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When the Missionaries of the Divine Word came to North America, they were following German immigrants first to the shores of the United States and then into the Midwest.

They came to evangelize, but also to raise money and vocations from among German-American Catholics.

Now the SVDs, who number about 6,000 priests and brothers worldwide, are an international community, sending missionaries to posts in Asia, Oceania and Africa, but also bringing men from all over the world who study and serve in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

That history is displayed in an online interactive exhibit created by the Society of the Divine Word Chicago Province Archives that was unveiled on Oct. 15, the 125th anniversary of the arrival in New Jersey of Divine Word Brother Wendelin Meyer, uncle of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Cardinal Albert Meyer.

“They heard about the German immigrants in Chicago, so they came here,” said Father Quang Duc Dinh, SVD Chicago provincial. They came and took a German orphanage and made it into St. Joseph Technical School — called Techny for short — where boys could learn a trade. They also started printing their magazine and selling it to German Catholics in the United States to raise money.

In addition to raising funds, the community also wanted to raise priests and brothers. “We are a missionary community, so we wanted to train the future missionaries,” Father Quang said. “We opened the mission house and seminary, St. Mary’s Mission House, in about 1920.”  Those facilities were on the community’s Techny property, which was also the first home of St. Norbert Parish, Northbrook, which was originally staffed by SVDs. The crown jewel of the campus was the Holy Spirit Chapel, which was started in 1918 and completed in 1948. The first Mass there was celebrated in 1923.

The province now includes much of the Northeast and Midwest United States, eastern Canada and several Caribbean islands. The men who belong to the province represent 20 different nationalities. In addition to Techny, the province has a college seminary in Iowa and a house of formation in Hyde Park for seminarians attending Catholic Theological Union.

The charism of the Society of the Divine Word is to reach out to people on the margins, whether in developing countries or in industrialized nations. In the United States and in the Archdiocese of Chicago, the society has worked in the Black community and among immigrants, in poverty-stricken communities in Appalachia, and ministered to Japanese-Americans forcibly interned during World War II.

In the Archdiocese of Chicago, members of the community have staffed several traditionally Black parishes. Now they also work at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Wheeling, ministering to a community that includes both Spanish- and Polish-speaking immigrants. It wasn’t long after the arrival of the Divine Word Missionaries in the United States that Divine Word missionaries opened the first U.S. seminary to accept Black men, St. Augustine Seminary in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, which opened in 1919.

By 1915 or so, the SVDs were staffing St. Monica Parish, which was founded by Father Augustus Tolton, and then St. Elizabeth Parish after St. Monica merged with it, said Divine Word Father Mark Weber, a former pastor of St. Anselm, which also has been staffed by SVDs.  The seed is still unfolding. God’s plan is still unfolding.”

By Michelle Martin | Staff Writer

Published in the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago “Chicagoland”

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Reflection on the 18th GC Stmt - Finance - Nos. 34, 35

In this clip of Spiritual Animation, Fr. Dante Salces Barril, SVD of Central Philippines shares his thoughts about Finances in the Intercultural Living in the context of the Statement of the 18th General Chapter, Nos. 34, 35 (subtítulos en Español)
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Reflection on the “Bridge Builders” in the Intercultural Living

Fr. Marek Vaňuš, SVD General Coordinator for Bible Apostolate shares his thoughts about Bridge Builders in the Intercultural Living in the context of the Statement of the 18th General Chapter, No.33  (click on “CC” for subtitles in Spanish)
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