Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit

The Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, also known as Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, or simply Holy Spirit Sisters (SSpS Latin: Servae Spiritus Sancti) is a religious congregation within the Catholic Church.[1] The group has 3,000 members in 48 different countries. The congregation was founded by Saint Arnold Janssen in 1889 in Steyl, the Netherlands.[2] Janssen selected Maria Helena Stollenwerk, called Mother Maria (1852–1900) and Hendrina Stenmanns, called Mother Josepha (1852–1903) as first leaders and granted them the title of co-foundresses. Helena Stollenwerk became also the Co-Foundress of the Congregation Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (officially called Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration). Jannsen also founded (in 1875) a male missionary congregation called Divine Word Missionaries.

This community of religious women is rooted in the Trinitarian spirituality:[3] "Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they, in collaboration with dedicated laity and clergy, live and proclaim the Gospel of God’s love, justice, and peace. In dialogue with people of diverse cultures and traditions, they minister and journey together promoting human dignity and life-giving relationships."[3]


The society was founded by Saint Arnold Janssen.[4] He perceived a need for female missionaries to complement the work of male missionaries.[4] Janssen also founded the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters or Missionary Sisters Servant Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (Latin:Congregatio Servarum Spiritus Sancti de Adoratione perpetua), or Holy Spirit Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, also known as Pink Sisters, on September 8, 1896.[4] This is a contemplative congregation.

Mission and ministry

Ministries include education, health, pastoral care, spiritual guidance, adult education, catechetics, chaplaincy work, social work, administration and interfaith dialogue.[2]


Saint Arnold Janssen (November 5, 1837 – January 15, 1909) was a Catholic priest born in Goch, Germany, near the Dutch border. He was ordained a priest in 1861. Janssen purchased land in Steyl, the Netherlands to begin his seminary, dedicated in 1875 as "St. Michael the Archangel Mission House". Within a few years, many seminarians, priests and brothers were preparing for missionary service there, and the first two missionaries, Joseph Freinademetz and John Anzer, were sent to China. Together with the cofoundresses, Maria Helena Stollenwerk and Josepha Hendrina Stenmanns,[5] Janssen also founded two congregations of religious Sisters: The Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters (members known as "Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit") on December 8, 1889, and the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration ("Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration") on September 8, 1896.[6]

He and Joseph Freinademetz were canonized on October 5, 2003 by Pope John Paul II, as was Daniele Comboni, an important missionary in Africa. Janssen was canonized after the healing of a Filipino teenager living in Baguio City who fell down on a bike and was not expected to recover from a head wound. According to her relatives and the Church, she was healed miraculously following prayers to Janssen.


  • Hermann Fischer, Life of Arnold Janssen. Founder of the Society of the Divine Word and the Missionary Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Ghost, translated by Frederic M. Lynk, Mission Press S.V.D.: Techny, Ill. 1925, 520 pp.
  • Fritz Bornemann, Arnold Janssen: Founder of Three Missionary Congregations, 1837–1909: a Biography. Arnoldus Press: Rome 1975
  • E. Kroes, Janssen, Arnold, in: Dizionario degli Istituti di Perfezione, Vol. V (Roma 1978), Ed. Paoline, 297–301.
  • E. Kroes, Missionarie Serve dello Spirito Santo, in: Dizionario degli Istituti di Perfezione, Vol . 5 (Roma 1978) 1634–1637.
  • Mary E. Best, Seventy Septembers, Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, Techny, Ill (USA) 1988, 404 pp., ISBN 0-9617722-1-2
  • Ann Gier, This fire ever burning : A biography of M. Leonarda Lentrup S.Sp.S., Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters: Techny 1986, 318 pp., ISBN 0-9617722-0-4
  • Karl Müller, Kontemplation u. Mission. Steyler Anbetungsschwestern 1896–1996, Steyler Verlag, Netttal 1996, XII + 532 pp. + Bilder, ISBN 3-8050-0374-9
  • Karl Müller, Contemplation and Mission: Sister-Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration, 1896–1996. Studia Instituti Missiologici Societatis Verbi Divini 69 (Analecta SVD 76/2), Steyler Verlag, Nettetal 1998, 448 pp., ISBN 3-8050-0419-2
  • Sr. Domenique Coles SSpS – Fr. Frank Mihalic SVD, Sent by the Spirit. 100 years of SSpS mission history in Papua New Guinea 1889–1999, Holy Spirit Sisters, Madang 1999, 61 pp.
  • Josef Alt SVD, Journey in Faith. The Missionary Life of Arnold Janssen, Studia Instituti Missiologici SVD 78, Steyler Verlag: Nettetal / Germany 2002, XVIII + 1078 S., ISBN 3-8050-0471-0
  • Ethel E. Young – Jerome Wilson, African American Children and Missionary Nuns and Priests in Mississippi. Achievement Against Jim Crow Odds, Foreword by Sr. Carol Welp, SSpS, Author House: Bloomington, In. 2010,132 p., ISBN 978-1-4520-2279-6
  • Katharina Stornig: Sisters Crossing Boundaries. German Missionary Nuns in Colonial Togo and New Guinea, 1897–1960. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: Göttingen 2013, ISBN 978-3-525-10129-2.


  1. "Holy Spirit Home". Archived from the original on 2 February 2006.
  2. Holy Spirit Missionary Sister www.ozvocations.catholic.org.au Retrieved 22 November 2006. Archived August 23, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  3. Holy Spirit Mssionary Sisters www.ssps-usa.org Retrieved 22 November 2006.
  4. "Holy Spirit Adoration Sister". Archived from the original on 12 February 2006.
  5. Helena Stollenwerk and Hendrina Stenmanns www.worldssps.org
  6. Arnold Janssen www.vatican.va Retrieved November, 2006.
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