Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit

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The Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, also known as Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, or simply Holy Spirit Sisters (SSpS Latin: Servae Spiritus Sancti) is an official "religious congregation" within the Catholic Church, with members (after some years) making a vowed commitment to the loving service of God and their sisters and brothers in need around the world.[1] They are an international group of women numbering approximately 4,000 members in 49 countries around the world. The congregation was founded by Saint Arnold Janssen in 1889 in Steyl, the Netherlands.[2] Arnold Janssen selected Maria Helena Stollenwerk (1852-1900) and Hendrina Stenmanns, called Mother Josepha (1852-1903) as first leaders in the young congregation and granted them the title of co-foundresses. Helena Stollenwerk became also the Co-Foundress of the Congregation Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters or as they are officially called Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration. Arnold Jannsen had in 1875 founded already a male missionary congregation called Divine Word Missionaries or Society of the Divine Word.

This community of religious women is rooted in the Trinitarian spirituality:[3]"Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they, in collaboration with dedicated laity and clergy, live and proclaim the Gospel of God’s love, justice, and peace. In dialogue with people of diverse cultures and traditions, they minister and journey together promoting human dignity and life-giving relationships." [3]

The Holy Spirit Sisters share the love of God through a variety of ministries. They have a common call to mission, being ever ready to go wherever they are needed. They remain open to the Spirit in themselves and in other cultures and peoples. They live in community where they share its supports as well as challenges.[2]


Saint Arnold Janssen, a German diocesan priest, did not plan to be a founder. At first, he only felt called to work for missionary animation in his country. In the course of his work, he saw the great need for Germany to have a society for missionaries. A man of great faith, he responded to this need by founding the society himself. Thus, the birth of the Divine Word Missionaries, also known as Society of the Divine Word or SVD (Latin: Societas Verbi Divini).[4]

Father Arnold saw the need for women religious to complement the work of the Divine Word Missionaries who had spread throughout the world following the colonial expansion of the 19th century.[2] He realized the need not only for missionary priests and brothers, but also for missionary women.[4] The volunteers at the SVD mission house included women as well as men. A group of women, including Blessed Maria Helena Stollenwerk, served the community. Their wish was to serve the mission as religious sisters. The faithful, selfless service they freely offered, and a recognition of the important role women could play in missionary outreach, urged Janssen to found the mission congregation of the “Servants of the Holy Spirit” or SSpS.[5] With two German women, Helena Stollenwerk and Hendrina Stenmanns,[1] he founded the congregation on December 8, 1889.[6] The first Sisters left for Argentina in 1895.[5]

From the very beginning, their vision has been to share God’s love and the knowledge of Jesus Christ with people of different nationalities and cultures, in whatever ways they can.

Janssen also founded the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters or Missionary Sisters Servant Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (Latin:Congregatio Servarum Spiritus Sancti de Adoratione perpetua), or Holy Spirit Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, also known as Pink Sisters on September 8, 1896.[4] This is a contemplative congregation.

Mission and ministry[edit]

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Being an international congregation, the Holy Spirit Sisters' witness to multicultural living is an important part of their charism. They remain ready to go to any country where needed. Ministries include: Education, Health, Pastoral care, Spiritual guidance, Adult Education, Catechetics, Chaplaincy work, Social work, Administration and Interfaith dialogue.[2]


A person interested in exploring the possibility of a call to be a Holy Spirit Sister is asked to have contact with an appointed sister over a period of 6 months, to help discern God’s will for her. Certain documents are required for entry. After this initial stage, the candidate may be admitted to begin formation. For about 6 months, the candidate may continue her professional work while living in community. A two-year more intensive spiritual preparation is then undertaken and this is followed by temporary profession of vows. These vows are renewed every year for 6–9 years. During the period of temporary vows, the sister is given the opportunity to continue her studies or engage in ministry. The sister is free to leave after the expiration of her temporary vows. During this period, the sister should be able to make an informed and free decision regarding her vocation and be ready to make a final commitment. At final vows, she is given her mission mandate.[2]


Saint Arnold Janssen (November 5, 1837 – January 15, 1909) was a Roman Catholic priest born in Goch, Germany, near the Dutch border. The second of ten children, his parents instilled in him a deep devotion to religion. He was ordained a priest in 1861. Janssen purchased land in Steyl, the Netherlands to begin his seminary, dedicated in 1875 as "St. Michael the Archangel Mission House". Within a few years, many seminarians, priests and brothers were preparing for missionary service there, and the first two missionaries, Joseph Freinademetz and John Anzer, were sent to China. Together with the cofoundresses, Maria Helena Stollenwerk [1] and Josepha Hendrina Stenmanns [2],[7] Janssen also founded two congregations of religious Sisters: The Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters (members known as "Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit") on December 8, 1889, and the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration ("Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration") on September 8, 1896.[5]

He and Joseph Freinademetz were canonized on October 5, 2003 by Pope John Paul II, as was Daniele Comboni, an important missionary in Africa. Janssen was canonized after the healing of a Filipino teenager living in Baguio City who fell down on a bike and was not expected to recover from a head wound. According to her relatives and the Church, she was healed miraculously following prayers to Janssen.


  • Hermann Fischer, Life of Arnold Janssen. Founder of the Society of the Divine Word and the Missionary Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Ghost, translated by Frederic M. Lynk, Mission Press S.V.D.: Techny, Ill. 1925, 520 pp.
  • Fritz Bornemann, Arnold Janssen: Founder of Three Missionary Congregations, 1837-1909: a Biography. Arnoldus Press: Rome 1975
  • E. Kroes, Janssen, Arnold, in: Dizionario degli Istituti di Perfezione, Vol. V (Roma 1978), Ed. Paoline, 297-301.
  • E. Kroes, Missionarie Serve dello Spirito Santo, in: Dizionario degli Istituti di Perfezione, Vol . 5 (Roma 1978) 1634-1637.
  • Mary E. Best, Seventy Septembers, Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, Techny, Ill (USA) 1988, 404 pp., ISBN 0-9617722-1-2
  • Ann Gier, This fire ever burning : A biography of M. Leonarda Lentrup S.Sp.S., Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters: Techny 1986, 318 pp., ISBN 0-9617722-0-4
  • Karl Müller, Kontemplation u. Mission. Steyler Anbetungsschwestern 1896-1996, Steyler Verlag, Netttal 1996, XII + 532 pp. + Bilder, ISBN 3-8050-0374-9
  • Karl Müller, Contemplation and Mission: Sister-Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration, 1896-1996. Studia Instituti Missiologici Societatis Verbi Divini 69 (Analecta SVD 76/2), Steyler Verlag, Nettetal 1998, 448 pp., ISBN 3-8050-0419-2
  • Sr. Domenique Coles SSpS - Fr. Frank Mihalic SVD, Sent by the Spirit. 100 years of SSpS mission history in Papua New Guinea 1889-1999, Holy Spirit Sisters, Madang 1999, 61 pp.
  • Josef Alt SVD, Journey in Faith. The Missionary Life of Arnold Janssen, Studia Instituti Missiologici SVD 78, Steyler Verlag: Nettetal / Germany 2002, XVIII + 1078 S., ISBN 3-8050-0471-0
  • Ethel E. Young - Jerome Wilson, African American Children and Missionary Nuns and Priests in Mississippi. Achievement Against Jim Crow Odds, Foreword by Sr. Carol Welp, SSpS, Author House: Bloomington, In. 2010,132 p., ISBN 978-1-4520-2279-6
  • Katharina Stornig: Sisters Crossing Boundaries. German Missionary Nuns in Colonial Togo and New Guinea, 1897–1960. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: Göttingen 2013, ISBN 978-3-525-10129-2.


  1. ^ a b Holy Spirit Home www.holyspirit.com Retrieved 22 November 2006.
  2. ^ a b c d e Holy Spirit Missionary Sister www.ozvocations.catholic.org.au Retrieved 22 November 2006.
  3. ^ a b Holy Spirit Mssionary Sisters www.ssps-usa.org Retrieved 22 November 2006.
  4. ^ a b c Holy Spirit Adoration Sister www.adorationsisters.org Retrieved 22 November 2006
  5. ^ a b c Arnold Janssen www.vatican.va Retrieved November, 2006.
  6. ^ Arnold Janssen (1837-1909) www.vatican.va Retrieved 22 November 2006.
  7. ^ Helena Stollenwerk and Hendrina Stenmanns www.worldssps.org

External links[edit]

  • Co-Foundress of the Mission Congregation Servants of the Holy Spirit: Josepha Hendrina Stenmanns (1859-1903) [3]
  • Co-Foundress of the Mission Congregation Servants of the Holy Spirit: Maria Helena Stollenwerk (1852-1900) [4]