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On December 8th 1889 Fr. Arnold Janssen founded the women’s Mission Congregation, Servants of the Holy Spirit in the little village of Steyl, Netherlands. He had already founded the first German mission house there in 1875 for men and named as, Society of the Divine Word (SVD). The women who came to Steyl with the hope of becoming missionary sisters and devoted their lives for the spreading the faith, went through a long seven years of strenuous waiting. Finally, in 1893 the Bishop of Roermond approved their Constitutions. On March 12, 1894, the first twelve sisters took their vows.

The co-foundresses, Sr. Maria Helena Stollenwerk and Sr. Josepha Hendrina Stenmanns were entrusted with the main leadership responsibilities, introducing new members to religious life and organizing the practical work. They also developed the young congregation spiritually, filling it with their enthusiasm for the mission apostolate and a spirit of unconditional commitment.

The congregation grew rapidly. The convent opened its doors to women for retreats. In 1895 the first sisters were sent to Argentina; in 1897 sisters went to Togo. From then on the second co-foundress of the Missionary sisters, Sr. Josepha took on the leadership. Under her, more sisters were sent. After the premature death of Sr. Josepha, Fr. Arnold appointed Sr. Theresia as first Superior general. The first General Chapter (1910) confirmed her in that office for a period of twelve years. During that time, the congregation had significant growth. Sisters went to many countries as missionaries.

After the second Vatican Council, the congregation initiated a period of profound renewal. General Chapters worked out new constitutions, founding the religious-missionary life of the congregation firmly in the sharing of life and mission with the Lord. The Trinitarian spirituality was seen more and more as the wellspring of our mission apostolate.

After 1980, new foundations grew up in many of the African countries and many more in India. There was a shift from institutions and large communities to life for and with the poor and underprivileged, small communities in the midst of the people, on the outskirts of cities or in remote areas of specific countries. The priorities today are women, Children, people living with HIV/AIDS, migrants, as well as marginalized people. 

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