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8 September 2020
SVD 145th Anniversary  

Dear Confreres, Sisters, Friends, Benefactors and Lay Mission Partners,


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This year we are celebrating the Foundation Day of our Society in a unique and unusual way. The crisis caused by Covid-19 does not stop us from celebrating this day that is very dear to us. More than ever, we have all the reasons to thank God, who has been closely accompanying our Congregation, also during this crisis.

Our Society was born out of a crisis that confronted the Church in Germany prompted by a pervading political situation in that country. This situation of crisis offered an opportunity for creativity, for bringing out something new. Saint Arnold responded to those who were questioning his initiative to start a missionary congregation, saying, "We live in a time when much is collapsing, and new things must be established in their places." Trust in the Lord was Saint Arnold's habitual response to crises.

In the course of history, we experienced different crises, like wars and epidemics. The tenure of Father Nicolaus Blum, the second Superior General of our Congregation, was marked by two big crises: The First World War and the Spanish Flu. Towards the end of the war, Fr. Blum exhorted the confreres with his three main concerns, namely, caring for those coming back from the war, using judiciously our limited resources for our life and mission, and fostering the spirit of unity.

I think these are also our concerns today to varying degrees. The first is how to care for those who are infected with the COVID-19 virus. We remember and pray for our four confreres who have lost their lives due to this virus. A total of 45 confreres have been infected. Fortunately, most of them have recovered. A few are still in quarantine either in the hospitals or at home. We include them, as well as our relatives and friends affected by this pandemic, in our special prayers today. It is essential to continue to be responsible for ourselves and others, especially our elderly confreres. Responsible care will free us from being imprisoned in fear, and from being too negligent. Our care is also extended to those who work with us, to the poor and the needy. I thank you for your courage, and in collaboration with others, to reach out to those at the margins. Despite the danger and the risks involved in such engagements, you have not abandoned your people.

The second concern is how to use wisely and prudently our resources to sustain our mission and life. It is primarily about our responsible way of dealing with our temporal goods. We know that financial solidarity is one of our strengths. This solidarity is sustained by honesty, accountability, and generosity in sharing these resources. It starts with every single one of us giving what we receive and using well what we have. Our solidarity begins when we listen to the question of Jesus to his disciples in Mark 6:38: "How many loaves do you have?" It is a challenge to honestly respond to his question and disclose what we have with greater transparency. Our concern for our resources leads us also to think about what nature provides us. The COVID-19 pandemic uniquely opens our eyes to discover and realize how we are closely connected with nature. We need to be consistent in our care for nature as our common home. Our last General Chapter reminds us that "as transforming missionary disciples, stewardship of creation is our responsibility in expressing God's love."

The third concern is how to sustain the spirit of unity. First of all, it is about being united with the Lord. Like Saint Arnold, we put our trust in the Lord in facing all the challenges in our life and mission. This time of crisis also makes us realize how important it is that we remain united with our family members, confreres, Sisters of the Arnoldian Family, mission partners, friends, and benefactors, including those under our care and those who care for us. We are united in facing this unexpected situation. We find ways to express our being connected, through communication media or other means. At the same time, we also experience how fragile this unity can be. Excessive fear of being infected can interfere with our community life and activities, and we may end up avoiding or accusing one another, especially when one of us is found infected by this virus. This spirit of unity widens our hearts and minds to be united with the whole human family, to fight against any kind discrimination. Our living and working together as people from different cultural backgrounds is a real witness in this situation infected with increasing racism. Keeping the spirit of communion also means better collaborating with others, with the Sisters, and with our lay mission partners. Collaboration is only possible if there is humility to acknowledge that we are limited, honesty to respect others, and courage to learn from and be enriched by them.

Dear Confreres, Sisters, Friends, Benefactors, and Lay Mission Partners, Our Congregation is dedicated to the Word of God. The Word of God is the Word of hope that opens new perspectives in moments of desperation, sparks light in darkness, gives encouragement in times of disaster, and speaks the truth against the propagation of fake news. Our name is our mission! Let us renew our commitment to proclaim the Word of God, in words and deeds. The Divine Word remains the inspiration for our discernment on how to respond to the crisis, what needs to be changed in our way of thinking and doing. Through the intercessions of Saints Arnold and Joseph, Blessed Maria Helena and Josepha, and our blessed martyrs, may this celebration strengthen our commitment to care for the victims of the Pandemic, to use responsibly our resources and those of nature, and to foster the spirit of unity and collaboration. May we creatively exercise our call to mission in solidarity and compassion for the glory of the Divine Word. And may our Blessed Mother, who is our matchless model in this regard, and whose nativity shelters our foundation, continue to inspire us.

Happy 145th Anniversary!

Paulus Budi Kleden, SVD
Superior General