Stollenwerk, Helena, Bl.

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In religion, Maria, and later as Adoration Sr. Maria Virgo, co-foundress of the Congregation of Missionary Sisters, Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS); b. Nov. 28, 1852, in Rollesbroich (northern Eifel Region), Germany;d. Feb. 3, 1900, at Steyl, the Netherlands.

Raised in a religious farm family headed by Johann Peter Stollenwerk and his third wife, Anna Maria Bongard, Helena had early aspirations to evangelization. In the autumn of 1881, she wrote to Bl. Arnold janssen, founder of the Divine Word Missionaries, to help her realize her own dream of taking the Good News to China. He promised her nothing but accepted her as a kitchen maid in the Divine Word Seminary he had founded at Steyl. From 188289, she served in the kitchen with three other women who shared her missionary vocation.

With Helena Stollenwerk and Hendrina Stenmanns, Janssen founded the Congregation of Missionary Sisters, Servants of the Holy Spirit on Dec. 8, 1889, in response to a call from Argentina for sisters. Stollenwerk became its first superior general when she received the religious habit and the name Sr. Maria in 1892. She professed her vows on Mar. 12, 1894. As superior she remained in Steyl while the first sisters went to Argentina in 1895.

In 1896, Janssen founded the cloistered Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters with a small group of Missionary Sisters. Stollenwerk expressed a desire to join the new branch immediately, but it was not until two years later he asked her to make the transfer and begin a second novitiate with the name Sr. Maria Virgo. Although she had hesitated between her missionary vision and a desire for a more contemplative life, her humility and obedience are demonstrated by her uncomplainingly relinquishing of her position as superior and her desire to become a missionary.

Her motto indicates the depth of her spirituality: "To God the honor, to my neighbor the benefit, and to myself the burden." At the time of her transfer to the Adoration Sisters she encouraged the sisters in Argentina: "If you find things difficult at any time in the future, be comforted by the thought that, like Moses in the Old Testament, there is a Sister before the tabernacle raising her heart and hands to Heaven for you."

Stollenwerk professed as a Holy Spirit Adoration Sister three days before she died. She was beatified by John Paul II, May 7, 1995.

Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1995): 564. L'Osservatore Romano, Engish edition, no. 19 (1995): 2, 4. a. grÜn, Treue auf dem Weg. Der Weg der Helena Stollenwerk (Münsterschwarzach 1995); Faithful to the Spirit, Eng. tr. p. g. laforge (Techny, IL 1997). f. c. rehbein, Helena Stollenwerk, A Charism Nurtured: Mission and Surrender (Rome 1995). o. stegmaier, M. Maria Stollenwerk: Aufzeichnungen (Rome 1987); M. Maria Stollenwerk: Berufsgeschichte (Rome 1987), Eng. tr. Mother Maria's Vocation (Rome 1990); M. Helena Stollenwerk Reifung und Sendung der Mitgründerin der Steyler Missionsschwestern im Licht ihres Christusbildes (Augsburg 1994); Brought Forth into Freedom, Eng. tr. l. j. mulberge (Rome 1995).

[k. i. rabenstein]