AJSC Newsletter

Newsletter # 8

Steyl – February 2008



"Precious is the Life Given for Mission."


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


We send you special good wishes for our Centennial Year.  May it be for you a time of renewal of missionary commitment and of renewed interest in our two saints, St. Arnold of Steyl and St. Joseph of Shantung, and soon to be beatified Mother Josepha.

At the start of the Centennial Year Steyl was honored by the visit of Cardinal Zen, bishop of Hong Kong.  He came to give a public talk on the Church in Hong Kong and China.  He was very touched by the fact that the very room in which he and the community ate the evening meal is the former chapel where on 2 March 1879 the Internuncio gave the mission cross the first two SVD missionaries, Joseph Freinademetz and John Baptist Anzer, and sent them to their mission in his diocese of Hong Kong.

In Germany SVD and SSpS communities are taking part in a "Novenastafel."  Each community takes its turn to pray the Novena to St. Joseph of Shantung in the first half of the Centennial Year; and the Novena to St. Arnold in the second half .  Let us all be united in prayer in a deeper way this Year.



OUR E-MAIL ADDRESS:   ajscsteyl@gmail.com

Please use this address for communications to the AJSC.

In this bulletin:

1.  New AJSC  Member

2.  Arnold's Top Ten                                  

3. Thirty-Day and Other Retreats

4.  AJSC Activities

5.  Impressions of India                              

6.  Publications

7.  Keeping in Touch





1. New AJSC Member


 At the end of December we were very happy to welcome our new member for the AJSC Team in Steyl, Sr. Maria Cristina.  She arrived in time to take part in the Team's planning sessions in January.  She introduces herself:


            I am Sr. Maria Cristina Avalos.  I come from Northern Argentina

where I have been working for the past few years specially in the area of formation and education, as well as missionary and spiritual animation.  My experience of working as a team with SSpS, SVD and lay people, both on the provincial level and on the Panam level has been positive and enriching.  The living witness of the Founding Generation animates me and brings alive for me the ever new, ongoing search of the present generation how to live out our discipleship with integrity and creative fidelity. Relying on the presence of the Holy Spirit who renews all things, I hope to be able to contribute to the vision and mission of the AJSC in that dynamic of giving and receiving life.


2. Arnold's Top Ten                                         by Peter McHugh

In the first of the bimonthly Reflections for the Centennial Year it was mentioned that Romans 5:5 is one of the five Scripture texts most quoted by the Founder.  Some have wondered what are the other texts.  Albert Rohner published two volumes of the Founder's notes for his retreat conferences and sermons (Analecta SVD 30 + 31) with an index of all the Scripture references in these two volumes.  So it would appear to be an easy task simply to count which texts in the index have the most references.  But one also needs to check each reference because sometimes a text is referred to twice in the same talk or is one given in the notes by Rohner.  In addition the Founder occasionally adds a simple list of text references relevant to the theme of his talk but without using any of the texts.  With this in mind we can set out the following as the ten texts most often quoted by Arnold Janssen:


1)  Heb 10:4-7           On coming into the world he said, 'You wanted no

sacrifice …but  (Ps 40:6-8)  you gave me a body… 

Here I am, I am coming to do your will, God.'


2)  Lk 4:18                  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed

                                    me to bring (cf. Is 61:1)      the good news to the



3)  Rom 8:14-17        All who are guided by the Spirit are sons and daughters

of God. What you received is the Spirit of adoption,

enabling us to cry out, 'Abba, Father.' …  And if we

are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint

-heirs with Christ.


4)  1 Cor 3,16            You are a temple of God with the Spirit living in you.


5)  Rom 5:5                The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the

gift of the Holy Spirit.


6)  Rev 21:3               Here God lives among human beings.  He will make his

home among them; they will be his people and he will

be their God, God-with-them.


7)  Jn 3:16                  God loved the world so much that he gave his Son that

those who believe in him may have eternal life.


8)  Jn 15:16               You did not choose me, no, I chose you.


9)  2 Cor 11:2            I gave you all in marriage to a single husband, a virgin

pure for presentation to Christ.


10)  Eph 1:4               He chose us in Christ before the world was made to be

holy and faultless before him in love.


The OT text most quoted is Jer 31:3:  I have loved you with an

everlasting love.


Some of the above are actually multiple verses on a theme.  So if you ask about the single verses most quoted, the order would be: Lk 4:18;  1 Cor 3:16;  Rom 5:5;  Rev 21:3;  Jn 3:16.  Sometimes the content of a Scripture verse is quoted but without giving the reference.  Jn 3:16, for example, is one used several times in this way in his talks and also in his prayers.  The first line of the SVD Prologue, by the way,  does the same.


Not surprisingly, the ten texts reflect those aspects of the Christian mystery that were central to Arnold's spirituality.


3. Thirty-Day and Other Retreats

In September Emmie and Peter were in the Philippines for the 30-Day Retreat for the 10th SSpS International Formators Course.  This course is a one year program for Sisters who will be working later on in formation, and the retreat is a central part of the program.  Two from the AJSC Team have been going each year.  Over the years we have tried to shape the retreat more in terms of  our own religious missionary spirituality, focusing on key aspects which are less explicit in the Ignatian model (community, Holy Spirit, mission today, etc.).  We organized trips on the break days to the Maryknoll Sisters' Cosmic Journey Garden, and to a home for battered/abused women.  Such exposure experiences are not distractions from the central flow of the retreat, but rather intensify the link between prayer life and mission.


In a recent letter the two general councils have encouraged the Team to consider widening the possibility of giving such a retreat to other SSpS/SVD outside of such special courses.  Of course, we do not see the 30-Day retreat as a regular part of  ongoing formation for every Sister and confrere.  But we do see it as something very worthwhile at certain stages of formation and in the context of special courses.  So this is something we would like to take further.


The two councils also recommended that the Team put emphasis on guided retreats and training personnel for guiding retreats in the provinces.  This would require training more Sisters and confreres in guiding retreats.  Some provinces are blessed with a number of members who are capable and willing to help with guiding retreats.  This request is also a matter we need to follow up.



4. AJSC Activities

Our AJSC planning session which usually takes place in December was postponed till January 2008.  Joining us for the Feast of St. Arnold and for three days of meetings with us were our two contact persons from the two generalates, Sr. Maria Theresia and Fr. Gregory Pinto.  Ralf Huning gave us a short but interesting seminar to experience for ourselves how he used films to conduct the annual retreat last year. 


As usual in the second half of the year, members of the Team were very much involved in the two renewal courses in Steyl and in Nemi, SSpS Spanish-Portuguese, SVD English-speaking.  The SSpS course takes place mostly in Steyl.  The SVD course was in Steyl for almost four weeks. Besides being enriched by the experience of living in Steyl, the cradle of our Arnoldus family, both groups bring much life and a truly international atmosphere to the SVD and SSpS communities.  This is especially true when the courses coincide with other special events organized for outsiders.  This was the case with the three-day Bibelfest or Bible Festival organized in St. Michael's around our Foundation Day, 8 September. 


Mike spent a month in Argentina conducting the province retreat and workshop/seminars.  The workshop was on human development and personal growth, a very involving experience.  Mike and Emmie were in India over two months, giving retreats and seminars on our spirituality.  The SVD were celebrating their 75 years of activity in India.  So it was a good occasion to reflect together with the SSpS on our spirituality as the heart of our missionary commitment.  Gregory Arockiam, the SVD national coordinator for spiritual animation, who had been with us in Steyl for five weeks last summer, organized the whole process.  Sr. Shanti has also been appointed SSpS national coordinator.


Besides helping with the renewal courses and conducting several contemplative retreats Franziska completed her book about St. Michael's Upper Church, described below.


5. Impressions of India                            by Mike Somers

In October Mike and Emmie went to India to give several retreats and seminars.  It was Mike's first visit to India and he shares with us some impressions of this amazing country.


In India I have found the best drivers in the world.  Once I took a taxi with an SVD confrere from our house to the train station in Kolkata.  We were running late so we had to hurry. The trip took us 35 minutes; usually it takes one hour 15 minutes!  The driver cleverly negotiated the streets packed with buses, cars, tricycles, motorbikes, goats, buffaloes, even driving where there was no street at all. I can honestly say that was the drive of my life, the kind you normally only read about.


When the traffic stops on the major streets there is literally no room to move, not even for a bicycle, it is so dense. Though there is constant honking of horns with people, cars and bikes crisscrossing in every direction in front of you; it struck me that the people are not at all aggressive; they have a healthy passive attitude and just take it in their stride.


Buffaloes, cows and even elephants can be found wandering the major streets in the city. Unlike the African buffaloes which are wild and dangerous, the ones in India often stand still in the main street in Mumbai holding up all the traffic. They just stand there so peaceful and contemplative, as if they were out in the middle of the forest, while the traffic goes around them. You also find hundreds of cows and cowsheds in the middle of the city.


One good thing the British left behind is the impressive and vast railway system that networks across the whole country. It caters for and carries millions upon millions of people every day.  Once I came back by train to Kolkata at the weekend of the major Hindu festival 'Puja'. I did not have to walk out of the train or along the platform.  I was literally carried along with the mass of people that shoved and packed the whole place.  Amusing for me was to see mice running up and down the trains and feeling very much at home even while we were travelling.


Special treatment and warm hospitality is given to foreigners. Even in the airports my bags were carried around for me, doors opened in front of me and even though I pointed out that Emmie was with me and had heavy bags, they just worried about mine. It was at times embarrassing as Emmie who was beside me, was not offered the same service.


One experiences something of the vast reality of India, being as it is the second most populated country in the world.  A mass of people is to be found everywhere and though this is great to see and you can breath life in each place, you also see so many people sleeping rough and struggling to survive, sleeping at night literally side by side on the footpaths, in train stations and even out on the streets. You experience the tremendous wealth and development alongside the desperate plight of the poor and rejected.  I went wandering in the slum areas of the city on my own, but unlike in South America, in India I never felt unsafe or in any danger.


I experienced the tremendous diversity of religions, cultures, tribes and castes all in this one country. There is a sense of plurality and openness, while at the same time society is divided and separated along caste and tribal lines which run very deep in society at large.


I liked very much the way of celebrating the liturgy and the Eucharist, using symbols and gestures as they incorporate the cultural expressions of Hinduism.  It just seems to flow naturally whether you are Christian or Hindu. I visited many of our institutions and shared the rich variety of apostolates we have, especially for the disadvantaged and marginalized.  Spending time with Emmie's family was a real gift also, to experience how ordinary people live.


6. Publications

a.  Das Geheimnis der Liebe Gottes  [The Mystery of God's Love] is the title of Franziska Carolina Rehbein's book,  recently published as No. 5 in the Steyl Streams series.  With 124 pages and many illustrations it describes how the spiritual vision of our Founder and the first generation is expressed the art work in the Upper Church in St. Michael's, Steyl.  Translation of the book into English, Spanish and other languages is underway.  Publish-ing it in the provinces could be a contribution to the Centennial celebration of the Founder.


b.  Bimonthly Reflections.  The AJSC Team were asked to publish bimonthly reflections on our two Saints during the Centennial Year.  The first two have already been sent by the generalates to all SSpS/SVD provinces and regions:  No. 1.  "The Love of God shines in Our Hearts in Rainbow Colors …  (A .Janssen)"   by Peter McHugh.    No. 2.   "Joseph Freinademetz: A Man of Love, Faith and Prayer"  by Peter Irsara.  Hopefully the others will appear regularly in coming months.  Let us know if you do not receive your copy.  They are also posted in a special <Centennial> section in the special generalates website: www.arnold-joseph-100.net (Note: Website has expired - The Webmaster)  


c.  Arnold Janssen Secretariat Steyl.  Director Fr. Jürgen Ommerborn continues to send out his monthly bulletin, "The Arnoldus Family Story," in electronic format in English and German.  The one for January has just appeared as a special edition for the 100th anniversary of the death of St. Joseph of Shantung.  It is also posted in the Centennial section.  His email: sekr-aj@steyler.nl        


d.  Novena of Readings.  The SSpS/SVD Centenary Committee in Techny, USA,  prepared a 12-page booklet with readings for each day for use in morning (or evening) prayer on the nine days leading up (to or following) January 29th.


e.  As part of the kick-off for the Centennial Year Sr. Joy Climaco (Manila) prepared a prayer service with power point presentation based on Reflection No. 1, "The Love of God shines in Our Hearts in Rainbow Colors …"   Seventy SSpS and SVD attended. Best of all, writes Provincial Sr. Carmelita, the Lord affirmed the gathering through a rainbow which appeared outside. It was as if, once again the voice of the Father was heard:  "These are my beloved ones, in whom I am well pleased..."  The powerpoint  will be posted in the AJSC Folder on the Generalates' websites.


7. Keeping in Touch

We are continuing to put articles in the AJSC Folder which is in the Public Area on the SVD website: http://www.svdcuria.org    Click on  Site Map/Mapa del sitio, then click on  AJSC–CEAJ.  The Sisters can access the same by going to the SSpS website www.worldssps.org   click Other Links then click AJSC

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 other news of your province in the field of animation, using the following address: ajscsteyl@gmail.com

We look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes for your work,



Franziska Carolina,     Emmie,   Maria Cristina,   Peter  and    Mike.


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