The Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity (VDMF) is a Catholic contemplative-active community founded in 1963 by Rev. Jaime Bonet in Mallorca, Spain. As a pontifically approved Institute of Consecrated Life, the community is present in 37 countries dedicated to prayer and preaching of the Word.
One of the aspects that makes the Verbum Dei a new form of consecrated life, is that it is one community with three branches. Jaime saw that the members of the community in their life as disciples must follow Jesus, living and integrating the oneness into the call to mission. “May they all be one” (John 17:21) and “go and make disciples of all peoples” (Matthew 28:19)
The same call, different paths
The Female Branch (Consecrated Religious Women)
Women who choose celibacy and consecrate themselves to God by means of the public profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and who live in community with a total missionary availability.
The Male Branch (Consecrated Religious Men)
Men who choose celibacy and consecrate themselves to God by means of the public profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and who live in community with a total missionary availability. They may choose to live as brothers or be ordained to the priesthood.
The Married Couples Branch
(Consecrated Married Couples)
Married couples who within the sacrament of matrimony dedicate their life to the charism and mission of the Verbum Dei. They make perpetual promises of poverty, chastity and obedience according to their conjugal state and family life.
The greater Verbum Dei Family
The Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity (community) is part of the greater Verbum Dei Family which is formed of people of all states of life who feel called to the same mission and charism.
On May 21 1926, Rev. Jaime Bonet, the founder of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity was born in the small island of Mallorca just off main land Spain. Who would have imagined that through this new life a new community of consecrated life would be born in the mid 20th century and would quickly reach all corners of the earth?
Jaime was 13 years old when the Spanish civil war came to an end. Even though he lived on an island, away from the worst of the fighting, he saw the warships passing by, he knew that the war was raging on the small neighboring island of Menorca and listened day after day about the stories of death. In Spain, practically every family lost members in the war. In remembering the war, he said once: “they killed everybody.” The country was divided and hurting. The Church had lost 20% of its clergy, roughly 40% of its religious and almost half of its Bishops in the war. The Church was hated by many and seen as out of touch with the growing masses of the poor.
“If you exist make me happy”
It is in this atmosphere, that Jaime as a 14-year-old teenager had an experience of the Love of God, with the crucified Christ and Jesus in the Eucharist. He attended a minor seminary as most young boys did at that time and one day during chapel time he said to God, “If you exist, make me happy.” Jaime experienced intense joy, as well as deeply touching the suffering of Jesus still in the lives of so many people all over the world. He asked Jesus in the Eucharist, “What are you doing there? Why are you so helpless?” In response, Jaime experienced Jesus asking him, “Will you take me to people, will you give me to all people, will you take my love to others?”
For this reason, Jaime joined the seminary in 1940 with the desire to share the love of God with the poorest of the world. While in the seminary he would often leave to go and preach to those on the margins of society. During the evenings and weekends, he would organize groups and retreats for people estranged by the Church, or who were bored or tired by the Church as well as for parishioners with a more traditional piety. His intention was the same: to empower each person through an encounter with a living God, full of love for the least and the lost. In 1952, Jaime was ordained a priest by Pope Pius XII.
Women with a mission
As a young newly ordained diocesan priest, Jaime was creating an apostolic dynamism on the entire island through his preaching and retreats. Jaime, ever sensitive to the signs of the times, perceived the missing voice of women and so started to preach and give retreats focused especially for women. These women left the retreat on fire with the experience of God, and were empowered to preach and share the love of God. The growth in the number of groups that wanted to be prepared for preaching led Jaime to set up “apostolic schools” or “schools of evangelization” among the young adults. As they began to receive this formation on preaching, they started to become a driving force in many other parishes. A vibrant movement was forming among the young women of Mallorca, who were inspired by Jaime and his vision for a mission that empowered all people, foremost the ones on the margins. For Jaime, it was important that women become retreat givers for men and women and that women would provide spiritual direction. This was the beginnings of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity.
On January 17, 1963, the first group of consecrated women of Verbum Dei was approved as a lay association with the name Misioneras diocesanas de la Palabra de Dios, (Diocesan Missionaries of the Word of God) by Bishop Enciso Viana. The motto of their dedication was already “orationi et ministerio verbi instantes erimus.” (Acts 6:4 – “We shall dedicate ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word”).
New Form of Consecrated Life – One community, Three branches
Later, diocesan priests and married couples also felt drawn to this new and growing community. And so it was that 37 years later, on April 15, 2000, the Holy See approved all the three branches (celibate female missionaries, celibate male missionaries and married couples) with the structure of one sole institute, thereby safeguarding the vision of Jaime for a unity in difference that maximizes the potential to reach out apostolically to the diverse realities in our world in the 21st century.
Verbum Dei was pontifically approved with its three branches as one Fraternity of Consecrated Life. The innovative category of New Forms of Consecrated Life at the Institute for Consecrated Life at the Holy Sees was applied to the VDMF.
May 21, 1926: Jaime Bonet Bonet is born in Alqueria Blanca (Mallorca-Spain) to Jaime and Maria.
1940: At age 14, Jaime has an experience of the God which shapes his whole life.
1940: Jaime enters the Diocesan Seminary of Mallorca
1942: Jaime is received at Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora de la Sapiencia
May 31, 1952: Jaime is ordained priest by Pope Pius XII in Barcelona. After his ordination. Bishop Juan Hervas appointed him parish priest at Mancor del Valle (a small village in Mallorca) and director of the Sanctuary of Saint Lucia, headquarters of the Cursillos Movement
1960: Bishop Jesús Enciso Viana assigned Jaime to the Diocesan Council of Catholic Action, with the particular task of encouraging its evangelical and apostolic spirit.
October 11, 1962: The Second Vatican Council opens under Pope John XXIII
January 17, 1963: The first group of consecrated women of the Verbum Dei was approved as a lay association with the name Misioneras diocesanas de la Palabra de Dios, under Bishop Enciso Viana. The motto of their dedication was already “orationi et ministerio verbi instantes erimus.” (Acts 6:4 – “We shall dedicate ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word”).
1965: The first female Verbum Dei Formation Course (novitiate) was situated in the Sanctuary of Santa Lucia in the village of Mancor del Valle, Mallorca.
1966: A group of Verbum Dei missionary sisters went to Rome to study in the Regina Mundi Pontifical Institute, which had been an institution recently established for the theological formation of religious women. At that same time, another group of VDMF sisters left to found a Verbum Dei community in Piura, Peru.
1967: Another group of VDMF sisters moved to the vicinity of Madrid where the Comillas Pontifical University (Madrid), for the first time in Spain, had opened its doors to women for theological studies. Likewise, the first Verbum Dei Consecrated Missionary Married Couple, together with a group from both the male and female Branches of the VDMF were established in Bilbao, forming “Schools of Evangelization” whilst pursuing their theological studies.
1969: Bishop Alvarez Lara, approved Verbum Dei with its three branches: consecrated women, priests (at this moment they were diocesan priests who received the permission from the Bishop to be part of the new group) and married couples as the ‘Apostolic Institute Verbum Dei’, in the form of a Pious Union.”
1977: As a fruit of the one month spiritual exercises, a new missionary strategic plan of expansion brought the Verbum Dei into all the continents of the world.
January 25, 1993: The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal D. Angelo Suquía, approved the branches of both the consecrated women and the consecrated men of Verbum Dei as two separate religious institutes;
May 29, 1993: The married couples’ branch of the community was approved as a ‘Public Association of the Faithful’.
May 30, 1993: The community was approved with the status of Federation of the Verbum Dei Ecclesial Fraternity.
April 15, 2000: The Holy See approved all the three branches with the structure of one sole institute, thereby safeguarding its unity. Hence, Verbum Dei was pontifically approved with its three branches as one Fraternity of Consecrated Life. The innovative category of New Forms of Consecrated Life at the Institute for Consecrated Life at the Holy Sees was applied to the VDMF.
June 25, 2017: Rev. Jaime Bonet the founder of the Verbum Dei dies.
January 17, 2023: Verbum Dei celebrates the 60th anniversary of its founding