AJSC Newsletter

Newsletter # 7

Steyl – August 2007



Warmest greetings again from the Central Team of the Arnold Janssen Spirituality Center (AJSC) in Steyl: Emmie Vas and Franziska Carolina Rehbein SSpS,  Peter McHugh and Mike Somers SVD.



OUR E-MAIL ADDRESS:   ajscsteyl@gmail.com

Please use this address for communications to the AJSC.

In this bulletin:

1.  AJSC Personnel

2.   AJSC Activities

3.  Two Special Visitors

4.  Three-day Workshop on Prophetic Dialogue

5.   News from the Provinces

6.  Publications

7.  Keeping in Touch





1. AJSC Personnel


In January 2007 Sr. Agada and Fr. Pernia appointed Peter McHugh for a second three- year term and Sr. Emmie for a first term as co-directors of the AJSC Steyl.   Since the AJSC is a joint venture, the Generalates have approved this type of joint leadership.  Emmie succeeds Franziska who had been co-director since 2002.


In January Fr. Simon Bata returned to Indonesia because of health reasons.  Simon  had been a member of the Team in Steyl since 2004 and will continue to work in the ministry of spiritual animation as far as his other commitments permit.   Sr. Maria Cristina Avalos from Argentina has been appointed as member of the Team.  We are hoping that she will join us in Steyl by the end of this year.


2. AJSC Activities

Besides helping with the Formators' Course and conducting several contemplative retreats Franziska completed her book about the spirituality of St. Arnold and the first SVD generation as it is expressed in the Upper Church in St. Michael's, Steyl. When the first church of the Mission House became too small, in 1881-84 Fr. Arnold built two churches one on top of the other.   The Upper Church is preserved practically as it was built, so it provides in art form an expression of the spiritual vision that inspired those early members.   Franziska's book will soon be published in German.


The Course for SVD Formators (Spanish/Portuguese speaking), guided by Nemi director Fr. Tony Pates, began in Steyl.   Emmie and Peter were responsible for the practical organization. A noteworthy fact was the presence of several Indian and Indonesian confreres.


Emmie and Peter had an unusual experience in the Ukraine. The SSpS Province had been created on 15 January 2007. To get the province off to a good start the Sisters asked us to conduct a seminar on our spirituality for all the Sisters and the few SVDs in the country, followed by a guided retreat for a smaller number of Sisters.   The programs were held in a Jesuit retreat house right in the middle of a very large cemetery!  So our walks were made along the cemetery paths.   To reinforce any meditation on death one need only to look out the window, especially at night!

In a more usual setting Peter together with Simon Bata and the members of the province animation team (SAT) conducted two seminars for all the SVD and SSpS provincials of Indonesia with their council members and other key animators. There were eight SSpS/SVD provinces and one region. At the end of each seminar the participants sat together by provinces to work out a plan of spiritual animation.   The large Ende Province, for example, planned to ask the national Team  to offer the seminar to all the members of the province.


Mike went to Colombia for two seminars, the province retreat and the assembly. The theme of his retreat was prophetic dialogue, a particular challenge to our confreres in the politically conflictive situation of the country. Mike also had a series of retreats and seminars in Australia and Papua New Guinea.  Since he had to go alone, the province leadership teams (SVD/SSpS) mobilized their members to help especially with the guided retreats.   During the retreat in Alxishafen (PNG) one of the SVD retreatants died of a heart attack.


3. Two Special Visitors


During recent discussions with the Generalates about ways to keep more contact with the SATs (animation teams) in the provinces and to assist them better in their ministry of spiritual animation, the suggestion was made by the Generalates to invite two SAT members to visit Steyl and participate in one of the bi-annual planning sessions of the AJSC.   Besides getting to know the AJSC Team members better, there could be mutual sharing of materials and plans for the future, and the longer experience in Steyl would help them get more in touch with our roots.


So Sr. Joy Climaco of the Philippines and Fr. Gregory Arockiam of India were invited to join us for a month in Steyl.  Joy has recently been appointed to run the AJSC – Philippines, working in spiritual animation for ongoing formation of the SSpS.  Gregory was National Coordinator for spiritual animation in Papua New Guinea and has recently been appointed SVD National Coordinator in India.  Some of their impressions after their experience:


Sr. Joy :   I leave Steyl with a grateful heart.  Grateful to the SPIRIT who has led me to enter more deeply into the spirit, charism, life and mission of our Founding Generation.   Some of the striking insights for me are:

-   A wanting to grow deeper into our spirituality after touching our roots.  The spirit of our Founding Generation has become so alive and I can't help but marvel at the wonders the Lord has done in and through them.

-   The life and ministry of the AJSC Team has inspired and encouraged me. I appreciate their self-giving in the light of our spirituality and their commitment to share it to the whole Arnoldus Family.

-   The internationality there is very much felt and is indeed a living witness to One Heart, Many Faces.

-  The theme of the planning session: Prophetic Dialogue and Life-Giving Relationships was not only carried out and enriched in the conferences, articles and exchange of ideas but more importantly in deeds - in sharing faith, life and mission, in praying and reflecting on the WORD, in celebrating the Eucharist, etc.

-  Fr. Pernia's workshop on Prophetic Dialogue has led me to be truly grateful for the bond and unity of our spirituality and mission. Seeing mission as "Missio Dei" shows  that our participation in mission is fundamentally an encounter with mystery --   the mystery of the Triune God who calls humanity to share in His life and glory, the mystery of the salvific presence and action of the Word and the Spirit in the world.


The above insights have created in me a greater longing for the Indwelling of the TRIUNE GOD in my heart and in the hearts of all people. I believe that this is the Spirit's stirrings in my heart and from this longing He/She has bestowed upon me a passion for our spirituality.   I pray that the same Spirit will enable me to give birth to this passion in spite of my personal weaknesses and amidst challenges.


Gregory :  I feel privileged to be invited to Steyl along with Sr. Joy to attend this one month program.  I am deeply grateful   for the time spent, the people I met and the places visited and the experiences during this one month. As I look back on the past month at Steyl, I see it in two different phases. The first was to be part of the AJSC   mid- year Convivencia or planning session and to listen to all the sharing of the Team members with their joys and difficulties when conducting the programs in various countries. Also I was given the opportunity to give a report of the AJSC programs   in India and our plans for the future. The highlight was the three days seminar by Fr. Tony Pernia on Prophetic Dialogue as Mission. It was very enriching   and I gained newer insights on this our General Chapter theme as a new paradigm of mission. During the Convivencia I was enriched by the creative and well prepared liturgies and morning prayers and the quality time spent together as a Team. It was a learning experience for me and for my ministry.   The last two weeks were less structured with more time for personal  study and reflection.  I was happy to   visit the birth places of our Founding Generation.  It has helped me to deepen my appreciation of each of them and my experience has widened my horizon.


Concluding remarks:

1. I experienced once again the SVD/SSpS internationality and this multicultural experience has again made me feel proud of my congregation.


2. I have gained newer insights about our missionary spirituality as lived today and more about the members of our founding generation.


3. I am personally renewed   for my ongoing ministry in India with renewed vigor and zeal.


4. Three-day Workshop on Prophetic Dialogue
conducted by Fr. Pernia

As part of the ongoing formation of the AJSC members Fr. Pernia agreed to conduct a workshop on Prophetic Dialogue during our June planning session.   Besides the talks by Fr. Tony and the discussion that followed, each day we had a modified form of Lectio Divina and sharing as a group.


In our lived spirituality our commitment to dialogue should be built on two pillars:

1.      Openness to the Spirit who helps us to see God's action outside of the Church. The Spirit is also the person of dialogue between the Father and the Son.

2.    Respect for the other; not just the other who is similar to us, but the other who is socially, culturally different from us. This need is evident today in an ever more multi-cultural society.


The prophetic dimension should rest on the two pillars:

1. Rootedness in the Word.

2. Solidarity with the poor - our perspective being that of the materially poor.


Fr. Tony emphasized both the need to see mission as God's mission not ours, and also the conversions this calls for in our approach, namely:   Conversion

-         from activism to contemplation;

-         from individualism to collaboration;

-         from conquest to dialogue;

-         from only evangelizing to being evangelized.


Seeing mission as "Missio Dei," which entails dialogue, corrects our view of mission as a one-way street with everything done by the missionary for the people. The missionary was the preacher who proclaimed the truth, the people the ones who needed conversion.   Dialogue underlines the fact that the Spirit is at work in the people being evangelized as well as in the evangelizers. The missionaries must be ready to give and receive, to speak and to listen. They must learn to walk with the people and respect the pace of the people's walking. They must be prepared to change and be changed, to invite to conversion and be converted.


In our group reflections we saw ourselves challenged to articulate in today's language the relevance of dialogue today. Connecting this to our founding generation (centered on the Trinity, the Word and the Spirit) and seeing it as our way of responding effectively to the challenges in today's world can help people to appreciate better the concept of dialogue. And we begin to see dialogue as something we are already involved in and is a vital part of our life.   Through seminars and retreats we can promote ever more this attitude of Prophetic Dialogue and include it as a central part of our seminars and reflections.   Indeed we find it important first for ourselves.  Thus not only is transmitting the Chapter document to others important but also carrying through its implications in our lives and practice.   Dialogue invites us to LISTEN, to myself, to what is going on inside myself, as well as to others.


5. News from the Provinces

INDIA       Frt. Naveen W. Rebello reports.

January 29, 2007 was a red-letter day at Divine Word Seminary, Pune. The long- awaited dream of having a National Secretariat for AJSC was realized. The Arnold Janssen Secretariat was blessed by Fr. Durairaj, Provincial of INC, and inaugurated by Fr. Jose Vazhail, Provincial of INM, attended by SVD confreres, seminarians and SSpS Sisters.   Fr. Gregory Arockiam, the National Secretary of AJSC, explained the purpose of starting a National Secretariat, namely, to co-ordinate all the spiritual animation activities for the Arnoldus family members and the lay partners of its mission. It will also disseminate materials on our spirituality through books, handouts, pamphlets etc. and share information through electronic media.




Since the country comprises many provinces/regions, the SATs are arranged according to the three larger islands, Flores, Timor, Jawa with Kalimantan.  These three SATs have regular meetings for reflection, planning, running, evaluating the programs. On the national level they established SESAJI, (Arnold Janssen Spirituality Secretariat Indonesia).  The provinces take turns in leading this Secretariat every three years. The Ende provinces are responsible for 2007-2009 with coordinators Yanuarius Lobo SVD and Sr. Francis SSpS.  


For 2007 they have organized several programs on the national level, including:

-         the two seminars for the province leadership and SAT members conducted by Peter and Simon Bata; also annual retreats for SVD/SSpS;

-         in 2008 the third three-month renewal program (or Indonesian Tertiate).


For Flores itself their yearly activities for those in formation include:

- guided retreats for SSpS and SVD seminarians preparing for perpetual vows:

- preached retreat for first year SSpS novices; guided retreat for second year novices;

-  preached retreat for SSpS postulants;

-  workshop and guided retreat for first year SVD novices; guided retreat for second year novices in preparation for vows.


Also some activities for the Centennial Year:
-  to prepare a Triduum service and booklet for 15 January 2008 for the SVD-SSpS communities;

-  to write a memorial book: a century since the death of the Founder;

-  workshops for SVD/SSpS doing pastoral ministry (Aug - Dec 2007);
-  spiritual animation seminars for the laity who work with us (Aug - Dec 2007).

The SATs in Jawa and in Timor have similar yearly programs. In Timor the SSpS/ SVD novices' preparation for vows is done together.  In the novitiates other  pro-grams are in common;   for example, the guides for

the retreats are SVD and SSpS.  

CORRECTION.   In the No. 6 issue of our AJSC Newsletter (December 2006) it was reported that "Fr. Pernia approved ad experimentum the Constitutions of the Divine Word Lay Association (Lay Secular Third Order of the Society of the Divine Word)."   In fact official approval of the Constitutions was not the intention of the General Council at this time.  Fr. General simply encouraged Fr. Galang to assist the laypeople or families wanting to start the 'tertiary'.   The Council has expressed a similar positive attitude to other such movements throughout the Society.


6. Publications

a.  Bulletin from the Arnold Janssen Secretariat Steyl

The Secretariat, an agency of the German   Province, aims to foster devotion to and promote wider knowledge of St. Arnold Janssen and the significance of his life and spirituality for today.  Fr. Jürgen Ommerborn, director of the Secretariat, has begun sending out a periodical bulletin in electronic format.  Each issue has four pages (A4 format folded).   Three pages relate some aspect of "The Arnoldus Family Story" with photos and quotations from Arnold.  The fourth page, "At the Service of Prophetic Dialogue," combines quotations from contemporary authors and from Arnold on some aspect of this theme.  The latest issue is No. 6  July 2007.  The Bulletin appears in German and English editions.   If anyone would like to receive a copy, contact Fr. Ommerborn at sekr-aj@steyler.nl         


b.  "Mysteries of Mission" 

In the Year of the Rosary and our Year of Grace in 2003 an SVD confrere anonymously published "The Mysteries of Mission."   In his little booklet (28 pages) he suggested five new Mission Mysteries of the Rosary:  the Incarnation, the Epiphany, the Calling of the Twelve, the Washing of the Feet, the Mission Sending of the Disciples to the World.   Since then more than 20,000 copies (English, Pilipino and Japanese editions) have been printed.  The English, Indonesian and now the French and Spanish editions are available in the AJSC folder of the SVD Generalate website.   An Italian edition is being prepared.

7. 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,     Emmie,    Peter  and    Mike.


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