Mission and JPIC in Our Founding Generation

October 13, 2012

Fr. Renato Leite Gnatta, SVD

Sr. Celestina Tangan, SSpS

Our AJSC Team (Fr. Renato Leite Gnatta, SVD and Sr. Celestina Tangan, SSpS) led us to a walk “down the memory lane” to discover how our Founding Generation responded to the challenges of their time, so that it may serve as inspiration to the mission animators and JPIC promoters of our time.

A number of burning issues, when the 3 congregations were newly founded by Fr. Arnold, are still with us today — struggle of cultures, slavery, migration,  ethnic differences, exclusion of girls and women for further education.  For all these, our Founding Generation had a shared dream:  FULLNESS OF LIFE.

The Founding Generation…


Her heart was in China.  She felt that she had to breakout of the narrow boundaries of her homeland in order to be at home in the world, in order to feel solidarity with all the people of the world. The experience of being in solidarity with all the children of the world influenced Helena’s later understanding of mission. 

For Helena to be a missionary means to be present for others, to care for their welfare and to support them.  The sisters in the mission should not be surprised if their work becomes difficult.  The burden is theirs.  But they will gladly accept all their difficulties because they know that God is glorified in their hardships and in their service to his people.


“Proclaiming the Good News is the first and main expression of love for one’s neighbor.” 

Missioned to proclaim  the  Good News  to all people, all are called to be a community of  disciples, indwelt by the Triune God, living the Word, and led by the Spirit.

“We are living when much is being destroyed, but that is all the more reason to build something new.” 
“I come to you, God Holy Spirit, in heartfelt praise and thanksgiving. Before you whom my soul praises.
Yet none of this was my work.  You yourself brought it all about.
When my eyes close for the last time,  may my sons and daughters pray to you in the Spirit.  That united and with all their strength they may praise you and may they continue to work for your glory.”


“Little children go begging for bread; no one spares a scrap for them” (Lam. 4:4).  These words which he heard in the Liturgy of Good Friday gave him no rest.

He felt as though he was hearing the cry of the pagan children. 

“Of myself nothing interesting can be said, except perhaps that for the past three weeks, I am wearing Chinese garb, with white socks, short white pants, Chinese toga and a shaved head.” 

“The greatest task of a missionary is inner transformation of oneself.”

Powerpoint presentations — please click the name under each picture:

Bl. Maria Helena      St. Arnold Janssen     St. J. Freinademetz    Bl. Josepha

Visit to St. Michael Mission House (SVD)

In the afternoon, the participants went to St. Michael Mission House.  The location of the House is the very spot where Fr. Arnold founded the SVD (Divine Word Missionaries) in Steyl.  Fr. Jürgen Ommerborn, SVD, in-charge of the Arnold Janssen Secretariat, has been researching for many years about the life of Saint Arnold.  He shared with the group some materials he gathered about the founding generation that are somehow connected to the group’s interest – JPIC.

With great enthusiasm, Fr. Jürgen said that Fr. Arnold was a man of vision; he was very attentive to the signs of the time.   Even though before there was no “JPIC” yet, in his publications Fr. Arnold already wrote that missionaries should be at the service of justice and truth.

On the foundation day of the SVD, Fr. Arnold expressed a vision regarding the mission that is about to begin…

Because of his love for science, Fr. Arnold saw to it that this subject was included as missionaries were trained in the various areas of knowledge.  He opened an Institute to study the cultures of people. He loved nature and understood that it should be respected for it is God’s manifestation of Himself.

Arnold Janssen was also actively involved in political affairs, especially when there was a need to ensure the security of the missionaries and defend the interests of the Church in countries where governments were hostile to Christians.  He worked closely with lay people who were generous and supportive of his mission, especially during the foundation years of the 3 Congregations.

In many ways, Fr. Arnold accompanied and helped the missionaries in the different realities of the places where they were assigned, keeping in mind development of people and care for the poor, migrants and minorities. His missionary efforts extended not only to the non-Christians, but also to Christians in difficult situations and places where there was insufficient presence of the Church.  He was particularly concerned about bringing back Catholics who have decided to leave the faith.

Thus, long before the Church became explicit about JPIC, Fr. Arnold already expressed his vision and left a legacy that is founded firmly on justice, peace and integrity of creation.

Photos of the visit to St. Michael Mission House

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