The Society of the Divine Word is a Catholic religious congregation spreading the Good News in 72 countries of the world including 15 in Africa.
The SVD (i.e. abbreviation of the latin name Societas Verbi Divini) is a male religious society - an congregation of pontifical right, founded by st. Arnold Janssen in 1875 in Steyl, the Netherlands, with its own Constitutions, accomplishing the missionary service in international fraternal communities of laymen and clerics, whose trinitarian spirituality is based on a devotion to the Incarnate Word and to the Holy Spirit.
Its main sisterly congregations are the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS) and the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (SSpSAP).
Our Mission in Zimbabwe
The first Divine Word Missionaries came to Zimbabwe in 1986 when the Diocese of Bulawayo suffered a loss of missionaries due to killings and political violence.
Bishop Henry Karlen CMM invited us to the Plumtree area as our first mission and it became very fruitful cooperation.
Nowadays we administer 3 city parishes and 3 rural missions of the diocese and our confrere Alex Kaliyanil was ordained as its archbishop. We work also in another two Zimbabwean dioceses and in various special apostolates.
Saint Arnold Janssen's life marks the beginning of our history. He was a man of great courage, vision, and hard work.
1837, 5 November - Arnold Janssen born in Goch, Germany
Born as the second of eleven children. His parents Gerhard and Anna were good Catholics, so they taught Arnold to love the Gospel and follow it.
1861, 15 August - He was ordained Priest in the Cathedral of Munster
Afer his ordination, Arnold was assigned to teach natural sciences and mathematics in a secondary school and named Diocesan Director for the Apostleship of Prayer. He could see the spiritual needs of people in the whole world and wanted to help in the great mission of the Church.
1875, 8 September - Founding of St. Michael Mission Seminary, Steyl, Holland
With support of some bishops and many good people, Arnold opened his first Mission House in Steyl - and that’s the birthday of the Divine Word Missionaries.
1879 - First two missionaries going to China
After three years, the first two missionaries were sent to China. One of them was saint Joseph Freinademetz.
1889 - Foundation of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit
Arnold founded another missionary congregation – for young women – the “Servants of the Holy Spirit”, SSpS. They were called also blue missionary sisters because of their blue habit. First few sisters left for Argentina five years later.
1892 - For the first time Divine Word Missionaries sent to Africa
Togo became the first African mission of the Divine Word Missionaries.
1896 - Foundation of the Sisters Servants oh the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration
Arnold selected some of the sisters to form a contemplative branch, to be known as “Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration”, SSpSAP. Their job was to keep the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, praying day and night for the church and especially for the missions and missionaries. They are called also pink sisters, according to the colour of their habit.
1909, 15 January - Arnold Janssen died in Steyl
His life was filled with a constant search for God's will. And we can see the fruit of his love in the growth of the communities he founded. Today there is six thousand Divine Word Missionaries active in more than 70 countries, there is more than three thousand missionary sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, and more than 400 pink sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration.
1981 - Mission in Botswana
SVD responding to the request of the Bishop of Gaborone, decided in February 1981, to begin missionary work in Botswana. The coming of the first SVD missionaries was announced on Botswana Radio and published in the Daily News. After initial visits to some of the parishes in the south the Journey was made northwards to Francistown. Francistown was then a town of about 25,000 inhabitants.
The initial vision of the SVD Generalate was to send, over a period of some years, a maximum of 17 missionaries to Botswana. But the Holy Spirit had another vision. By 1984 Botswana Province had spread out to Kenya, Zambia (1986) and Zimbabwe (1987). Eventually the three neighboring countries (Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe) formed one Province in 1993, with over 60 confreres by 2008.
1987 - Zimbabwe District within Botswana Province
The first Divine Word Missionaries came to Zimbabwe and created a new district within our Botswana Province. We were invited by Bishop Henry Karlen CMM to the Plumtree area. It became very fruitful cooperation.
2004, 14 August - Final Vows of Br. Eddie Dzinda Nkhoma SVD
Brother Eddie was the first SVD from Zimbabwe. He died in his mission in Chad on 17 May 2006.
2006, 16 September - ordination of Fr. Tapera Muserere SVD
Father Tapera is the first SVD priest from Zimbabwe. He was sent to his mission in Mozambique and after three years came back to work in Zimbabwe.
2008, 1 June - independent Zimbabwe Mission
2009, 12 September - Fr. Alex Thomas SVD ordained Archbishop of Bulawayo
2013, 1 September - our newest mission opened in Mubayira
2014, 1 June - SVD Mission Zimbabwe became a Region