• Wartakanlah Injil kepada segala makhluk.
    Mrk 16:15

  • 你们往普天下去, 向一切受造物宣传福音
    谷 16:15

  • Everything is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit’s Grace.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • Segala sesuatu menjadi mungkin dalam kekuatan karunia Roh Kudus.
    St. Arnold Janssen

  • 我当传教士不是为主牺牲,而是上主给我的最大恩赐

  • Với sức mạnh Ân Huệ của Chúa Thánh Thần, Mọi việc đều có thể được.
    St Arnoldus Janssen

  • Preach the Gospel to the whole creation./Anh em hãy đi khắp tứ phương thiên hạ, loan báo Tin Mừng cho mọi loài thọ tạo
    Mk 16:15

  • There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit.
    1 Cor 12:4

  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
    Jn 1:14

  • Let the word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.
    Col 3:16

  • To proclaim the Good News is the first and greatest act of love of neighbour.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • 传扬天国福音是第一且最大的爱近人行动

  • Có nhiều đặc sủng khác nhau, nhưng chỉ có một Thần Khí/
    1 Cor. 14:4

  • 圣言成了血肉,寄居在我们中间
    若 1:14

  • Ada rupa-rupa karunia, tetapi Roh satu
    1 Kor 12:4

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Friday, 04 October 2013 10:23

The legacy of Saints Arnold and Joseph: True Service

 A Reflection from Superior-General Fr Heinz Kulueke and the SVD Leadership Team

St Arnold Janssen1. Ten years ago on October 5, 2003, we celebrated with great joy the canonization of our saints Arnold Janssen and Joseph Freinademetz.

Today, we want to recall anew the deep faith reflected in their lives and their commitment to mission among the poor and the unevangelized .

Recently, in a joint letter to all the members of the Arnoldus Family, Superior General, Fr. Heinz Kulueke, SVD, Congregational Leader, Sr. Maria Theresia Hörnemann, SSpS, and General Mother, Sr. Maria Elizabeth Klein, SSpSaP, encouraged all the members of our Arnoldus Family to take this 10th anniversary of canonization as a time for deep renewal of our commitment to work for justice and peace, putting the last first, inspired by the example of St. Arnold Janssen and St. Joseph Freinademetz.

These days, the Church is nearing the end of the celebrations of the Year of Faith. In this context, it is worth remembering what Pope Francis wrote in the encyclical Lumen Fidei: “Faith does not draw us away from the world or prove irrelevant to the concrete concerns of the men and women of our time. […] it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope” (§ 51). The lives of Arnold Janssen and Joseph Freinademetz give witness to the transforming power of faith, show ways to create just and fraternal relationships among people, and bring hope to those who live at the margins of society.

2. “While the department of theology was still in Steyl” – recalls Fr. Johann Weig – “the Founder introduced the custom of making visits to the houses of the poor just like the members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society do. He assigned this task to the philosophers and theologians. Steyl in those days was not yet the prosperous village it has since become. From the edge of the Steyl sand dunes, dilapidated roof-tile factories stretched all the way to Tegelen. […] A not inconsiderable portion of the local people depended on these factories for their meager livelihood. Every day a sizeable crowd of impoverished people gathered at the entrance to the seminary and were given a good meal by the Brother porter. We also visited the poor in their homes”. In turn, Fr. John Peil remembers that “what influenced the Founder to introduce this custom was the consideration that in the missions our confreres would often have to deal with the poor. They should have at least some understanding of the needs of the poorest classes of our society”. These two testimonies reveal how Arnold Janssen was challenged by the situations of poverty that existed in Steyl and show the answers he found to address them. Also, he saw those situations as an opportunity to engage future missionaries in concrete actions and as a kind of ongoing formation to prepare them to face situations of poverty in the missions.

Nowadays, the contexts where we live and work are quite different from those of late 19th century Europe, but the challenges remain as urgent and demanding as before. The XVII General Chapter observed that “there is a steady increase in the number of our dialogue partners pushed toward the margins of society who are suffering from various forms of poverty, exploitation and oppression” (CD 22).

In 1894, in a letter to Fr. Heinrich Becher, who was a missionary in Argentina, Arnold Janssen wrote: “We can no longer save the world with sermons and liturgy alone”. Today, inspired by the example of St. Arnold Janssen, we are called to identify the causes and impacts of social and economic inequality among the poor; to address the issues related to migration, ethnic conflicts, and all kinds of injustice; and to commit ourselves to a radical transformation of society and the empowerment of the poor. We can do this by developing programs to promote justice, reconciliation, and peace building, always in dialogue and collaboration with others.

St Joseph Freinademetz3. St. Joseph Freinademetz provides an example of how to reach out to people. As we know, the first years in China were very difficult for him. Far from home, family and friends, he had to adapt himself to a completely different world and to abandon ethnocentric ideas that characterized the nineteenth-century European missionaries. During his early days in China,
Joseph Freinademetz referred to the Chinese with a certain distance and from the perspective of those who thought they belonged to a more advanced culture. However, in order to be closer to the people, he learned the local language and dressed up as a Chinese. But this was still not enough, as he himself recognized:
“The main work still remains: transformation of the inner person; to study the Chinese way of thought, Chinese customs and usages, Chinese character and disposition. All that cannot be achieved in a day, not even in one year, and also not without some painful surgery”. Over the years, he identified himself with the Chinese. The persecutions and suffering that he endured made him closer to the people, especially the poor. Later on, he recognized that, had he returned back to his homeland, he would feel like a stranger, thus he wrote: “I love China and the Chinese; I want to die among them and to be laid to rest among them… I want to continue being Chinese even in heaven”.

We live in a time where tensions and conflicts inevitably arise due to generational gaps, racism, and ethnocentrism (cf. CD 30); sometimes cultures and religions are used to emphasize divisions (cf. CD 8). Joseph Freinademetz used to say that people are saved only by the grace of God and by the love that we give to them. Already in his first parish assignment in the diocese of Brixen, he was very close to the people, to the point that it was said about him that he was good to the poor.

He gave alms in such a way that one did not have to be ashamed to receive them. Today, his life and mission continue to inspire many people, even outside the ranks of our Congregation. His commitment to mission in China and his love for its people tell us that a missionary needs to walk always in the path of dialogue and closeness to the people, side by side.

4. In the context of the 10th anniversary of the canonization of Arnold Janssen and Joseph Freinademetz, we would like to encourage all our members to commit ourselves anew to the service of those who are at the margins of society, putting the last first. Also, we would like to encourage you to celebrate in simple but meaningful ways, together with our lay partners, the tenth anniversary of the canonization of our two Saints. May this commemoration be a deep renewal of our commitment to work for justice and peace, and to be a sign of hope to our families, communities, and nations.

Pope Francis, during the General Audience on 27 March, 2013, talked about discipleship, saying that following Jesus means learning to come out of ourselves “in order to go to meet others, to go towards the outskirts of existence, to be the first to take a step towards our brothers and our sisters, especially those who are the most distant”. May the life and mission of St. Arnold Janssen and St. Joseph Freinademetz inspire us all to go out to meet those in need, especially the ones that are at the margins of society.

Fr Heinz Kulueke SVD & Leadership Team

May this commemoration be a deep
renewal of our commitment to work for
justice and peace, and to be a sign of hope to
our families, communities, and nations.