Divine Word, Society of the
DIVINE WORD, SOCIETY OF THE
(SVD, Official Catholic Directory #0420); a religious congregation founded, 1875 at Steyl, Holland, by Arnold janssen, a priest of the German Diocese of Muenster. His original plan was for an institute of German secular priests to labor in the foreign missions; lay brothers, however, were soon included and even outnumbered the clerics for many years. At first the members took private vows and followed the rule of Dominican tertiaries. After the first general chapter (1884), a new rule recast the Steyl enterprise into a religious congregation with public vows; it was approved by the local ordinary (1889) and the Holy See (1905). The congregation then numbered 2,000 members and students and was established on five continents and the island of New Guinea. Foundations were made in South America (Argentina) in 1889; in West Africa (Togo) in 1892; in the United States, 1895; in New Guinea, 1896; in Japan, 1907; and in the Philippines, 1909. At the time of the founder's death in 1909, his society had been entrusted with mission territories containing 14 million persons.
Activities. Among the works of the society, mission and evangelization hold the chief place; to this work every member must feel himself called. Schools of all kinds are maintained. Special emphasis is placed on the training of a native clergy. From its earliest years, the society accepted recruits from its missions. In the field of science, the most notable achievements have been in anthropology, under the leadership of the world famous ethnologist, Wilhelm schmidt. His work continues to be carried on by the priest-scientists who form the Anthropos Institute, which has international headquarters in Switzerland and publishes a quarterly journal, Anthropos. Divine Word missionaries have traditionally furthered the apostolate of the press; they maintain their own printing plants to disseminate Catholic literature, chiefly magazines and pamphlets. In this effort, major contributions have been made by the brothers, who are invaluable for their many technical skills.
Work in the United States. The first Divine Word missionaries to the United States were two brothers who were sent to solicit subscriptions for the society's publications. When others joined them (1897), the community settled on a farm near Shermerville (now Northbrook), just north of Chicago, Illinois. Here they opened St. Joseph's Technical School (Techny), which on Feb. 2, 1909, became the first Catholic foreign mission seminary in the United States. It was also the cradle of the nationwide catholic students mission crusade (CSMC), founded in 1918 by Clifford King, SVD. In the United States, the SVD houses are grouped into three provinces: Chicago (headquartered in Techny, Illinois), Southern (headquartered in St. Louis) and Western (headquartered in Los Angeles). The generalate is in Rome.
Bibliography: h. fischer, Life of Arnold Janssen, tr. p. m. lynk (Techny, Ill. 1925).
[v. j. fecher/eds.]