AJSC Newsletter

Newsletter # 13

Steyl – January 2011



             The Team of the Arnold Janssen Spirituality Center (AJSC) in Steyl:

                Aneta Kołodziejczyk and Emmie Vas SSpS,

                Renato Gnatta, Peter McHugh, Mike Somers, and Peter Dusicka SVD 

                send you our prayerful wishes for God’s blessing on your ministry of spiritual  animation 

                throughout New Year 2011. 



OUR E-MAIL ADDRESS:   ajscsteyl@gmail.com

In this bulletin:

1.  A Year of Confident Hope 2011 -- “Duc in Altum”

2.  Two New Co-Directors:  Aneta and Renato

3.  Farewell to Peter McHugh and Mike Somers

4.  Lively SATs  --  Keeping the Fire Burning

5.  Workshop for 30-Day Retreat Guides  -- Followup

6.  Feedback on AJSC Programs

7.  Some of the AJSC Team Activities

8.  News from the Provinces  

9.  Keeping in Touch 




1. A Year of Confident Hope -- "Duc in Altum."


The year 2011 will be a significant year for the AJSC Core Team in Steyl because of several changes.  Two new co-directors, Aneta and Renato, have taken over, and two old hands, Peter McHugh and Mike Somers, are leaving the Team.  For our biannual planning session in December 2010 we took the theme from Luke 5,1-11, “Duc in Altum”  -- “Cast your net into the deep water.”  It seemed very fitting for our Core Team as we enter a new phase of our ministry of spiritual animation.  But it is not just the composition of the Team that makes a difference.  The two general councils, in consultation with others, have been reflecting on the future development of the AJSC.  On January 17th Aneta and Renato will attend a joint meeting of the two general councils in Rome to concretize future directions.  In our next Newsletter we can share with you the outcome.


2.  Two New AJSC Co-Directors: Aneta and Renato   


After consulting the Core Team members the two general councils have appointed Aneta Kołodziejczyk SSpS and Renato Gnatta SVD as the two co-directors of the AJSC for the coming triennium.  They took over on January 1st.


Sr. Aneta Kołodziejczyk comes from Poland. During the past fifteen years since she finished her studies in psychology in Rome, she has been directly involved in the ministry of formation, accompanying several groups of junior Sisters preparing for final vows and for six years as novice directress.  In the years 1998/99 and 2007/08 she helped with the one year SSpS international formators course in the Philippines, accompanying the participants in their personal growth sessions.  Her international experience in this field will surely enable her to be even more at the service of our Arnoldus Family.


Renato Leite Gnatta was born in Brazil.  He joined the SVD when he was 22 years old and was ordained a priest in 1991.  He was assigned to Ghana, where he had his first immersion in a new language and culture. After five years he returned to Brazil and worked in mission/vocation animation for about three years, as novice director.  During this period he did some courses in spirituality, and at the weekends did pastoral work with poor people in the rural areas.  He is enthusiastic for his new work in ongoing formation because, as he put it, “I believe that only by deepening our spirituality will we be able to carry on the mission as our founding generation did.”


“Partner Leadership” is the term we use to describe our approach to administration in the AJSC.  From the very beginning the AJSC was clearly seen as a joint venture of the three Congregations.  To live out this ideal the AJSC developed a partner leadership for its administration, that is, with two co-directors rather than a director and assistant.  At first the general councils found our request unusual, since at that time there was no other example of such a model of administration in our Congregations.  Besides, “to which one should we address our letters?”!  But the councils were open to it and we have followed this model ever since.  The point for us is very significant.  Our way of working as the AJSC is to collaborate as SSpS / SVD, women and men together.  The basis of such collaboration is the principle of equality and complementarity.  We speak about this principle in our AJSC programs, and this is one way we try to live what we preach!


3.    Farewell to Peter McHugh and Mike Somers


Peter has been in Steyl since January 1996.  “During that time,” he says, “I have worked with quite a few Team members.  For me it was a good time that was very rich personally.  Living and working in a mixed team of men and women (SVD/SSpS) was a particularly enriching experience.  There was, of course, much routine work, but generally I found that meeting new groups, creating and trying to improve programs was a stimulating challenge from which I learned a lot. I have come to know better and admire our founding generation with all their faults and failings.”  Peter will now move to Nemi.


Mike is from Ireland and had spent many years in Ecuador.  He arrived in Steyl nine years ago after finishing his term as provincial in Ecuador.  His many years in Ecuador had enabled him to speak Spanish well and to know the reality of Latin America.  Mike will now take a study sabbatical before taking up a new assignment.


We thank Peter and Mike for their service in the Team and ask God’s blessing on their future ministries.  So from January  2011 the members of the AJSC Team in Steyl will be: Aneta, Renato, Emmie and Peter Dusicka.  In May 2011 Sr. Celestina Tangan from the Philippines will join the Team.


4.   Lively SATs  -- Keeping the Fire Burning


In the report on our Team’s activities you will see that besides giving retreats the Team conducted special workshops to prepare new, and re-vitalize old, members of the province Spiritual Animation Team (SAT) in five countries.  The SAT can be a key factor in the spiritual animation in a province/region when it works enthusiastically and creatively.  But experience shows it is not easy for a SAT to maintain its original fervor over the long term  -- members get assigned to other tasks, some lose interest, etc.  Like painting the Golden Gate Bridge, it is a job that needs ongoing attention! So one of the top priorities of the AJSC is to assist provinces to build up the SAT and to help keep it functioning well, as it responds to the needs of the province in the area of spiritual animation.  What about the Sat in your province?  If you are interested to set up a SAT or to rekindle the fire of your SAT, please let us know and we can work out a program.


5.    Workshop for 30-Day Retreat Guides -- Followup


In AJSC Newsletter # 12 we reported on this Workshop. In their joint meeting in July the two general councils discussed our report.  Their response was very positive and encouraging.  So much so that they requested the AJSC “to consider organizing a similar workshop for Spanish-Portuguese speaking members.”  We have already taken the first steps.  In addition they asked that we follow-up how the participants have made use in their provinces of their experience in the Workshop.  So we asked the participants.  All the responses stated that it had been a very enriching experience personally, and nearly all indicated that the participants had given personally guided retreats, usually teaming up with other SAT members.  Mostly they were shorter retreats (6-8 days) but a good number had given the full One-Month Retreat Journey (as we call the 30-day retreat).  We were happy at this positive outcome. The spirit of the responses was reflected in Sr. Christine Edith’s comment:  “I enjoyed journeying with the retreatants … because the fire from Steyl is still burning within me.”

We encourage more provinces/regions to offer their members the opportunity of making a personally guided retreat, and especially to consider making available the opportunity of doing the 30-day retreat.  The SVD Handbook for Superiors encourages it (B4, 1.3).  The AJSC Team will be very happy to collaborate.  Just let us know and we can make arrangements.


6. Feedback on AJSC Programs


Many participants give us oral feedback after our programs.  Two participants in Taiwan took the trouble to write at length.  We give here a shortened version of their comments.  Mike Somers conducted a workshop for 17 SVDs and SSpS and a retreat for 55.  The workshop was meant for present and new  members of the Taiwan and Hong Kong SATs, and for those in leadership and formation.


A.  Homecoming  by  Dominic SVD


Memories of the AJSC retreat in Taiwan still linger on in my mind, unforgettable days spent with 55 brothers and sisters from the Arnoldus family.  For me, this experience was truly a long awaited homecoming. Since my entrance, I have always seen myself as a son of the China province. Yet the visit to Taiwan was my first visit to the center of my province after thirteen years in the Arnoldus family! Truly, I was given a warm welcome wherever I have been; everywhere people took me in as one of their own.

But a real homecoming is not just to a place, but rather to people. The AJST retreat was precisely in this sense a homecoming for me. One of the most daring dreams of my novice master was for the Arnoldus daughters and sons to not only work together, but also live together as one community. When I was still a college student and an SVD aspirant in China, my first impression was that the SVDs and the SSpS seemed to have formed a real family.  Though not in one community, they shared many eventful moments together: from common decision making to celebration of liturgies; from enjoying cheerful parties to enduring heart-wrenching periods of great loss. Even to an “outsider” like me, they clearly lived as a family.

I just assumed that the SSpS and the SVD lived in the same way everywhere else in the world. Yet I gradually realized that this was not the case at all. I came to appreciate the value of my initial experiences with the Arnoldus family.  In this retreat  I was granted the opportunity to revisit this spiritual home long forgotten; I was able to relive those precious memories treasured deeply in my heart. We were praying and worshiping as one; planning liturgy together; sharing meals, washing dishes, while being beleaguered by Jingshan-mosquitoes. What else could you call it but ‘family’? To be a little poetic, it was Arnold Janssen’s two daughters and son playing gracefully in the field of the Lord!

But a homecoming not just for me. For others in the retreat and workshop, it was a homecoming to our founding generation, to our pristine calling. As was echoed by many, an adequate appreciation of the founder is wanting. Arnold is more commonly known as a hard-working German with an iron will (or stubbornness?) behind a stern face. We knew he was a saint.  But we did not know how to love and value this man—our common father who gathered us as we came together to form one family, whereas we could easily do so with Freinademetz, Maria Helena and Josepha.

Under Mike’s guidance the retreat was like reliving Arnold’s life story. Indeed, we came to discover or rediscover many shining traits of this man: his love for the Triune God, in particular for the Divine Word, his prayerful life, his ability to discern the signs of his time and his numerous innovative projects. I personally was deeply touched by the transformation that took place in him throughout his entire life, so much so that even his face changed from the stern face of a mathematician to that of a gently smiling grandfather. “Human weakness in the saints makes them better understood and more accessible to people.”  When Arnold said these words, he never imagined that one day they would be so equally applicable to himself.

To come home to the spirituality of the founding generation is actually to return to the root of faith in each of us; to come home to the holy ground where we encountered God for the first time, where we heard God calling a long time ago. Each retreat ought to be such a homecoming that brings the prodigal child back to the Father, to feel touched and loved. This time the journey was specially so for it was made together with other sisters and brothers, in the company of our saints and our founding fathers and mothers.


B.  A Lived Experience of Our Arnoldus Spirituality     by Leonora Sudhoff SSpS


As the retreat unfolded the retreatants were in for some wonderful surprises.  This was not a retreat where one listens to the retreat master speak of the religious life in terms of concepts and ideals. No, we were confronted with the personality and life of our Founder, St. Arnold, the life and transformation of Fr. Joseph Freinademetz, and the long journey till the fulfillment of their dreams of our first Mothers and we learned to know them in a way we had not known them before.

Arnold was really like one of us, an ordinary man with weaknesses and limitations.  For most of us such limitations become an obstacle in attempting greater things, but  “Arnold allowed himself to be vulnerable, rid himself of all defenses and opened himself to the possibility of ridicule and failure, of being dismantled of personal pride, being hurt, rejected and misunderstood. His cup is emptied.” (Handout)  He was a man of prayer and trusted that the power of God would work through his weaknesses. “He discovers that only in unshakable trust and total surrender into the hands of God can his impossible dream become a reality.”   We realized what an untiring worker the Founder was. Founding three international Congregations, building so many houses and starting so many missions with such great attention to the details involved was simply amazing.

The transformation Fr. Joseph Freinademetz had to undergo was also an eye opener for the group. His bishop called him the pearl of Brixen, but even he had to learn that living in another culture requires humility and self denial and learning to see with the eyes of love. Joseph lived up to the challenge and became a Chinese for the Chinese.

Sharing of lives was not restricted to our founding generation. Fr. Mike shared with us his struggles as a young missionary in Ecuador, and in the small group sharing during the workshop priests and sisters shared their personal vocation story.

The retreat was about life, the life of our founding generation and life among us, here and now. Our last general chapters called for promoting solidarity and fostering life-giving relationships. So here we were, the members of two international Congregations, men and women of different nationalities and backgrounds living together in a spirit of mutual respect, love and acceptance. In the discussions during the workshop each one was heard, every contribution was valued. The liturgy expressed the creativity of the group and encouraged personal contribution and sharing.

 The experience led to a greater understanding and a deeper appreciation of the Founder and Fr. Freinademetz, though perhaps for the sisters Mother Maria and Mother Josepha had been close to them already before. It also made us cherish more deeply our spiritual heritage and our life in international and intercultural communities. Aren’t they a prophetic sign in this day and age when the mobility of people has increased greatly and members of different nations and cultures must learn to live together in peace but unfortunately often fail to do so?

The retreat was an experience of this heritage received from our founding generation. The way the SVD and SSpS lived, prayed and worked together like a family is something few, if any, other religious congregations can enjoy.  It just keeps us marveling at the breadth of vision St. Arnold had in founding our Congregations, a vision that increases in significance as time goes on. The challenge to respect the dignity of every person becomes the greater the more we realize that we are all inhabitants of the one global village. The experience of these two weeks made us grateful for and truly proud of our founding generation and our spiritual heritage.


7.    Some of the AJSC Team Activities


           Right after our planning session in June Aneta and Mike left for Ghana where they gave three retreats and a workshop to introduce (and re-vitalize) the SAT members.  Mike had similar workshops for SAT members in Japan and later for Hong Kong and Taiwan.  Emmie and Peter Mc were similarly busy in the Far East during July.  It was humbling and inspiring to experience the optimism of our Sisters and confreres in spite of their still very difficult situation.  Aneta teamed up with Sr. Judith (Rome) to conduct a seminar on leadership for the SSpS Euro Assembly of Provincials.

Emmie’s experience in England was unusual.  What had originally been planned as a seminar for the Holy Spirit Associates of England/Ireland developed into a retreat for the parish at the suggestion of the parish priest.  The retreat was so well appreciated that they asked the priest o organize a similar retreat next year.  The people appreciated the silence of the contemplative way of prayer.

The SSpS Tertiate in Steyl was for 22 Spanish-Portuguese speakers, so Emmie and Renato conducted the spirituality section.  In July and August Renato accompanied the 30-Day Retreat for the SVD novices in Brazil and at the same time helped to introduce his successor as novice master.  After a two-year gap due to the rebuilding in Nemi the SVD Tertiate spent three weeks in Steyl before proceeding to Nemi.  There were 26 SVD and one diocesan priest from Malaysia.  Renato and Peter Dusicka, still settling in to life in Steyl, spent September-October on German studies.  Mike ended his service as a member of the AJSC Team with a busy round of retreats and talks for the six Convents of the Adoration Sisters in the Philippines.


8. News from the Provinces

On January 1st the Mass in St. Michael’s Church, Steyl, was broadcast worldwide over Deutschland Radio and Deutsche Welle, the German broadcasting program.  Many confreres and Sisters in various countries were able to listen to it.  At the end of the Mass the Rector, Manfred Krause, also inaugurated our Steyl Internet Chapel.  The purpose is to build up a worldwide community of prayer in which people can bring their intentions and also join in praying for the intentions of the others.  Fr. Krause explained:    

Arnold Janssen was a pioneer in the use of modern means of communication.  “When someone wants to spread something good,” he once said, “he must strive to influence people and so he has to make use of all the means suitable in the circumstances.”  In a similar way we want to use the Internet in order to invite people in the whole world to form a community of prayer.  So now we ask for God’s blessing on our Internet Chapel which offers people the possibility of  lighting a candle and sending intentions for which we here in Steyl will pray in a special way.    

You can access our Internet Chapel at one of these addresses:

           www.onlinechapel-steyl.de       or     www.onlinekapelle.de

           or at our House’s homepage:  www.steyl.eu  


Gregory Arockiam, SVD national coordinator of AJS in India reports on several retreats and recollections on our spirituality given by the Team. There was a retreat for 69 SVD college seminarians, based on the founding generation and our religious missionary spirituality. Three of the Team had attended the Workshop in Steyl.  With Gregory they gave the 30-day retreat for the SSpS Tertians using the modules worked out during the Workshop.  The National AJ Secretariat in Pune continues to serve by sharing resources.  His email:  gregarockiam@yahoo.com


9.  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

We look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes for your work,


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


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