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Beatification of Mother Josepha

Text and pictures by T. Kallanchira, svd

endrina Stenmanns was born in Issum, in the German Lower Rhineland, in 1852, the eldest of seven brothers and sisters. At a young age she developed a compassionate heart and helping hand for the poor and the needy, the sick and the dying. Diverse factors in the contemporary situation prevented her from realizing her wish to become a Franciscan nun, so joined the Franciscan lay movement and led a spiritual life in the midst of an ordinary daily life. Contact with an apprentice of her father who wanted to become a missionary in Steyl in the Netherlands, kindled the missionary fire in her own heart. In 1884 she also made her way to Steyl. At first she worked with other women as a maid in the young Mission House that St. Arnold Janssen had established in 1875. The Mission Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit was founded in 1889 and Hendrina was given the religious name Sister Josepha. Together with Mother Maria, Helena Stollenwerk, she became a cornerstone of the young community of sisters. In 1898, following the transfer of Mother Maria to the Adoration Branch, Mother Josepha became the superior. Toward the end of 1902, her long and painful final illness began, leading to her death on May 20, 1903. The process of her beatification began in 1950, culminating in the celebration of her beatification in Tegelen/Steyl, Netherlands on June 29, 2008.

On June 28, 2008 a Beatification Prayer Vigil Service was held at St. Rochus parish, Steyl. This prayer vigil was especially organized by the parish priest and the parishioners of St. Rochus and was attended by hundreds of faithful, joined by several members of the Arnoldus Family from all over the world. The introduction to the Vigil said “We are at the threshold of a much longed for event, the beatification of our Mother Josepha. We are blessed with this very significant moment in the history of our congregation, of the whole Arnoldus family, all those associated with us, and of the people of this land. Coming from the different corners of the world, we carry in our hearts this one and only intent – to remember Mother Josepha lovingly and gratefully, to honor her, to express our heartfelt affection for her, to celebrate her life and to praise God for the Spirit that continues to live in our hearts…”

On June 29, 2008, a religious woman from the diocese of Münster has been beatified in Tegelen near Venlo Netherlands: Hendrina Stenmanns(1852-1903), co-foundress of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, known in her congregation as “Mother Josepha”, born in Issum, Lower Rhenania, Germany.

In the open-air theater in Doolhof, Tegelen, with over four thousand faithful gathered, with 8 bishops and several priests con-celebrating, Cardinal Saraiva Martins, Delegate of the Pope and the prefect of the Congregation for Beatifications and Canonizations, read the decree in which His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI confirmed the beatification of Mother Josepha and included her in the Register of the Blessed. The main celebrant of the Eucharist was Bishop Frans Wiertz of Roermond diocese. Superior General Fr. Antonio M. Pernia con-celebrated the Mass.

On the day of the beatification, Pope Benedict in Rome made a reference to the Beatification that took place in Tegelen in his Angelus address. He called on all Dutch Catholics to participate in the missionary calling and task of the Church in imitation of Blessed Mother Josepha.

On June 30, 2008 a Thanksgiving Eucharist was celebrated in Issum, the home parish of Mother Josepha. Reinhard Lettmann, former bishop of Münster was the main celebrant. Bishop Frans Wiertz of Roermond, Bishop L. Schepers, auxiliary bishop of Essen, Fr. Antonio Pernia, Fr. Bernhard Werle, Provincial of GER and Fr. Manfred Krause, Rector of St. Michael Mission House, Steyl con-celebrated the Eucharist. Over 2000 faithful, of them several SVDs and SSpS and other religious, participated in the thanksgiving Eucharist. The parish priests and the parishioners of both Tegelen and Issum parishes took active part in organizing the beatification events so well.