A Few Good Men
“…upon this rock I will build my Church (Matthew 16: 18).”
From the beginning, Brothers have been the bedrock of the Society of the Divine Word, laying the groundwork for mission and ministry. They constructed the buildings and tilled the earth in the Society’s early years, housing and sustaining its members. They grew, made, repaired or produced what was needed for survival – and they were the pioneers who changed the Society from an association of diocesan priests into a religious congregation.
In the early 1880s, the first Brothers took their vows as members of the Society of the Divine Word. Its founder, St. Arnold Janssen, regarded the Brothers as fully religious and as missionary as any of the Society’s priests. In fact, on October 15, 1895, a Brother was the first member of the Society of the Divine Word to come to North America – Brother Wendelin (Joseph Meyer), SVD. A former teacher in Germany, his new work involved finding a market for the mission-based Catholic publications produced by the Society in their printing press department in Holland. Brother Wendelin’s success meant that he soon needed help in his work. The following year he was joined by Brother Homobonus (Joseph Stiller), SVD.
Over time, after the move to America and the establishment of SVD mission houses, the distinction between priests and Brothers intensified and a widening gulf ensued. For the Brothers, there was one essential difference between the priests and them. Though each began their vocational journeys with similar religious routines, the priests’ lives changed after they were ordained. But the Brothers, after professing their final vows, remained as skilled workers in jobs where they were needed, subject to their superiors. Few were sent on missionary assignments and, before the 1960s, they were educated primarily in the trades through apprenticeship to older, experienced Brothers.
|Brothers currently assigned to Divine Word College
Bro. Wayne Till
Bro. Tony Kreinus
Change was inevitable and sparked a revolution of sorts. With the advent of Vatican II in 1962,
the old order would soon give way to a new direction, for without acting on the evolving environment and resultant needs, a religious society could not grow. Earlier, in 1958, the election of Johannes Schutte, SVD, as superior general of the Society of the Divine Word helped to restore a primary sense of mission to all SVDs. Adjustment, accommodation, independence, personal direction and a pastoral approach were emphasized. Brothers began to enter pastoral ministry and other areas of service, rather than just supporting the work of the priests.
After Vatican II, the formation programs for priests and Brothers merged. Now Brothers were able to pursue higher education according to their talents and skills. New SVD legislation and constitutions fostered fraternity among SVDs. Since 1988, Brothers can be elected or appointed rectors, provincials and council members. Community, faith and love united the Brothers and priests as equal “companions of the Divine Word.” Today, SVD Brothers might be teachers, nurses, doctors or artists. Others may work in pastoral ministry, serving those in need. Wherever they are called, SVD Brothers serve Christ by living the life of a Divine Word Missionary.
And Brothers have played integral roles in making Divine Word College what it is today. Many DWC World readers will remember Brother Leonard Bauer, SVD, and Brother Henry Oeser, SVD, who not only served the college in many capacities, but became known and loved by the surrounding community as well. And Brother Pat Hogan, SVD, was responsible for the implementation of the English as Second Language (ESL) program, an indispensable part of the Divine Word College curriculum.