The Society of the Divine Word (Latin: Societas Verbi Divini, abbreviated SVD), popularly called Verbites or the Divine Word Missionaries, and sometimes the Steyler Missionaries, is a missionary religious congregation in the Latin Church, one of the 24 sui iuris churches which make up the Catholic Church. As of 2015 it consisted of 6,023 members composed of priests and brothers. It is the largest missionary congregation in the Catholic Church.
The Society was founded in Steyl in the Netherlands in 1875 by St Arnold Janssen, a diocesan priest, and drawn mostly from German priests and religious exiles in the Netherlands during the church-state conflict called the Kulturkampf, which had resulted in many religious groups being expelled and seminaries being closed in Germany.
In 1882, the Society started sending missionaries into China’s Shandong Province, where their aggressive methods were part of the chain of events that led to the Boxer Uprising in the late 1890s. In 1892, missionaries were sent to Togo, a small country in West Africa. The Togo mission was particularly fruitful for by 15 years later the Holy See had appointed an Apostolic prefect. The Society’s third mission was to German New Guinea (the northern half of present-day Papua New Guinea). In 1898 a fourth mission to be opened was in Argentina, an historically Catholic country where the Society quickly assumed responsibility for several parishes, schools and also seminaries in four dioceses: Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, La Plata and Paraná all of which are now archdioceses.
At present there are 575 SVD’s working in 16 African countries.
CHARACTERISTIC DIMENSIONS OF THE SVD
Many religious orders and congregations have certain characteristics or traits that make them known. The Divine Word Missionaries are recognised by what are called the four characteristic dimensions:
With regards to the missions, what makes the SVD unique from many missionary institutes is that mission areas or regions are not the sole responsibility of individual provinces, but of the whole Society. The SVD generalate may appoint members from any country to any other country with priority given to those places which are most in need. This also explains why many SVD communities are international in character.
The SVD has two sister congregations, also founded by Saint Arnold Janssen. They are the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS), otherwise known as the “Blue Sisters” and a contemplative branch called the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (SSpSAP) or better known as the “Pink Sisters”; the nicknames allude to the colour of the respective religious habits.
SVD Novitiate opens in Kabwe, Zambia
The SVD Novitiate in Kabwe, Zambia was opened on, Wednesday, 25th July 2018, on the feast of St James the Apostle. It is the fourth Novitiate in AFRAM. The need was felt due to the steadily increasing number of candidates in the formation houses in AFRAM. On 9 May 2017 Superior General officially erected the Novitiate in Kabwe, Zambia and appointed Fr Martin Kawana SVD the Novice Master. The occasion was blessed by the presence of Rt. Rev. Clement Mulenga SDB, Bishop of Kabwe, Fr. John Asiedu SVD, Afram Zonal Area Coordinator for Formation, Fr Biju George SVD Mission Superior Zambia, invited guests from Kabwe and our own confreres. The Afram Coordinator Fr Joseph Kallanchira SVD could not be present due to visa issues. In his homily Fr Asiedu stressed the purpose of this Novitiate House to be a house that “..shall seek to provide similar kind of environment and opportunities to our Novices to mature and clarify their vocation just as the Apostles had in the company of Jesus” He further said that “…the young men who stay in this Novitiate House shall be helped to experience a personal living union with the Divine Word and be led to follow him in an ever deeper way.” In his remark Rt Rev Clement Mulenga SDB expressed his happiness of the first male Novitiate House in the diocese and promised all the support. He invited the Novices to be courageously open to the ways that the Lord is calling them to. Fr Alberto Saco SVD the North District Superior thanked all present. The Novices were accepted by the Novice Master in a private ceremony, after supper, attended only by the SVD confreres. A total of six Novices, 3- MAD, 1 KEN, 1 ZIM, 1 ZAM make an international community. Opening of the Novitiate in Zambia is a blessing and a challenge to the young Mission. The Novitiate House will operate in SVD formation house in Kabwe, as progress is being made to purchase land and build a Novitiate House in Lusaka.
Names of the novices as follows;
- 1. TOMBO FRANCO MAD
- 2. TOVONOELY JEAN JOSEPH HERY JOUE MAD
- 3. ANDRIAMAMPIONONA ROLLAND MAD
- 4. ANDREW CHAMA ZAM
- 5. BENEDICT MUSYOKI MWANZIA KEN
- 6. ADRIAN MUTANDWA ZIM