AJSC Newsletter

Newsletter # 11

Steyl – January 2010



A Very Happy and Blessed New Year to you all


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


     We wish you a truly blessed Christmas Season!  May the Incarnate Word, who came to share our humanity that we might become partakers of his divinity, bless you and your loved ones abundantly in the new year 2010, and especially your ministry of spiritual animation.



OUR E-MAIL ADDRESS:   ajscsteyl@gmail.com


In this bulletin:

1.  Planning AJSC Programs for 2010

2. AJSC – 20 Years Old!    15 January 1996 - 2009

3.  The Wealth that has no figure attached to it  – Mike Somers

4.  New Arrival – Sr. Aneta

5.  Franziska, Farewell !   1996 – 2009

6.  Activities of the Team

7.  News from the Provinces

8.  Useful Publications

9.  Keeping in Touch





1.    Planning AJSC Programs for 2010


Our set of programs for 2010 is pretty well fixed already. See Attachment 1.   But we would be interested to hear from you about invitations to your province/region for programs (retreats, seminars, workshops) during the year 2011.  Perhaps you are not yet so clear about your plans but get in touch with us and let’s see what we can arrange together.    ajscsteyl@gmail.com




2.   AJSC – 20 YEARS OLD!    15 January 1996 - 2009


The idea of starting the Arnold Janssen Spirituality Center (AJSC)  came from a resolution of the 1988 SVD General Chapter that “the generalate establish at Steyl a center both for research into the spiritual heritage of Arnold Janssen and the Society and for the spiritual animation of our members.  We invite the cooperation of the SSPS and SSPSAP in this endeavor.”   They immediately agreed to participate.  On 8 December 1989 the three Superiors General signed a Declaration of  Intent, affirming that the AJSC and its task of spiritual animation is a combined venture of the three Congregations. 


On 15 January 1990 the AJSC was officially inaugurated in St. Michael’s Mission House, Steyl.   Henry Heekeren and Sr. Agada Brand headed a Team of three SVD, three SSpS.  An Adoration Sister was appointed to act as link person between the AJSC Team and the Adoration Congregation, though without leaving the cloister.  During these twenty years the membership of the Team has changed considerably.  Sr. Aneta SSpS, who arrived in August 2009, is the 18th member.  In January 2010 we are expecting Renato Gnatta SVD.


The Objectives of the AJSC,  as determined by the Generalates, were:

(1) to animate and assist the members of our three congregations in living out our missionary spirituality, in the light of the present cultural and ecclesial context;

(2) to encourage and coordinate the efforts of local communities in research on our roots;

(3) to help lay people live out the missionary spirituality of Blessed Arnold and engage in missionary activities;     (4) to promote the study of our spiritual heritage.


Working with the spiritual animation teams (SATs) in the provinces, the AJSC has achieved a lot in terms of personal and community renewal.  Much interest has been generated in our Founder, the Co-foundresses and the whole Founding Generation.  There is a stronger sense in the three Congregations of being one Arnoldus family, sharing much in common in spirituality and charism, yet with distinct and mutually enriching approaches.  But surely the most important development over these twenty years, fostered certainly by the AJSC but influenced also by other factors, is the growing conviction of spiritual animation as the top priority.  Many times practical considerations, or simply lack of effort block or diminish the full implementation of this priority.  But all the recent general chapters have underlined this priority and encouraged cooperation with the AJSC.


Yet, though the objectives have remained basically the same over the years, the ways to achieve them have evolved.  In addition, our Congregations and the world in general have also changed.  To face these emerging challenges the SVD-SSpS general councils after the meeting with the AJSC in January 2009 have undertaken an assessment survey.  In their joint general council meeting in January 2010 they will deliberate on the findings and determine what changes in the structure and approach will help the AJSC to answer these challenges and continue its mandate.


In a special edition of the AJSC Newsletter in 2010 we will bring more coverage of the development of the AJSC from its beginning till today.



3.    The Wealth that has no figure attached to it …  Mike Somers


Last week my nephew and his friends were in an off-licence getting a couple of cans for a quiet night in. No job, so no money for big nights out on the town anymore. It was 10pm when they were served and they were 20 cents short. The shopkeeper was having none of it. That was until something amazing happened. A homeless man, who was begging outside, heard the commotion, walked up to my nephew and placed 20 cents in his hand. This for me is hope.


     The knowledge that, despite all that is wrong with society, despite “these recessionary times”, despite those personal moments when it seems the universe itself is conspiring against you, all is not lost and there is everything to be found. When your material world comes crashing down, it may take just a call from a friend, a breath of fresh air, a gesture from a complete stranger to remind you of the wealth that permeates your life.


     This wealth doesn’t have a figure attached, and that’s what makes it priceless. It can be as simple as the health you take for granted, a family who are always there for you, or the community to which you belong. It is these elements that make up the fabric of our daily life, requiring neither recession nor boom for illumination. Then you realize it points to one of the world’s best kept secrets: You make a living by what you get, but a life by what you give.


     The recession has stripped people of hope, yet it has also brought forward an awareness of what counts and what doesn’t.  Conversations I’ve had with people evoke the same sentiment: “Those times were good, but they weren’t filled with goodness.” There is an awareness that living for yourself may get you places, but those places aren’t all they claimed to be.  In some cases, they don’t even exist.

     There is a new-found value in the parts of life that taxation cannot touch, authentic wealth found in loving families, lasting friendships and meaningful pursuits.  If that is truly the case, then the only thing in real recession is the attitude and mindset that defined wealth. That past way of thinking is best left in the past.


     Our daily lives are a choice and we can either be a victim or victor of circumstances. We can choose to hang our heads or we can choose to fill our day with moments that all the money in the world can’t  buy.   Jobs may not be safe, but their existence never defined one’s sense of self in the first place. What does is what you can do. Helping the need of a stranger; living to give and experiencing the true meaning of wealth. It’s all about changing your world.  That’s my Hope for the New Year … wishing you all every blessing throughout  2010..


4.   New Arrival – Sr. Aneta


I am Sr. Aneta Kołodziejczyk and I come from Poland. During the past fifteen years since I finished my studies in psychology in Rome, I have been directly involved in the ministry of formation. Throughout these years I accompanied several groups of junior Sisters preparing for final vows.  For six years I was novice directress in the Polish Province.  In between, in the years 1998/99 and 2007/08 I helped with the one year international formators course for SSpS in the Philippines, accompanying the participants in their personal growth sessions. I treasure this time of direct involvement in accompanying our SSpS Sisters in their discernment of vocation and vocational growth. I hope that coming now to the roots and witnessing the life and missionary zeal of the Founding Generation will enable me even more to be at the service of our Arnoldus Family.



5.   Franziska, Farewell !   1996 – 2009


At the end of our planning session in December the AJSC Team bade farewell to Sr. Franziska Carolina Rehbein SSpS.  Born in Germany Franziska lived and worked for many years in Brazil and became a Brazilian citizen.  When she appointed Franziska to the AJSC way back in October 1996, Sr. Agada encouraged her to spend half her time conducting programs in the provinces and half the time writing on our spirituality and the Founding Generation.  As you can see from the list of her publications, Franziska really fulfilled that hope.  It was fortunate that Franziska came to the AJSC after her term as general councilor (1990-96), otherwise she would surely have been taken to Rome by one of the SSpS general chapters  --  as happened to three of our SSpS members, Sr. Agada, Sr. Gracy and recently Sr. Maria Cristina!  In this way she was allowed to complete her long term in the AJSC.  In recent years Franziska put much energy into guiding contemplative retreats and has enabled Sr. Emmie to continue guiding such retreats.  Towards the end her failing health forced her to give up long distance traveling for programs, till eventually she had to limit herself to guiding retreats only in Steyl and Wahlwiller (Netherlands). 


Franziska is known for her cheerfulness and contagious enthusiasm for our spirituality and the ministry of spiritual animation.  We will miss these qualities very much.  We wish her God’s blessing as she continues this ministry hopefully for many years to come. 



6.   Activities of the Team


Because of the renovation of the house in Nemi there was no SVD renewal course in Steyl in 2009.  But as usual we were responsible for the spirituality section and the retreat in the English-speaking SSpS renewal course held in Steyl.  It was a large group of 30 SSpS. 


Mike spent quite a lot of time in Latin America.  In Bolivia he conducted a ten-day workshop on human development and personal growth, assisted by Sr. Maria Cristina Avalos who was in Bolivia for the general visitation.  She would have accompanied Mike there if she had remained on the Team.  Later Mike gave the retreat for the new SVD CAM Region, comprising Panama, Nicaragua and Cost Rica.  Since the members live in three distinct realities, sharing on this level is particularly important.  Then on to Ecuador for retreats and seminars, but not only in Latin America.  Mike showed up in Africa too.  The province of Kenya and Tanzania was celebrating its Silver Jubilee as a province and had asked for special retreats.  He experienced something of the desperate political situation in Kenya.  Emmie too was in Africa for the SSpS retreat in Botswana and South Africa, where she was very inspired by the work of the Sisters, especially working with HIV patients.


Emmie and Peter were in Slovakia for a retreat and five seminars.  Two SAT members had translated the text of our PowerPoint presentations and helped us with the programs.  Nearly all the Sisters of the province attended.  Emmie and Peter were together again for retreats and two seminars in the USA.  Sr. Benna, almost 98 years old, died during the retreat for the older Sisters.  We had a community celebration of the sacrament of the sick.  She received the sacrament in her room and died early the following morning. One of the seminars we were asked to conduct had the curious title “Why bother with Arnold Janssen Spirituality?”  How would YOU approach that question?   Our time in the States also coincided with the joint SVD/SSpS Jubilee celebrations in Techny. Since he had studied in Techny Peter was included as one of the jubilarians (50th anniversary of religious life) and was asked by the Provincial to give the homily on that day.


Apart from the Convivencia in December Aneta spent much of the time studying German.  She will continue again next year.



7.   News from the Provinces



In his annual Report to the provincials (14/09/09) Gregory Arockiam SVD writes that the AJ Spirituality Team had organized several guided retreats and several preached retreats on our trinitarian missionary spirituality for both SSpS and SVD, and also for our own seminarians. There was a meeting of all the SAT members from the provinces with Sr, Agnes SSpS, provincial of INE, a chance to share various initiatives taken at the province level and the challenges faced in our on-going spiritual animation activities.  Gregory lists three suggestions for the provincials:  We need:  1) to have committed SATs to promote our spirituality in effective and creative ways. The provincials are to be included in  the planning and implementation of the programs for the next three years.  2) to work out a module on our spirituality and Founding Generation for our formees at various stages of formation. 3) to promote the spirituality of our Saints in our communities, our parishes, schools and other institutions by constructing grottos for our Saints, conducting novenas and other creative forms of prayer services.

Shrines to Our Saints

During and just after the Centennial Year several communities set up shrines to honor our Saints.  In the attachment are photographs of three:

1)  The new grotto of Sts. Arnold and Joseph in Divine Word Seminary, Pune.  It was designed by Rony D'Silva SVD and is a joint venture of three SVD communities in Pune. 

2)  St. Arnold’s Shrine at the AJS Center, designed by the director, Sr. Joy Climaco SSpS with a local architect.

3)  Shrine to our four Saints in the SSpS Provincialate, Slovakia.




Quite a few activities were organized for the centennial celebrations of the SVD arrival in the Philippines, with the President herself attending the main event.  In Manila, reports Sr. Carmelita, SSpS Provincial, there was a specially organized KAPATIRAN at the AJS Center-Philippines.  The Kapatiran is the gathering of SSpS and SVD who meet fairly regularly for sharing and celebrating together.  This time it was very well attended with over 80 SVD and SSpS.  Fr. Jurgen Ommerborn, SVD shared on Fr. Arnold's Understanding of Mission.



Sr. Aleksandra Huf SSpS reports that the SAT Team, which was formed after an AJSC seminar by Emmie and Peter in 2006, has been quite actively involved with animation of our own members.  Besides this the Team started a new initiative, namely, “a monthly renewal course for the Sisters from different congregations. We prepared the whole program and gave it to the Conference of Major Superiors, who approved it and sent it to all the congregations in Poland.  Sisters from eight congregations came for the course. The Sisters wish to continue it every year.”


8.  Useful Publications

a.   Books published in English by Sr. Franziska C. Rehbein during her term at the AJSC.

1.      Vineyard and Winepress – Symbols of the founding generation of Steyl – 2000

2.      Roots of Promise – Ripening Harvest – 2000  It traces the historical development of the spirituality of the SSpS.

3.      Come Holy Spirit – Breath of a Servant of the Holy Spirit – 2001   Describes the contemplative dimension of Mother Josepha.

  1. Gripped by the Mystery – Arnold Janssen – A Man of Prayer - 2004
  2. Jesus the Missionary – A Reflection in the light of our Trinitarian Spirituality on Jesus, the One sent by the Father – 2005
  3. The Mystery of God’s Love: in the Symbolism of the Upper Church of St.          

       Michael, Steyl.  -  2007.   119 pages with many photos.  Available in electronic  

       format on the generalates’ websites.


b.  Mass and Liturgy of the Hours (159 pages; SVD Generalate, 2009).  It gathers in one booklet the texts of the Mass and liturgy of the hours for the feasts/memorials of our four Saints and four Blessed martyrs. 


c.  Brothers Newsletter.  Br. Bela Lanyi SVD in Cebu, Philippines sends out in English the Newsletter that was started at the initiative of the Brothers Assembly.  The latest presents a number of Brothers writing about the Brother vocation.


d.  El Chino del Tirol by Sepp Hollweck SVD.  This is a translation into Spanish by Francisco Javier Donázar SVD of the original German book about St. Joseph Freinademetz. Not yet in English, but for some Spanish may be easier than German!


e.  Arnold Janssen Secretariat Steyl.  The monthly bulletin, “The Arnoldus Family Story,” by Jürgen Ommerborn continues in English and German.  Email: sekr-aj@steyler.nl         


9.  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,  Aneta,  Peter,  &  Mike

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



Attachment 1.

AJSC Programs 2010 (December 2009)

1. January German Course Dingden Aneta
2. Jan 10 – May 22 Formation Course India Emmie
3. Jan 3 – Feb 10 Retreats/workshops S. Korea Mike
4. Feb 13– March 28 30-Day Retreat Course Steyl Peter/Pates /Renato/Aneta
5. April 7-16 SSpS Retreat Steyl Peter
6. April 20-24 SSpS Retreat Wimbern Peter
7. April-May German course Dingden Aneta
8. Early May SSpSAP Novices Retreat Steyl Peter
9. June 1-12 Convivencia Steyl AJSCTeam
10. June 21 – July 3 SSpS Tertiate Steyl Emmie / Renato
11. June 18-July 18 Retreats / Workshop Ghana Mike / Aneta
12. July 5- Aug 3 Retreats / Workshop Far East Emmie / Peter
13. July 12 - Aug 12 30 Day Retreat Brazil Renato
14. August 1 – 23 Workshop / Retreat Japan Mike
15. August 3 - 12 SSpS Tertiate Retreat Steyl Emmie /Franziska
16. August 11-31 SVD Tertiate Steyl Emmie/Peter/Aneta
17. Aug 23-Sept 15 Retreats / Workshop Taiwan/Hong K Mike
18. September Contempl. Retreat Spain Emmie
19. October 18-23 Retreat SSpS Assoc. Ireland Emmie / Aneta
20. October-Nov. Retreats SSpSAP Philippines Mike
21. November 14 –20
November 22 - 30
Dei Verbum Retreat
SVD Tertiate Retreat
Nemi Emmie / Aneta / (SVD?)
22. December Convivencia Steyl AJSC Team

One or the other are still being planned.