The Story of Our Founder, Saint Arnold Janssen

Saint Arnold Janssen was born in Goch, Germany in 1837. As a youth, Arnold discerned that he was called to the priesthood and soon after began his seminary formation. Arnold was ordained in August 1861 after completing classical, philosophical, and theological studies at various schools and universities in Germany. After ordination, Arnold spent several years in pastoral ministry doing tasks that included teaching science and teaching Catholic doctrine.

In 1873, Arnold was asked to serve as chaplain and director of the Ursuline convent at Kempen and soon after took on the directorship of the diocesan Apostleship of Prayer as well. His first assignment after ordination included him serving as a science teacher, and he was later chosen to be the diocesan director or the Apostleship of Prayer. After more than ten years of work in his diocese, Arnold felt the call to spread the Good News beyond the boundaries of the diocese.

In 1875 Arnold established a missionary society within Steyl, Holland. The society became known as the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) and gained formal Papal approval in 1901. By the time that the society gained canonical approbation, houses had been established in Austria and Germany. The order was composed of priests who took simple vows. The focus of the order was missionary work, and the first missionaries were sent out in the mid 1890’s to such places as Togo, New Guinea, North America, Japan, and Paraguay. The order spread rapidly across the lands it was sent to and soon founded many new houses.

In 1889, Arnold founded the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters with the help of Blessed Maria Virgo to assist the Society of the Divine Word in their missionary efforts. These sisters serve as educators in mission lands, especially focusing on the education of young girls. Then, in 1896, Arnold formed a contemplative branch, the Sister-Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration. These sisters devote themselves to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and to prayer for priests and the success of evangelization and missionary efforts. These sisters became popularly known as the “Pink Sisters” because of the color of their habit.

After a long, productive life, Saint Arnold died in 1909. He was beatified in 1975 by Pope Paul VI and was canonized in 2003 with another SVD missionary, Saint Joseph Freinademetz.

Prayer of Saint Arnold Janssen, S.V.D.

O my God, I believe in You,
because You are the eternal truth.
O my God, I hope in You, because You are infinitely merciful, faithful and almighty.
O my God, I love You with my whole heart and am sorry for having offended You.
Out of love for me You are present in the Blessed Sacrament,
therefore I long for You, O my dearest Jesus.
From the Father send me the Holy Spirit with His seven gifts,
that I may glorify God in all things. Amen.

Blessed Arnold Janssen