130th Anniversary of the arrival of the first SVD missionaries in Togo

News of Interest

Togo has a unique relationship with the SVD when it comes to its own history with the Catholic Church. Although Protestant missionaries were already present in the country, with the exception of one Catholic missionary of the SMA who tried unsuccessfully to establish a Christian community in the middle southern part of this country, the first Catholic missionaries to evangelise the country were the Divine Word Missionaries. Thus, the 130th anniversary of the first arrival of the Divine Word missionaries in Togo also coincides with the age of the Togolese church, since evangelisation in this land begins with the arrival of the Divine Word missionaries.

In fact, the founding Father Arnold Janssen sent the first missionaries to Togo at the request of Pope Leo XIII. Thus, on 27 August 1892, two priests and three brothers arrived, all of German origin. They were Fathers Johannes Schäfer and Mathias Dier and Brothers Johannes, Norbertus and Venantius. Later more SVD's and Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS) arrived. The Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (SSpSAP) arrived almost 100 years later. With their arrival, Togo became the only country in Africa where all three branches of the Arnoldus family are present and working.

The first Divine Word Missionaries immediately established Christian communities in various parts of the country, which at that time was a protectorate of Germany and remained so for many years. The first Catholic bishop of Togo, Franz Wolf SVD, was consecrated in 1914. World War I, however, saw all the German missionaries deported, the last of them leaving in January 1918. Togo then became a French colony until independence in 1960. The SVD returned to Togo in 1974. While the SVD celebrates 130 years since the first arrival, the SSpS celebrates 125 years since its arrival in Togo and the SSpSAP is grateful for its 25 years of presence in the country.

To commemorate these triple jubilees, several activities were organised, such as a football gala, a spiritual concert and a symposium on the general theme: 130 years since the arrival of the first SVD missionaries: Retrospective and prospective views on the mission of evangelisation. Marian SCHWARK, SVD, Prof. Marcel Magloire KWAKUVI, Fr. Thierry GUEFLI and Mgr Dominique GUIGBILE (Bishop of Dapaong - Togo). The event was honoured by the presence of the Superior General Father Paulus Budi Kleden and some confreres from Ghana and Kenya.

Five SVD deacons were ordained priests during the festive mass celebrated for the occasion. The mass was presided over by Mgr Emmanuel Kofi FIANU, SVD, bishop of the diocese of Ho (Ghana), concelebrated by a hundred priests (religious and diocesan) and a diocesan bishop, Mgr Celestin-Marie GAOUA, bishop of Sokode - Togo. A multitude of parishioners flocked to the parish of Notre Dame Sous la Croix d'agbalepedogan, where the celebration took place on Saturday 27th 2022, to witness this great event in the life of the Arnoldus family and of the Church of Togo.
The following day, on 28 August, the date of the first Mass of our first missionary in Togo, Br. Hervé PITCHOLO, SVD, committed himself totally and forever to the Society of the Divine Word by professing his perpetual vows before the Superior General, Paulus Kleden, in the parish of Marie Theotokos in Agoenyive.

In this joyful atmosphere, on 1 September, which coincides with the date of the arrival of the first SSpSAP in Togo 25 years ago, a solemn mass presided over by the Father Superior General was celebrated in the sisters' convent, bringing together most of the members of the Arnoldus family and some lay people.


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