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Flores Divine Word Missioners Open Yearlong Commemoration Of Founder´s Death

Updated: February 05, 2008 05:00 PM GMT
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A Flores Island-based province of the Divine Word Society (SVD) has opened a yearlong celebration to commemorate the death centenaries of the society´s two missioner saints.

The 100th death anniversaries of SVD founder Saint Arnold Janssen and Saint Joseph Freinademetz, a pioneering missioner who served in China, are on Jan. 15, 2009, and Jan. 28, 2008, respectively.

SVD Ruteng province kicked off the celebration with a Mass on Jan. 15 at St. Mary Assumption Cathedral in Ruteng, 1,530 kilometers east of Jakarta.

Father Sebastianus Hobahama, who heads the province, launched the celebration during the Mass by unveiling pictures of Saints Arnold and Joseph at the side of the cathedral´s altar. At the same time, Kamelus Deno, deputy head of Manggarai district, where Ruteng is located, struck a gong once.

Father Hobahama told the more than 1,000 Catholics at the Mass that the celebration, which is set to end on Jan. 29, 2009, is aimed at honoring the missionary commitment of the two principal SVD figures.

The priest also congratulated eight nuns of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS), also founded by Saint Arnold. The nuns were celebrating anniversaries of their Religious life -- three their 50th anniversary, four their 40th anniversary and one her eighth anniversary.

Divine Word Father Fransiskus Pora, the jubilee celebration organizer, said after the Mass that SVD, SSpS and the Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (SSpS-PA), the other congregation Saint Arnold founded, are organizing various activities in the year ahead. The two local women´s Religious congregations founded by SVD bishops -- the Followers of Jesus and Daughters of Queen of Rosary -- are also involved in organizing these activities, which include recollections, retreats, Bible courses, reforestation programs and free medical treatment for the people.

Deno, on behalf of the local government, thanked SVD and SSpS members for their service in Manggarai since 1920. "SVD and SSpS missioners have done much for the people in many fields such as religion, education, the economy and health. The Church and the missioners´ role in these fields is undeniable," he said.

Saint Arnold was born on Nov. 5, 1837 in Goch, Germany. He founded the SVD on Sept. 8, 1875, the SSpS on Dec. 8, 1889, and the SSpS-PA on Sept. 8, 1896. He died on Jan. 15, 1909.

Saint Joseph Freinademetz was born on April 15, 1852, in an area now part of northern Italy. He was ordained a priest in 1875 and joined SVD in 1878. On March 2, 1879, he left for China. He died on Jan. 28, 1908 in Daijiazhuang village, Shandong province, eastern China.

Pope Paul VI beatified the two missioners on Oct. 19, 1975. Pope John Paul II canonized them on Oct. 5, 2003.

According to SVD records, there were 6,102 SVD missioners in 99 countries, 3,651 SSpS nuns in 35 countries and 390 SSpS-PA nuns in 10 countries in 2006.

The SVD first came to Indonesia in 1913 and two years later took over missionary work on Flores and nearby Timor Island. The SSpS nuns came in 1917. SVD members in Indonesia number 1,502, with more than 70 serving in Ruteng diocese. SSpS nuns number more than 600, with more than 50 serving in Ruteng diocese. The cloistered SSpS-PA nuns came to Indonesia and opened their first house in Ruteng diocese in 1997.


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