Mother Josepha: 120th Anniversary of Death

May 20, 2023, marks the 120th Anniversary of death of our Mother Josepha Hendrina Stenmanns, the Co-founder of the Mission Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit. Bl Mother Josepha, is close to us SSpS because of her kindness and love for each sister. She spent all her missionary life in the Mother House, accompanying the other missionaries to being sent to different countries.

How she understood the idea of “mission”? How she reconciled with the fact that she never received a missionary mandate, what’s more she enjoyed, accompanied and cared for the other missionaries.

Her letters, full of motherly concern and sisterly love, written in a different era, still carry a significant message for us. In one of the many letters she wrote to the missionaries in Argentina (May 1898) we read:

Dear Sisters,                                

As we are in the time of preparation for Pentecost, I wish you the Holy Spirit with his seven gifts and twelve fruits; by the time you receive this letter, Pentecost will have long passed; but we cannot do without the Holy Spirit and his gifts and fruits. (…)

In the love of the Holy Spirit

Your grateful fellow Sister Josepha


Reflecting on Mother Josepha’s life we discover that she was a missionary, conscious of her identity, with her heart far into the future, she lived the truth that “mission is wherever God’s Spirit invites our presence to witness to Her healing and reconciling power”. This was only possible by the grace of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in her heart.

Helen Keller use to say: “What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us”. Most of the SSpS, cherish in the hearts Mother Josepha’s spiritual testament: “Come, Holy Spirit” and repeated it in every moments of daily life, calling on her intercession and help from God.

In our constitutions we find a record of Sr. Benedicta’s beautiful testimony about Mother Josepha: “She knew how to adapt herself to all. She rejoiced with joyful and mourned with the afflicted. She was ever ready to help all. Especially in times of trouble she stood by us, helping and encouraging us”.

And thanks God, her mission continues, in countless in thoughts, desires, attentive glances, compassionate words, gestures and good deeds, in her spiritual daughters who are able to touch the world with the love of Jesus.

One of them was Sr Veronika Theresia Rácková SSpS, who had great trust and love for Blessed Mother Josefa, as many of the sisters who knew her testify.

On the same day that we celebrate the anniversary of our co-founder’s death, Sr. Veronika gave her life to God and to the people of South Sudan through martyrdom. She was a doctor and soon after saving the life of a young woman who was having trouble giving birth, she was shot and died a few days later.

To learn more about Sr. Veronika’s life and her passion for missions, please read the article: Caring Without Limits – Veronika Theresia Rácková, SSpS: A Martyr in Christ’s Ministry to Heal”.