Arnold Janssen was born on November 5, 1837in Goch, a small city in lower Rhineland(Germany). The second of ten children, hisparents instilled in him a deep devotion toreligion. He was ordained a priest on August15, 1861 for the diocese of Muenster and wasassigned to teach natural sciences andmathematics in a secondary school in Bocholt.There he was known for being a strict but justteacher. Due to his profound devotion to theSacred Heart of Jesus, he was named DiocesanDirector for the Apostleship of Prayer. Thisapostolate encouraged Arnold to open himselfto Christians of other denominations.
Little by little he became more aware of thespiritual needs of people beyond the limits of hisown diocese, developing a deep concern for theuniversal mission of the church. He decided todedicate his life to awaking in the Germanchurch its missionary responsibility. With this inmind, in 1873 he resigned from his teachingpost and soon after founded The LittleMessenger of the Sacred Heart. This popularmonthly magazine presented news ofmissionary activities and it encouraged German-speaking Catholics to do more to help themissions.
These were difficult times for the Catholic Church inGermany. Bismark unleashed the “Kulturkampf» with aseries of anti-Catholic laws, which led to the expulsion ofpriests and religious and to the imprisonment of manybishops. In this chaotic situation Arnold Janssen proposedthat some of the expelled priests could go to the foreignmissions or at least help in the preparation ofmissionaries. Slowly but surely, and with a little proddingfrom the Apostolic Vicar of Hong Kong, Arnold discoveredthat God was calling him to undertake this difficult task.Many people said that he was not the right man for thejob, or that the times were not right for such a project.Arnolds answer was, “The Lord challenges our faith to dosomething new, precisely when so many things arecollapsing in the Church.”
With the support of a number of bishops, Arnoldinaugurated the mission house on September8, 1875 in Steyl, Holland, and thus began the DivineWord Missionaries. Already on March 2, 1879 thefirst two missionaries set out for China. One ofthese was Joseph Freinademetz.Aware of the importance of publications for attractingvocations and funding, Arnold started a printingpress just four months after the inauguration of thehouse. Thousands of generous lay personscontributed their time and effort to missionanimation in German-speaking countries by helpingto distribute the magazines from Steyl. From thebeginning the new congregation developed as acommunity of both priests and Brothers.
The volunteers at the mission house includedwomen as well as men. From practically thevery beginning, a group of women, includingBlessed Maria Helena Stollenwerk, served thecommunity. But their wish was to serve themission as Religious Sisters. Thefaithful, selfless service they freelyoffered, and a recognition of the importantrole women could play in missionaryoutreach, urged Arnold to found the missioncongregation of the “Servants of the HolySpirit,” SSpS, on December 8, 1889. The firstSisters left for Argentina in 1895.
In 1896 Fr. Arnold selected some of the Sistersto form a cloistered branch, to be known as“Servants of the Holy Spirit of PerpetualAdoration”, SSpSAP. Their service to missionwould be to maintain an uninterruptedadoration of the Blessed Sacrament, prayingday and night for the church and especially forthe other two active missionarycongregations.
Arnold died on January 15, 1909. His life was filledwith a constant search for Gods will, a greatconfidence in divine providence, and hard work.That his work has been blessed is evident in thesubsequent growth of the communities hefounded: more than 6,000 Divine WordMissionaries are active in 63 countries, more than3,800 missionary Servants of the Holy Spirit, andmore than 400 Servants of the Holy Spirit ofPerpetual Adoration.