Society of the Divine Word

Techny Towers Conference & Retreat Center is owned and operated by the Society of the Divine Word, an order of 6,000 Catholic missionary priests and Brothers who serve the poor in 67 countries. The abbreviation for our name, SVD, comes from the Latin Societas Verbi Divini. We are popularly known as Divine Word Missionaries.

The Society of the Divine Word was founded in 1875 in Holland by Father Arnold Janssen. Some brothers emigrated to Shermerville (now Northbrook) in 1897 and purchased Russell Farm in 1899. In addition to farming, the brothers were extremely skilled in the building trades. By 1901, they established St. Joseph Technical School, the source of Techny’s name.

Techny is home to Society of the Divine Word’s Chicago Province governing personnel, as well as the SVD’s Mission Office responsible for missionaries outside of the U.S. Techny is also home to Techny Towers Conference & Retreat Center.

The Society of the Divine Word owned over 700 acres of land, known as Techny, until the late 1980s when it realized that farming was no longer feasible. In 1988 the Society decided to annex its land to Northbrook in exchange for police protection and access to water. Some land was sold for residential development, and 42.23 acres of land was donated to the park district. Earlier, 168.75 acres had been made available for a sanitary waste facility.

In 1989, the Society and the Village of Northbrook formally agreed that the village would annex all of the Society’s land, with the exception of approximately 157 acres east of Waukegan Road, which is reserved for the Society’s use. This section remains Techny with its own post office and zip code.

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