Missionary order celebrates 125 years in North America


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For 125 years, the Society of the Divine Word has served the marginalized in North America. A new online exhibit, “Empowered by the Word,” marks the anniversary.

“Because of COVID-19 precautions, we are unable to gather for this momentous event,” said Provincial Father Quang Duc Dinh SVD. “Instead, we invite everyone to meet us online through this virtual exhibit.”

On Oct. 15, 1895, Brother Wendelin Meyer SVD landed in New Jersey and began selling Catholic magazines to German-speaking immigrants. Since then, Divine Word Missionaries have been champions of racial equality and trailblazers in religious intercultural living.

“Seminaries, parishes, preaching and teaching, social justice initiatives and ecumenical outreach, hospital and prison chaplaincies—the list of ministries undertaken by members of the Society of the Divine Word throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean is endless,” Father Quang said. “For 125 years, Divine Word Missionaries in North America have focused their ministries on serving minorities and the economically disenfranchised.”

Produced by the Divine Word Chicago Province Archives, the virtual exhibit highlights events from 1895 to the present. Features include the 1920 opening of Mississippi’s Sacred Heart Seminary, the first school specifically for African-American men who wished to study for the priesthood; the foundation of ministries with immigrants in Canada; the welcoming of Vietnamese refugees during the 1970s and ’80s; and the missionaries’ impact in Appalachia’s poorest communities.

To interact with the exhibit, go to:

Founded by St. Arnold Janssen, the Society of the Divine Word has more than 6,000 members worldwide who serve the spiritual and social needs of people in 80 countries. The congregation is the largest Roman Catholic order to focus on missionary work.

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