Society of the Divine Word : SVD

Word of God In many areas of worldwide outreach, missionaries preach the Gospel and proclaim the Word of God by living, working, teaching, and sharing with others. Society of the Divine Word are the Catholic Church's greatest international missionary congregation. "A giving of ourselves to others" is our mission.

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The Society of the Divine Word (SVD), the Catholic Church's greatest missionary order, includes Divine Word Missionary priests and brothers.
The Society of the Divine Word (SVD) is a Catholic religious order whose charism is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The SVD aspires to live in multicultural harmony both inside society and on mission with persons from other cultures, as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in perfect harmony as the Holy Trinity. Divine Word Missionaries go on mission teaching the Gospel and impacting the lives of others by living their lives as followers of Jesus, just as the Holy Spirit is now and has always been on mission touching the lives of God's children.

His charism is carried out through what the SVD refers to as "Prophetic Dialogue," or respectful interaction with people from other cultures and traditions. It accomplishes this within the society by inviting, comprehending, and accepting the vast cultural diversity of its people. Prophetic Dialogue is articulated on mission via reaching out to:

1. Those seeking faith and those without a faith community
2. The impoverished and disenfranchised
3. People from many cultures
4. Individuals from various religious and secular philosophies
Saint Arnold was born into a devout Catholic household in Goch, Germany, and was highly inspired by his father's faith, which worshipped the Holy Trinity and the Word Incarnate. These would become central to SVD spirituality and charism, and Saint Arnold titled his missionary society "Divine Word" in honour of his dedication to God's Word.

Saint Arnold was educated in math and physics and became a teacher in 1861. He joined the Apostleship of Prayer League a few years later and left teaching in 1873 to focus on his duties as its director. He became successful as a writer and finally produced a magazine, Little Messenger of the Sacred Heart, which allowed him to learn that not only could he generate funds through his writings, but that German Catholics also supported the missions. Many colonial powers had missions in their colonies, such as France and Italy, but Germany did not. In fact, Catholicism was suppressed under Otto von Bismarck's administration.

Encouraged to build a German-sending missionary order, he enlisted the help of three young men to accompany him across the German border to a former inn in Steyl, Netherlands, where he established the Society of the Divine Word on September 8, 1875.

Two of the three left due to a disagreement with Saint Arnold, who insisted that every member of his organisation take poverty, chastity, and obedience vows. In other nations at the time, missionary organisations were made up of diocesan priests who were only obligated to serve in the missions by a vow to do so.

However, once the two had left, word got out that there was a German missionary group in Steyl, and applications flooded in. Saint Arnold had to expand the tiny inn before the first year was over. He had to build four more buildings over the next five years to accommodate the expanding number of men interested in serving in the missions.

First Mission

Saint Arnold dispatched his first two SVD missionaries to China in 1879. In 2003, Pope John Paul II canonised Fr. John Baptist Anzer, SVD, as a bishop in China, and Saint Joseph Freinademetz, SVD, who never returned to Germany, as a Saint of the Church.

The SVD has risen from humble origins to become the Catholic Church's largest international missionary congregation.

  • pastoral and sacramental ministries

  • educational and religious training

  • evangelization

  • youth, adult and family services

  • healthcare

  • seminary formation

  • counselling and chaplaincy

  • peace and justice