Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters

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A pontifical institute founded specifically for the propagation of the faith in the underdeveloped countries of the world. The congregation, whose official title is Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSPS, Official Catholic Directory #3530), was begun by Arnold janssen, founder of the Society of the Divine Word, at Steyl, Holland, in 1889. Devotion to the Holy Spirit and zeal for the salvation of souls are the characteristics of this society, which undertakes educational, medical, and social work in predominantly non-Christian areas.

Their work in the U.S. began when Mother Leonarda Lentrup came from Holland in 1901 with four other sisters and established a motherhouse in Techny, Ill. The congregation has conducted retreat houses, taught in schools, and trained missionaries to send abroad. Mother Leonarda was a pioneer in the lay retreat movement; she opened her motherhouse to this apostolate from the beginning. In 1908 the community staffed an elementary school for African-Americans in Vicksburg, Miss., the first of a series of schools established in Arkansas and Mississippi. The sisters' first secondary school for blacks, Sacred Heart High School, began its work in Greenville, Miss., in 1920. Maurice Rousseve, Anthony Bourges, and Francis Wade, members of the Society of the Divine Word and three of the first five black priests to be ordained in the U.S., had attended this high school.

As early as 1910 the U.S. province had begun work in the foreign missions. In that year four sisters went to New Guinea. In the intervening years, sisters were sent to China, the Philippines, India, Africa, and Japan.

The generalate is in Rome; the U.S. headquarters is in Techny, Illinois.

[t. m. mcneely/eds.]

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Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters

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