Saint Arnold Janssen founded the Society of the Divine Word (Societas Verbi Divini or SVD) in Steyl, Holland, in 1875.  Today there are over 6,000 Divine Word Missionaries working in more than 70 countries throughout the world.  Divine Word priests and Brothers may teach school in a remote area of Papua New Guinea, bring the sacraments to residents of a small village in the mountains of Mexico, help communities in Ghana obtain fresh water or work with the elderly in a parish in the hills of West Virginia.

The Society of the Divine Word established Divine Word Seminary, a four-year liberal arts college in 1912 at Techny, Illinois.

In 1931, the Society purchased property in Epworth, Iowa, and established St. Paul's Mission House, an SVD high school seminary.  In the early 1960s, the Society replaced St. Paul's Mission House with Divine Word College.  Since its dedication in 1964, Divine Word College has served as the principal site of SVD undergraduate seminary education in the United States.

During their final semester of undergraduate studies at Divine Word College, those young men who choose to continue their vocational journey with the SVD may apply for the Society's one-year novitiate program at the Chicago Province Headquarters in Techny, Illinois.  Near the end of their novitiate experience, the men may apply to profess first vows as members of the Society.