We educate for mission

The SSpS Congregation was founded by Fr. Arnold Janssen and co-founded by Sr. Maria (Helena Stollenwerk) and Sr. Josepha (Hendrina Stenmanns) in 1889.

In 1894, Fr. Arnold received letters asking him to send missionaries to the Philippines. However, some members of the society contended that SVD missionaries should be sent only to lands where the Gospel has not yet been proclaimed. The Philippines, where Christianity had been flourishing since the 16th century under Spanish rule, was not considered a mission country. More pleas came Fr. Arnold’s way as the Aglipayan schism, which arose during the Philippine Revolution of 1896, widened. Moreover, in parishes vacated by the Spanish friars after Spain lost the Spanish American War of 1898, the faith was languishing.

In early 1911, the SSpS superiors decided to send four Sisters – Sr. Cyrilla Hullermann, Sr. Hieronyma Schulte-Ladbeck, Sr. Cleta Heuwes and Sr. Cortona Ruther – to the Philippines. The sisters arrived in Tayum on January 16, 1912, from Steyl, Holland.

The Sisters from Steyl prepared their first classroom on the ground floor of the Alzates’ house and went around Tayum to invite the children to attend classes. When the school opened in February 1912, only a few responded. They placed their small convent school under the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit and named it Holy Ghost School. The school was a joint endeavor of the SVD and the SSpS congregations. When it opened formally in June 1912, only 33 students were enrolled and each grade had less than 10 students. It was a humble beginning, but the Sisters did not lose heart. They know that it was God’s will they were in Tayum.

The primary course was recognized by the government in 1913 and the government recognition included the intermediate grades in 1916. It was the first school offering the intermediate grades general course outside of Bangued, according to the local historian.

Admissions to Holy Ghost School increased over the next decade, but finances continued to be a concern. The parish priest, Fr. Leo Boethin, SVD, had kept the school from going under by soliciting contributions from Catholics in the United States. However, because of the Great Depression in 1928, donations slowed to a trickle and the school almost closed. By 1935, at the start of the Commonwealth Period, the school’s survival was assured. The global economy was on an upswing and Filipinos were more optimistic about the future.

In Tayum, Abra, these events translated into more enrollments. New teaching Sisters arrived from the Motherhouse to help in the school and the parish. The school’s expansion was then interrupted by the war years but continued after Liberation when Holy Ghost School offered high school.

The management, control and ownership of the school passed from SVD to the SSpS in 1958. Enrollment continued to climb that in SY 1961-1962, there were two sections for first year high school, one for boys and one for girls. The school’s graduates went on to pursue degrees and became doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, and public servants. More importantly, faith was rekindled in Tayum and, today, many of the town’s activities begin or culminate in a celebration of the Eucharist.

Altering tack in the direction of their ministries, the Holy Spirit Sisters handed Holy Ghost School over to the diocese in 2002. The school continues to participate in events that commemorate its rich SSpS heritage.