AJSC Newsletter

Newsletter # 6

Steyl – 23rd December 2006



Christmas and New Year greetings from the AJSC Central Team in Steyl .


We have a NEW EMAIL ADDRESS:    ajscsteyl@gmail.com

Please use this address for communications to the AJSC .

In this bulletin:

1.     Death of a Pioneer – Sr. Clarette Ramirez,

2.   Sr. Matilde to Work in Brazil

3.    Jesus on the Streets of Berlin by Matilde W. Sacardo SSpS

4.   News from the Provinces

5.    Encouraging Words: The SVD General Chapter

6.    AJSC Activities  -  June-December 2006

7.    SSpS Publications

8.    Keeping in Touch




1. Death  of  a  Pioneer  -  Sr. Clarette Ramirez, SSpS  (1927-2006)


In May 2006 came the news of the death of Sr. Clarette Ramirez, SSpS.  Clarette was a pioneering member of the AJSC.  She was only three years here in Steyl but her contribution to the development of the AJSC was very important.   Tony Pates, also one of the first members, writes: 

"Clarette, one of the founding generation, gave a clear focus to the AJSC regarding its process approach, contextualized methodology and experiential reflection in spiritual animation.   Because of her tremendous capacity to prepare modules in line with this process approach, Fr. Heekeren used to call her Sr. Modulatrix – and we had a good laugh…   I treasure in my heart Sr. Clarette's legacy in my own life to be creatively daring, to be confidently risking, to be passionately committed to any little openings and challenging promptings of the Spirit.   I was blessed to journey with her in one of her last guided retreats as she was led by the Spirit to be at home in the loving Trinity who embraced her totally as the beloved little one in her bodily suffering and sickness."


On her return to the Philippines she continued her work in spiritual animation as a member of the SAT of the Trinity Province, putting special emphasis on programs for and with the laity.  In spite of her failing health Clarette remained always energetic and creative in preparing new programs of spiritual animation. You can find her recollection, "SSpS – Women Disciples of Jesus, the Missionary, living a contemplative attitude of discernment" in the AJSC Folder on the SVD Generalate website. May she and Henry and Setyawan continue to encourage us all in the ministry they so loved, spiritual animation.


2. Sr. Matilde to Work in Brazil

At the end of June Sr. Matilde Sacardo returned to Brazil. Matilde has been a member of the Central Team in Steyl since February 2004.  She will continue to work with the Team in various programs in Portuguese.   Thus she helped Franziska with retreats in Brazil in August and September and, at the Team's request,  she will conduct a seminar and retreat for the SSpS in Mozambique in January 2007.   Before returning home Matilde made a street-retreat in Berlin.  She met once a day with her retreat guide to talk over what she had experienced, but most of her time was spent on the street. Below is her report.


3. Jesus on the Streets of Berlin                     

Matilde W. Sacardo SSpS


Dear God, help me to know you, to love you and to serve you. Thus I began my street-retreat in Berlin – to be honest, with a lot of anxiety because of the strange place and language.   I left the house with no destination in mind.  My God, where are you?  In a public place there was a meeting point for older people.   I sat next to a man and started a conversation with him.  The old man couldn't control himself: "What do you want?"   Later on after he had told me a little of his history he said: "You have a big heart, thank you."  Then I tried to talk with a woman and some other people.


The only churches I could find were closed and so I asked if there was a church that was open.   I was accompanied to St. Thomas Evangelical Church.  Going in I found myself at home, a place for quiet prayer.   In the silence of my heart the Holy Spirit gave me three words: 1. Give,  2.  I transform,  3. Celebrate.   I experienced an inner peace and felt accepted.  That was my first day.


Next day I sought in prayer "my name" for God and who he is for me.   It was raining, so I stayed most of the time in the church.  I prayed: "Holy Spirit, reveal God's name, who he is for me."   I remained quiet.  Then what a surprise!  On the first day I had gone looking for people, now on the second day people came to me.   The man who played the organ came down from the organ loft and said: "You are the only person who has listened to the music I just played."  I told him: "It was very beautiful, thank you. I listened with my heart!"  This man revealed to me my name for God -  Compassionate Father, a God who comes down to meet people.  I recalled a text from Exodus 3.  I read the text; a word echoed in my heart: "I am with you."   For a long time I have experienced God as a Father, but now he had a name.  I was visited a second time: Smily came up to me, talked a bit with me and then invited me to take coffee with him.   In these two men the Compassionate Father had visited me.


And so I continued seeking the burning bush where God is.   Each day I felt that God was transforming me, to be more open, poorer, more human … often wet, but I felt that the gentle rain was washing me, cleansing the dirt in my heart.  I visited Sachsenhausen concentration camp.  Going in "I took off my shoes" for I was walking on holy ground.  The stillness of the people who had been there was tangible.   So many brothers and sisters had been killed there.


Compassionate Father, how many "concentration camps" still exist today .. the refugee camps in Sudan, in Uganda…the people who die each day of hunger, those who have no access to medicine.. situations of injustice.  I felt challenged in my comfortable life… Who am I that I have nothing to do with the sufferings of so many brothers and sisters?   Jesus, show me the path to humanness, to solidarity.


Another powerful moment was with the drug addicts near Kottbussertor train station.   Here "I put my shoes on," the shoes of compassion and concern and asked Jesus that HE would give me his eyes, his heart, his ears, his strength to stay in this situation.   They were drinking alcohol and exchanging drugs expertly.  Only after some time did I realize that they paid no attention to each other.  Some were already in a state of delirium and euphoria.  There were youngsters, adults, men and women.  I was the only foreigner in the group.   I  moved my place several times so as not to draw attention to myself.  I did not have the courage to talk to anyone and they were in no condition to talk.   A policeman came with a dog and quickly the group dispersed.  I returned to the church to pray over this hard reality.   Once again I felt so insignificant, realizing how I myself am often addicted to structures, which makes me blind and deaf to what others are living.  I believe I am more imprisoned than they.   Similar thoughts struck me when I visited the migrant detention center.


Before beginning my street-retreat I had had only one desire, to be nearer to people   -  to listen, to help.  But each day I came to realize more clearly how proud I am, how I put myself above others, how I imagine I am the one who has something to give   -  and thus I had to bend down, to lower my head in shame.  I am the one who most needs conversion and help.   Compassionate Father, break open this hard shell that has built up over the years.  There were moments when I felt down, like a worm.   Only the grace of the Compassionate Father, present especially in those who suffer, can change me.


Once when I was in the church I heard a baby crying. I went and found a mother with a two months old baby.   She was trying to quieten it but the baby kept on crying, so I asked, "Is it sick?"  She replied, "I am the one who is ill and I have infected the child."   So I sat on the church steps with her and she began to tell me her story, one with much suffering.  Since the child did not stop crying, she said she had to go.   I asked if I could help her.  "If you like."  The mother had come to get some of the foodstuffs left in the church porch for the poor.   She added, "Perhaps you can have a cup of coffee with me."  We went to her home and she continued with her story, and she asked me who I was and what I was doing in Berlin.  The baby is big and very beautiful and it felt quite at home in my arms.  Later I asked the mother if I could pray with her.   I experienced the incarnation of the Word in our midst.  My heart began to burn.  When I was going, she gave me her address and asked if I could write to her one day.   I came home very late and tried to remain in silence, united deeply with God and this mother…  I was not able to sleep but I felt that this was a way of being embraced by God and visited by him in the burning bush (Ex 3:2).   This mother bears a great burden, just like the enslaved people in Egypt, but in her there is a longing to make things right, an honest searching.  She needs a modern Moses to be brought out of Egypt, like the Moses who came to see, to listen, with no sandals on his feet (Ex 3:3).  And God visited me again and said: "Take off your sandals of the sacred time of prayer, of pride, of punctuality."   I felt close to Jesus, entering the houses to bring life to the people.  Yes, Jesus, with you I wish to bend down, to become a sister for all, but I need your help.


There were so many people who helped me  -  each one, a burning bush, that is not burnt up.  The Word  became flesh in me through the people and their suffering.


My Compassionate Father, I thank you for this opportunity.   A new Pentecost has taken place in my life.  Yes, I have experienced the greatness of the Father of infinite compassion, who comes down and bends down to embrace all with unconditional love.   I know the retreat has not ended  -  what I am living continues to challenge me and helps me to live out my following of Jesus in a poorer, more simple way.   Amen.


4. News from the Provinces

CEBU .  Clarette was one of the driving forces behind the regular faith/Bible sharing sessions of the SVD and SSpS (and SSpSAP) in the Cebu area.  There are three AJF Clusters, as they call themselves, that meet regularly.   On 29 July 2006 at St. Arnold Janssen Shrine, Cebu, Fr. Provincial Kulueke celebrated a Mass for the installation rite of the new Core Group: Fr. Sammy Clarin and representatives from each Cluster.   They also celebrated the distribution of the first issue of the AJ Kabunay, the Cebu AJF monthly bulletin, edited by Br. Romy Abulad.  


GERMANY .  Following the SSpS lead in 2004 the two SVD provinces in Germany will be united to form one Province in 2007.  Fr. General informed us that the general council has assigned St. Arnold Janssen as the Patron of the new Province.   "Your Province will be the first and only province that is under his patronage.  We are sure that he will assist the new Province to find its way in the challenges of the future."   Steyl belongs to this Province.


POLAND .  In February 2006 in Nysa, Poland, Emmie and Peter conducted a two and a half week seminar to train new members of the SATs in Eastern Europe.  SVDs and SSpS from Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and Russia took part.  The seminar was only for English-speakers.  So on 3-11 November 2006 some of the participants conducted a similar seminar in Polish in the Adoration Sisters' Convent in Nysa.   Sr. Aleksandra Huf and Sr. Weronica Maria Klebba were the coordinators.  Twenty-two participated: 6 SSpSAP, 6 SSpS and four postulants (present to help with practical matters), 3 SVD, plus 3 SVD who gave input.   At the end of the seminar those who wanted could apply to join the SAT for the three congregations.  Its first task will be to organize a wider meeting to honor Mother Josepha in May 2007.


Earlier this year Sr. Aleksandra was appointed full-time coordinator for spiritual animation in the Polish Province and Eastern Europe.  In June she had a seminar for formators in Slovakia on "The Trinitarian Dimension of the Consecrated Life" (with Sr. Ester), and also a seminar in Ukraine (with Sr. Doris) for the Sisters preparing for renewal of vows.  Both Srs. Ester and Doris had participated in our February seminar.  She also gave retreats for the Sisters in Ukraine.


U.S.A.   In March 2006 Fr. Pernia approved ad experiementum  the Constitutions of the Divine Word Lay Association (Lay Secular Third Order of the Society of the Divine Word).   The members, men and women, commit themselves "to meet regularly in local chapters to pray for the missions and to promote and support mission awareness and vocations."   Fr. Jose (Pip) Galang, a diocesan priest (former SVD) in Santa Clara, California, is their contact person. 

Email:  jpgjoepip@yahoo.com  

5. Encouraging Words:   The XVI SVD General Chapter

Unlike in the two previous Chapters the general council had decided that reports from Generalate institutions would not be presented but would be covered by the Superior General's Report   -  and this included the AJSC.   Among other points Fr. General stated in his Report:

"I believe the activities of   AJSC have helped to nourish some basic convictions among our members  -  e.g., that spiritual animation is an ongoing challenge for our congregations, that the spirituality of the Arnoldus family needs to be a missionary spirituality, that a truly missionary spirituality can be developed by retrieving the main elements of the spiritual heritage of our Founder and of the founding generation, and that spiritual animation is one of the primary tasks of leadership in our congregations."  


"No one doubts the need for continuous spiritual renewal in the Society.   By spiritual renewal, I mean especially the effort towards achieving a greater harmony between the two aspects of our one vocation, namely, the religious and missionary aspects.   As religious-missionaries we always run the risk of separating these two aspects of our vocation  -  living our religious life without reference to our mission, and doing our missionary work without reference to our religious commitment."


The Chapter Document states: "We support the work of the AJSC and recommend that greater efforts be made to cultivate together with the SSpS and the SSpSAP, a contemporary spirituality which highlights both the missionary and contemplative aspects of our lives." (# 32)  


The Chapter also resolved: "that within the next three years the Generalate, with the help of the AJSC and in consultation with the provinces, publish an updated version of our Society prayers (Quarter-Hour Prayer), devotions, liturgical celebrations and the like" for use in our communities and also in our parishes, schools and other apostolate communities."   No doubt many of you will be consulted in bringing this project to completion.


AJSC REPORT.   In addition to be being mentioned in the General's Report the Central Team felt that each Provincial and Regional should get a brief written Report on the AJSC since the 2000 General Chapter.   The Report which was given to all provincials and regionals is appended to this Newsletter and is posted in the AJSC Folder on the SVD Generalate website in English and Spanish.


6. AJSC Activities:  June-December 2006

Franziska continued with the contemplative retreats; she gave five in different parts of Europe.  She gave various retreats and seminars on our spirituality in Brazil.  Unfortunately due to her illness during her stay in Brazil the planned retreat for the SVD in Ecuador had to be canceled.  In preparation for the election of the Province Leader and her Team in Germany Franziska conducted seven short seminars on Discernment.   This year's SSpS Tertiate was for German-speakers, so Franziska was busy giving a seminar on our spirituality and helping with the guided retreat.  Mike and Simon helped with the Masses.


Mike and Simon conducted the 2 ½  week program for the SVD tertiate in Steyl.   Later, in October Peter, Emmie and Simon helped with the guided retreats for the Tertiate, and for the Dei Verbum Biblical Course in Nemi. 


At the SVD General Chapter, 4 June – 8 July, Mike was the main moderator.   Peter was a member of the Second Preparatory Commission and served as general services manager for the Chapter itself. 


Emmie returned from her home leave in India early in July and left soon after with Peter to conduct the 30 Day Retreat for the SSpS International Formators' Course in the Philippines.  We tried to make the flow of the retreat more in line with our own missionary spirituality.


The Slovak Province celebrated its 75th Jubilee this year and asked the Team to conduct three seminars on Mission,  Re-reading the Vows Today, and the Spirituality of Leadership.  Peter, Emmie and Simon gave the seminars and conducted a guided retreat in English and German.   Peter also gave a preached retreat for the SVD Swiss Province. 


Mike had a longer stay in the Philippines, giving four retreats for the SVD.   He also attended and gave input at the annual meeting of the spiritual coordinators of the SVD/SSpS German- and Dutch-speaking provinces held in Munich.


7. SSPS  Publications

As preparation for her beatification the SSpS Generalate has sent out short reflections on the significance of Mother Josepha for us today.   The latest is No. 6:  " We were one in heart and soul"   A conversation between Mother Josepha and Mother Maria.


The SSpS Generalate has sent out many publications about Blessed Maria Helena, Mother Josepha, and the early days in Steyl.   Attached is a list of these publications in case any SVDs wish to have copies for their community libraries. 


Contact the SSpS provincial/regional leader or the Generalate.


8.  Keeping in Touch


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 material.

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: ajscsteyl@gmail.com

We look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes for your work,


  Franziska Carolina,     Matilde,   Emmie,  Simon,  Peter  and    Mike.


(The AJSC Newsletter is sent out in five language versions: English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Indonesian.)