Divine Word Mission Director Dennis Newton dies at Techny

Brother Dennis Newton, 1951-2014


Brother Dennis Newton, SVD, 62, director of the Divine Word Missionary Mission Office, died unexpectedly on Saturday, April 5.

As mission director, Brother Dennis oversaw the Society of the Divine Word’s efforts in the United States to raise awareness and gather funds for Divine Word Missionaries, who work with the poor in more than 70 countries around the world.

A practitioner of organic farming, he oversaw the establishment of Divine Word Farms in Iowa that helps to raise funds for the missions outside of North America.

Brother Dennis was responsible for four farms—three in Iowa and one in Nebraska—including an experimental farm on which the Divine Word Missionaries teach missionaries from outside the United States how to produce agriculture without the use of pesticides and other chemicals.

He implemented this program in order to help communities learn how to grow produce and raise livestock locally, thus saving transportation resources and diminishing the carbon footprint.

Along with leading a national non-profit organization, he was an advocate for the homeless. In 2001, he received Volunteer of the Year from Chicago’s Residents for Effective Shelter Transitions (REST), which provides shelter and food for the city’s homeless.

He served on the board of directors for Two Lil’ Fishes, a meal program for the homeless in Chicago, and Leading India’s Future Today (LIFT), a non-profit organization dedicated to developing leadership excellence among youth in Tamil Nadu, India.

Prior to becoming Mission Center director, Brother Dennis served as vice-provincial of the Chicago Province, which extends from Canada to the West Indies and from Nebraska to Massachusetts, and as vocations director, guiding young men as they considered becoming priests or brothers.

Early in his career, he taught at Nanzan High School in Nagoya, Japan, and Holy Rosary Institute in Lafayette, La.; and served on the pastoral staff at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Lafayette. He also held several leadership roles in the Society of the Divine Word U.S. Southern Province, including provincial treasurer, director of Brother Formation, and retreat center director.

Dennis Newton was born in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1951. He was one of Rita (Fischels) and James Newton’s five children. He became a Divine Word Missionary in 1977 and professed perpetual vows in 1983.

Brother Dennis earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, and an MBA from the University of Louisiana. In 1988, he returned to Divine Word College and served as vice president of Finance for five years, followed by six years as vice president of Admissions and Recruitment.

The Mission Office, founded in 1958, raises funds for Divine Word Missionaries in Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe and South America. More than 6,000 of these missionary priests and brothers work on six continents. Their activities include developing healthcare clinics, building schools, and ministering in Catholic parishes.

He is survived by two sisters: Kathy (Gary) Miller of La Porte City, Iowa, and Candy (Chris) McKern of Kasson, Minn. He was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Jim and Terry Newton.

The wake for Brother Dennis will be held on Friday, April 11, at 7 p.m. in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in Techny Towers Retreat and Conference Center. The funeral will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 12, in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Burial will take place in St. Mary’s Cemetery at Techny.

Techny Towers Conference and Retreat Center is located at 2001 Waukegan Rd., Techny (Northbrook), Ill. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts to be distributed among Brother Dennis’s favorite charities may be sent in his name to Divine Word Missionaries, P.O. Box 6099, Techny, IL  60082-6099 or through

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