her
As reported in our last Newsletter
Simon went home to Indonesia for his mother’s funeral. He stayed on to meet with the superiors
and SAT members to plan future AJSC programs. Simon is presently working for two
months in a parish in England to deepen his knowledge of English and to
gain some experience of parish
Reflections on Mother
During “The Year of Mother Josepha,” as preparation
for her beatification in 2007 the SSpS Generalate are preparing monthly
reflections on her significance for us today. Numbers 1 and 2 (in English, Spanish,
Portuguese) have been sent out so far.
SVDs who are interested can contact the SSpS provincial/regional leader
or the Generalate.
concerning St Arnold Janssen and St. Joseph Freinademetz compiled by
Manfred Mueller SVD. 83
pages. It lists all articles and
books by or about our two saints according to languages, so searching for useful
material is made easier. It is only
in electronic format. You can find
it on the SVD Generalate website in the SVD History Corner in the
Divine Word Spirituality
An Ascent through the
Human Word by
Paul G. La Forge SVD. Preface by
Henry Heekeren. Pages xix + 401.
Published by Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra, Indore, 2005. The book is the fruit of the author’s
reflection on how his spirituality developed during many years as a missionary
in Japan as a teacher of foreign language and business ethics at Nanzan
University and on the development of mission and spirituality in the SVD from
the time of St. Arnold Janssen up to our own day, including the 2000 General
Witness to the
Word Readings on St.
Arnold Janssen and the SVD Mission
by Leonardo Estioko
SVD. 142 pages with
illustrations. (Logos Publications,
Manila, 2005). The title is the
slogan of the Divine Word Educational Association of the Philippines and the
book is meant as supplementary readings for students of religious education and
theology in our DWEA schools.
The 1-3-5-3 Bible Key
by John Shevlin SVD. This
8-page leaflet provides a key to the great underlying story of the Bible.
6. Keeping in Touch
FAX KAPUT ! Our AJSC fax machine (326 1330) has
retired. In future please use the
House fax number: +31 77 3261
362. If you have sent us faxes
recently, please get in touch with us again; it may be that your fax did not
come through. Thank you.
We are continuing to put articles in the AJSC
Folder which is in the Public Area on the Generalate website: http://www.svdcuria.org Click on Site Map/Mapa del sitio, then
click on AJSC–CEAJ. You can read and download the
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 others can have access to
it. Please send such material and
also news about the programs you have given, using the following address: email@example.com
The AJSC Newsletter is sent out in five language
versions: English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Indonesian.
We look forward
to hearing from you.
wishes for your work,