Divine Word Missionaries
Mission House St. Michael's

"Fr. Janssen, Rector with the Ursulines in Kempen, came to see me. Just think, he wants to build a mission house - and he's penniless. He's either a fool or a saint." - J. A. Paredis, Bishop of Roermond, December 1874

Saint Arnold Janssen - Founder of the Mission Congregations of Steyl

Arnold Janssen

de first mission house
de first mission house

Arnold Janssen founded the first German mission seminary on 8 September 1875. He had to cross the border and found it in the Netherlands because Bismarck's Kulturkampf dominated Germany. "At a time when much is disintegrating, something new has to come into being," said Arnold Janssen. They were troubled years. Nothing spoke in favour of his plan to found a mission house. And yet Arnold Janssen took the risk and it exceeded all expectations. For 34 years he was to lead his work, the "Society of the Divine Word". Women joined his movement and co-founded with him the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters in 1889 and the Adoration Sisters in 1896.

first edition of the catholic periodical "Stadt Gottes" (City of God), 1878

His work spread astonishingly fast. He uses the print media in order to make his society known. Missions and apostolates were taken over on all Continents. In 1909, the year Arnold Janssen died, there were 1500 Priests, Brothers, Missionary and Adoration Sisters in China, Italy, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, USA, Chile, Japan and the Philippines. Today more than 10 thousand men and women from every continent are members of Arnold Janssen's great family.


Anna Katherina Janssen, mother of Arnold Janssen

Arnold Janssen was born on 5 November 1837 in Goch, Germany. He was the second child of Gerhard Janssen, a freight hauler, and his wife Anna Katharina. Arnold grew up with five brothers and two sisters. His parents were good Catholics. The father, Gerhard, told his children about the needs of the Church in other countries, about the missions in India and the unfortunate divisions among Christians in Germany. From October to April they prayed the Rosary together for the needs of the universal Church, always closing their prayer with the Prologue of St. John's gospel: "In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God."

As a young man Arnold Janssen studied mathematics and natural sciences in Muenster and Bonn, graduating with a teaching qualification for all high school subjects. He followed this up with two years of theology and was ordained priest in Muenster in 1861.

From then on he taught for twelve years at the high school in Bocholt, Westphalia, and at the same time helped with the pastoral ministry in the local parish of St. George. While there he got to know the Apostolate of Prayer and began to work increasingly for its propagation. At first he was a "promoter", then diocesan director of the work. He composed prayer leaflets and small booklets. Wanting to be free to work more for the Apostolate, he resigned from his teaching position in Bocholt and became rector for the Ursulines in Kempen. In 1874 he began to publish a popular magazine, the "Little Messenger of the Sacred Heart".

His activities for Christian unity in Germany opened his eyes to the problems of the universal Church. His wish to involve German speaking Catholics in the Church's mission work finally led him to Steyl. It was there that he laid the foundations of the Steyl Mission Work that was to spread throughout the entire world.

Arnoldus Family - world wide
Arnoldus Family - world wide

In the beginning was the Word

and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came into being
and not one thing came into being except through him.

Prologue of St. John's gospel: a much-loved gospel in the "Society of the Divine Word"

Arnold Janssen Portraits


To top




• born 5th November 1837 in Goch/Lowerrhein Germany

• 1861 ordination to priesthood

• 1875 foundation of the mission house St. Michael's and the Divine Word Missionaries - Society of the Divine Word - SVD

• 1889 foundation of the missionary sisters - Servants of the Holy Spirit - SSpS

• 1896 foundation of the adoration sisters - Servants of the Holy Spirit of perpetual adoration - SSpSAP

• died 15th January 1909 in Steyl

• Canonization 2003 in Rome

the founder Arnold Janssen, painted in 1910 by Bro. Lucas Kolzem SVD
the founder Arnold Janssen, painted in 1910 by Bro. Lucas Kolzem SVD
EN: Hl. Arnold Janssen Hl. Arnold Janssen St. Arnold Janssen