Divine Word Missionaries
Mission House St. Michael's

Blessed Helena Stollenwerk - mother Maria

Portrait of Helena Stollenwerk

The longing lives on

Helena Stollenwerk was born in Rollesbroich / German Eifel in 1852. Already while still at the little village elementary school she began enthusiastically reading the annuals of the Holy Childhood Association, now the Papal Work for Children, in her free time. They roused her determination to help the children of China. When at the age of twenty she tried to follow her calling, she found no convent in Germany that sent missionary sisters to China and for many years she searched in vain for the address of such a congregation. During a visit to Steyl she learned that Arnold Janssen saw the need to found a congregation of missionary sisters, although he could not promise that he would do so in the near future. He offered her employment as a maid in the Mission House kitchen. Helena was 30 years old when she accepted his offer. She hoped in that way to reach her goal.

Two years later, in 1884, she was joined by Hendrina Stenmanns from Issum in the German Lower Rhineland. For the first several years the two women worked in kitchen and laundry and lived in a small, very simple house. Years later, when a neighbouring convent became vacant, they moved there. The first day in that convent, 8 December 1889, went down in history as the foundation day of the Missionary Sisters. From then on the development of the Congregation of the "Servants of the Holy Spirit", as they are officially called, really took off. The rapidly growing community sent out the first sisters to Argentina already in 1895; that was soon followed by a group sent to Togo. After only seven years the Congregation numbered 100 sisters.

Arnold Janssen regarded prayer as an absolute necessity to support mission work. He had long been thinking of a third, contemplative branch for his foundations. So on 8 December 1896 he clothed the first Adoration Sisters in their pink religious habit. In 1898 Helena transferred to the Adoration Sisters. She would really have preferred to remain with the Missionary Sisters but responded generously to Arnold Janssen's wish when he asked her to take the step.
Helena's dream, to go out to the great land of China, was never fulfilled. Helena died on 3 February 1900. But her longing lived on. Today there are Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters and Adoration Sisters on every continent. Wherever they went in order to bring God's Reign a little nearer to the people, Helena's longing found fulfillment.

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born in 1852
in Rollesbroich/German Eifel
died in 1900 in Steyl
beatified in 1995 in Rome

Helena Stollenwerk and Hendrina Stenmanns co-founded the Missionary Sisters of Steyl with Arnold Janssen in 1889. In 1896 the Adoration Sisters grew from this Congregation to form the third Steyl foundation.

EN: Zal. Helena Stollenwerk Sel. Helena Stollenwerk Bl. Helena Stollenwerk