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 During the Mass, Bishop Gerald Barnes presented the Divine Word Missionaries with an Episcopal Blessing, commemorating this milestone in their ministry. 

 “I speak on behalf of my brother bishops in the Province in which you serve of the gratitude and appreciation for all that you continue to do,” Bishop Barnes said. “My prayer is that you, with the charism that you have as religious, model for us more strongly what we are all called to be – missionaries.” 

 Half a century ago, the Society of the Divine Word, commonly known as the Divine Word Missionaries, began working in the San Francisco Bay area with ministries to African-American and Japanese communities.

 Later, the Missionaries opened Verbum Dei High School for boys in the Watts District of Los Angeles and a minor seminary in Riverside for educating missionary priests and brothers.

 Today, 65 Divine Word Missionaries serve Catholic communities in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Francisco, Oakland, Orange and San Diego counties. They work as parish priests in 17 parishes in the San Bernardino Diocese, as well as hospital and prison chaplains, promoters of biblical study, retreat directors, and even as a Diocesan Administer of the Propagation of the Faith.

 “Following the inspiration of our founder, St. Arnold Janssen, we use mass media to promote our missionary mandate,” said Father Michael Manning, SVD, founder of Wordnet Productions, based in San Bernardino. 

 Wordnet produces a weekly national television program and iGod Today, an app that delivers daily Scripture meditations to smartphones. The television program and app have an international following.

 “The Society’s spirituality and vision is shared by a dedicated group of lay men and women,” Father Manning said. “With California’s rich cultural diversity, the Divine Word Missionaries in the Western province are especially effective as they hail from 17 different countries.”

 Founded in 1875, Divine Word Missionaries serve the spiritual and social needs of people on six of the seven continents. Worldwide, more than 6,000 members of the Society of the Divine Word serve in more than 70 countries.