AJSC Newsletter

Newsletter # 12

Steyl – 1st October 2010




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


May your involvement in the ministry of spiritual animation continue to fill you with joy and to bring forth much fruit.



OUR E-MAIL ADDRESS:   ajscsteyl@gmail.com


In this bulletin:

1.   GOOD NEWS  --  Two New Members

2.  AJSC celebrates 20 Years     15 January 1990 - 2010

3.  AJSC Members over the Years

4.  AJSC  -- the Founding Generation

5.  Workshop for 30-Day Retreat Guides  

6.  News from the Provinces  

7.  Publications

8.  Keeping in Touch






1.     GOOD NEWS  --  Two New Members


Renato Leite GNATTA.  I was born in the south of Brazil. My parents had a farm where I grew up with my three brothers and two sisters. I joined the SVD when I was 22 years old and was ordained a priest in 1991.

I was assigned to Ghana, where I had my first immersion in a new language and culture. Helping in a parish I learned a lot from the people.  After five years I returned to Brazil and worked in mission/vocation animation for about three years.  A new chapter of my life started in 2000; I was called to get into formation as novice director.  It was again a time of growth, to live and work with young people.  During this period I did some preparation courses in spirituality, and at the weekends did pastoral work with poor people of the communities in the rural areas.  Now, after nine years in initial formation, I am invited to join the Spirituality Team in Steyl and work in ongoing formation. New challenges lie ahead, and I believe that only by deepening our spirituality will we be able to carry on the mission as our founding generation did.


Peter DUSICKA.   I am from Slovakia.  After professing my final vows in 1994 I started working in formation.  This lasted till 2004.  First I accompanied the postulants for one year, then the seminarians for three years and finally the novices. During my involvement in formation I attended seminars on directed retreats and was able to offer several courses to our confreres and SSpS Sisters. In addition I was also giving preached retreats. Before beginning with my ministry in the novitiate in 2000 I took the nine-month course at the Institute for Religious Formation in Chicago.  The last six years I spent serving in the administration of our Slovak province.

My appointment to the AJSC Team is an invitation for me to be not only enriched by the spirituality of our Arnoldus Family but also to become a channel through which the holy Triune God will continue transforming this world into his Kingdom. 




2.    AJSC celebrates 20 Years     15 January 1990 - 2010


The idea of starting the Arnold Janssen Spirituality Center (AJSC)  came from the 1988 SVD General Chapter:“to 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.”   The SSpS and SSpSAP agreed to participate.  On 15 January 1990 the AJSC was officially inaugurated in St. Michael’s, Steyl.   Henry Heekeren and Sr. Agada Brand headed a Team of three SVD, three SSpS.  An Adoration Sister acted as link person. 

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

(1) to animate and assist the members in living out our missionary spirituality;  

(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.

The approach of the Team was to form spiritual animation teams (SATs) in the provinces. Working systematically with the SATs was not always easy since many SAT members get other appointments, drop out, etc.  Yet much has been achieved in terms of personal and community renewal.  Much interest has been generated in our Founder and the Founding Generation.  In the three Congregations there is a stronger sense of being one Arnoldus family, sharing much in common in spirituality and charism.  Perhaps the most important development over these twenty years is the growing conviction of spiritual animation as a top priority.  All the recent general chapters have emphasized this priority and encouraged cooperation with the AJSC.

The objectives have remained basically the same, yet the ways to achieve them need to develop.  Our Congregations and the world have changed.  More emphasis is being put on zonal (or continental) collaboration, and some feel that spiritual animation should be coordinated by teams on a zonal or language level.  After much consultation with the AJSC Team and some provinces the SVD-SSpS general councils decided in January 2010 that the present AJSC structure will continue for two years.  This two-year period will be used for further reflection and consultation and so “continue to discern on the structure that would best serve the future direction.”



3.     AJSC Members over the Years


AJSC Members over the Years.   The following SSpS and SVD have been the members of the AJSC Core Team in Steyl:


SSPS:  Srs. Agada Brand,  Clarette Ramirez,  Shanti Chakumkunnel,  Maria Virginia Gette,  Carol Welp,  Franziska C. Rehbein,  Gracy Antony,  Matilde Sacardo, Emmie Vas,  Maria Cristina Avalos,  Aneta Kołodziejczyk.


SVD:  Henry Heekeren,  Antonio B. Pates,  Jos Vazhail,  Peter McHugh,  Cyprianus Setyawan,  Mike Somers,  Simon Bata,  Renato Gnatta,  Peter Dusicka.


Three have already joined the Founding Generation in heaven:  Henry Heekeren on 14 December 2004,  Cyprianus Setyawan 11 October 2005,  Clarette Ramirez 28 May 2006.


4.    AJSC  -- the Founding Generation


Two of the first AJSC pioneers share their memories of the early years.


A.  Sr. Agada Brand   (AJSC 1990-1996)




‘Back to the roots!’  was the call of Vatican II, a call to re-read and deepen our spirituality and charism in order to live them TODAY with conviction. The SVD Chapter of 1988 proposed a Spirituality Center as a common project of our three Congregations.  January 15, 1990 was the Foundation Day of the AJSC.  However till September only Fr. Henry Heekeren and myself were at the Center. Then an international team of six was formed to carry the project forward. In January 1991 we held the first programs in Steyl to build up a structure to reach out to the five continents.

Many doubts and questions were raised:  A Center in Steyl?  What has Steyl still to offer us today?  Others commented: “They have nothing else to do…  Let them dig out the past… Anyhow we already know it.”  And so on…  It demanded a lot of inner stamina and conviction.  For quite a time I kept asking myself: “Why am I wasting my time here with this project instead of being in Africa, my mission field?” 

Several provinces responded to the invitation to get to know better what moved our Founding Generation in pursuing their mission. Extended Teams were formed in those provinces so that together with the Core Team they would bring this project to their provinces.  For this purpose ten one-month programs were offered, some in Steyl and others in the provinces with the aim of forming local teams, whom the Central Team would accompany and support afterwards. At the end of one of the programs, a very committed SSpS admitted that for her it had been enough to be involved in the local church; she now realized this was not enough; she must do so as a true SSpS, living out her identity, spirituality and charism with conviction.

The Center grew very slowly, but gradually we noticed a growing interest to learn more about the origins. Thus the need for materials in different languages. Hardly any was available in languages other than German. Yet all but one of our Team and the majority of the members of our Congregations were non-Europeans.  Luckily some capable SSpS and SVD made themselves available to produce and/or translate materials.

Another sign of growth through the AJSC was a greater interest by the participants of the SSpS and SVD renewal programs (Tertiates). They wanted to be in Steyl for a longer time to have more contact with the places where our Founding Generation had lived.  In 1999 the SSpS decided to transfer its Tertiate programs to Steyl. Being in touch with our history certainly helps to re-read it for today, which is required if we want to live in CREATIVE FIDELITY to what we inherited from our Founding Generation.

Gradually we discovered that at our origins was a generation of great saints who at first seem to be persons unsuitable for handling such a project. Once again God confuses our human wisdom and brings about a great project through men and women considered incapable of it. We also discovered that Steyl, a place remote and insignificant, still has much to offer today.  There we discover and experience something of the life and passion of the Founding Generation in making the Triune God known, loved and glorified, so that we too feel urged to make our own this spirit and passion.

For me personally, the seven years spent in the AJSC in Steyl helped me to get to know our spirituality and charism and above all to discover the greatness of our Founding Generation: so simple and unassuming and yet so deeply rooted in the Triune God and their mission. This filled me with a deep love and admiration for them, and strengthened my love and passion for the mission they lived for.

After twenty years of existence of the AJSC, and having accompanied our Congregation for twelve years as Congregational Leader, I can really say that it was worth all the struggles and searching. And I am truly convinced that we need to continue these efforts in all our provinces, for each day brings us new challenges in our missionary life and new steps are demanded.  But we need to keep  close contact with our roots to re-read and contextualize our spirituality and charism. 


B.  Tony Bon Pates  (AJSC 1991- 2004)



My Learnings in the Beginning of the AJSC


I look back on my years in the AJSC with gratitude and joy.  It was a privileged experience to be in the beginning with Fr. Henry Heekeren and the other members of the Team.  They have enriched me by their unique personhood, life experiences, cultural richness and spiritual sharings.    

I remember the unique opening of the AJSC on 15 January 1990 in Steyl.  A simple celebration in the aula together with the “Voorde”, a movement of men and women committed to serving those who have lost meaning in their lives.  Many expected a solemn liturgical celebration to inaugurate the AJSC, but it was a simple gesture to celebrate the beginning of a daring adventure of searching with the Spirit for creative ways to be at the service of people.

The beginning of the AJSC was indeed challenging since it was totally new, both for the Team and for the community in St. Michael’s.  Our Congregations have no systematized spiritual tradition like the old Orders. Suddenly an international group of SVD and SSpS found themselves sitting in the house -- for what?  Hurdles on the track were not lacking – language learning, climate adaptation, inter-gender living and working, creating new programs and so on.  Yet the door was open for a new adventure. 

After a lot of consultation a vision began to emerge, focused on ongoing spiritual animation of all the members in the light of our Trinitarian mission spirituality. This animation had to happen on the local, provincial and zonal levels, and that would require the formation of province Spiritual Animation Teams.  

From this spark of a vision I saw myself on a daring journey of adaptation, learning, listening, creativity, sharing – in a word, ‘synergism’ as the dynamic interactive process of discerning what is the best response to a given situation.  Learning to live and work as a team of men and women was a challenge – sharing who we are in planning and facilitating programs, complementing each other through our gifts. Our team work has been much appreciated as an effective witness. This is one of the riches of the charism we have as a religious family of men and women at the service of a common mission.

Another learning I treasure was the designing of programs to prepare spiritual animators in the provinces.  This creative designing was very enriching through team work, pulling together personal resources and insights, and expressing it in a dynamic program. Empowering others to be spiritual animators as a team remains one of the primary tasks of the AJSC.

My years in the AJSC led me to appreciate more our Founding Generation who dared out of love to respond with the Word and the Spirit to the call of their times, an inspiration for me and for all of us.  Journeying with our confreres, our Sisters and our lay partners opened me to the richness of our Arnoldus family made up of individuals called, loved and sent by God today.  The personal life story of each one reveals a unique touch of God’s love, and like small pieces of a mosaic together form an amazing picture of the living body of a Congregation called to witness and to serve God’s mission. 

My personal hope and prayer for the AJSC Team is that the members may grow and journey together as a Team, enabling others in the ministry of spiritual animation as members of the Arnoldus family together with our lay partners.  May the Creator Spirit keep burning in you as in the word of the Lord, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.” (Lk 12,49)



5.    Workshop for 30-Day Retreat Guides,   13 Feb – 28 March 2010,   Steyl


  In several provinces the 30-Day Retreat is given in the novitiate (SVD) or during preparation for final profession (SSpS), following the Ignatian method. This has generally been a positive experience.  But since the aim of the retreat is to strengthen one’s self-identity as SVD or SSpS, many have asked why not offer a similar experience but with our own missionary way of life as the focus.  Not a question of improving on Ignatius’ Exercises, but rather the desire to focus on elements of our own spirituality.  In addition, members could also benefit very much from the 30-Day Retreat at a later date.  The SVD Handbook for Superiors  encourages it (B4, 1.3).  Preparing more Sisters and confreres to accompany retreatants would promote this. 

So the aim of the Workshop, a joint AJSC-Nemi project, was to work out a 30-Day Retreat based on our own spirituality and thus enable the participants to guide such retreats as also the shorter annual retreats (8 or 6 days).   There were 23 participants:

12 SSpS and 11 SVD, working in 8 countries. 

The heart of the Workshop was the One-Month Retreat Journey with the structure and flow based on the key elements of our spirituality, namely, the awareness of being:

<>  rooted and grounded in God’s Love as Father-Mother, revealed by Jesus and poured  forth in the Holy Spirit;

<>  called to follow Jesus in vowed life and in community for and in mission;

<>  led and empowered by the Spirit to share in the missio dei in dialogue and in

       frontier situations.

Our spirituality is centered on the mystery of the Trinity drawing all peoples into their communion of life.  We are caught up in the sending of the Word and the Spirit. 

The Retreat Journey unfolded in four phases:

Phase   I:  Origin and Foundation of Our Religious Missionary Life.

                 Rooted and grounded in the Triune God’s creative and forgiving Love.

Phase  II:  The Person of Jesus who calls us to follow him.

Phase III:  One in His Total Self-giving in Love.

Phase IV:  Sent by the Risen Lord, empowered by his Spirit.   Contemplatio in Missione

The retreat was followed by a one-week workshop to assist the participants understand the structure and flow of a retreat. 

For the 23 participants it was a deep personal experience.  “One of the best experiences life could offer me.”  “It was the right program for me; time to quench my thirst.”  “A very fruitful and enriching experience.”  Other comments showed a similar satisfaction with the flow and outcome of the Workshop.  Having the program in Steyl with its historical roots, helped considerably.   “Steyl is not only a place of prayer but also a prayer in itself,” wrote an SVD participant.

But the fruits cannot remain just on the personal level, significant as that may be.  We hope that the participants will be able to concretely share some of their enthusiasm in their own provinces.  After discussing the results of the Workshop in their Joint Meeting in July the two Generalates emphasized the need for this follow-up.  They also mandated us to consider organizing a similar Workshop in Spanish and Portuguese.


6.     News from the Provinces  


Fr. Gregory Arockiam, SVD national co-ordinator of AJS in India, reported on a fruitful annual meeting of  the AJS Team earlier this year.  Besides reporting on what had been done, they discussed plans on the following topics:  Spiritual animation for confreres in Final Profession;   2. Collaboration of SVD and SSpS;   3.  Spiritual animation at different stages of Formation;  4. Sharing Arnold Janssen Spirituality with Lay people.

They planned to prepare and distribute good reading material on our spirituality.  For further information contact Gregory at   gregarockiam@yahoo.com


7.    Some Publications


 a.  Brothers Newsletter.  Br. Bela Lanyi SVD in Cebu, Philippines sends out the Newsletter in English. The next issue will be on “Brothers’ Leisure Time”.


b.  We also received The Voice of the Brothers, edited by Br. McDaniel Acquaah from the Brothers’ formation house in Ghana.   Contact:  mcdanielgh@yahoo.com



8.  Keeping in Touch


You can read and download the material 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


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, so that others can have access to it.  Send such material and also other news of your province in the field of animation, using the following address: ajscsteyl@gmail.com

With best wishes for your work,

We look forward to hearing from you.


Emmie,  Aneta,  Peter McH.,  Mike, Peter D., & Renato

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