HISTORY OF THE CONGREGATION
THE FOUNDATION (1849-1858)
Historical Background of the Foundation of the Institute
The XIX century saw the birth of Saint Anthony Mary Claret and, with him, all of his immense work. Spain was immersed in political wars caused by the liberal and traditionalist parties. When the last Carlist groups had been crushed and the political upheaval had subsided, Fr. Claret decided to found his favourite work: the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The adverse laws of the liberal governments of Spain and the suppression of the religious orders had dismantled the traditional forms of evangelisation and the scarcity of preachers was a great challenge.
The Great Work
The idea of the foundation was not based on illusions; its realisation came from way back, and was born out of his zeal for the salvation of souls. Before the foundation, Fr. Claret had already offered himself to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in order to go and preach in non-Christian territories and he had exclaimed: “I thirst, I long to shed all my blood for the sake of Jesus Christ.”
He had earlier tried to create a Missionary Centre in Sallent in 1839, a “Fraternity of Mary of the Rosary” in San Juan de Oló in 1842, an “Apostolic Fraternity” in Vic in 1846, a “Fraternity of Jesus and Mary” in the Canaries in 1848. But toward three in the afternoon of 16 July 1849, Fr. Claret convoked in the Seminary of Vic Frs. Stephen Sala, Joseph Xifré, Dominic Fábregas, Manuel Vilaró and Jaime Clotet, some of whom did not know each other. He wanted to found a congregation of priests who would both be, and be called “Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
He had already talked with them about the foundation. That sixteenth of July, when each of them had settled in his respective room, “with his own bed, table, chair, washstand and oil lamp,” they started the spiritual exercises in the process of which the Congregation would be founded. “At three o’clock we were all gathered in the above mentioned place of the Seminary. Before we started the inauguration exercises Fr. Claret said: TODAY A GREAT WORK BEGINS. Fr. Manuel Vilaró answered, with a festive mood and a smile: What can we do, so young and so few? You will see, Fr. Claret replied; if we are few and young, so much the more will the power and mercy of God shine” (These are words taken down by Fr. Clotet). After the spiritual exercises, Fr. Claret was chosen as Superior.
The Congregation Is Born
Obviously Fr. Claret did not found a religious congregation of solemn vows, or simple vows either, since none of them pronounced any vow that day. This was a congregation of Diocesan Priests who started a new lifestyle, a community life, free from any diocesan commitment that would tie them down to any concrete place or ecclesiastical benefice. In this way, they could fully devote themselves to the preaching of the Word, especially by means of Popular Missions, Spiritual Exercises and catechesis.
One Year with the Founder
Shortly after the foundation, on August 5, the first big trial came: Fr. Claret was appointed Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba. In spite of this, Fr. Claret intensely devoted the time previous to his consecration to the formation of the members of the first missionary community. It could be said that this was the noviciate year of the Congregation. Their occupations were: mental and vocal prayer, divine office, conferences about catechising, preaching, hearing confessions, moral, mystical and ascetical theology… In the words of Fr. Claret, “In this college we live in community a truly poor and apostolic life.” He wanted his missionaries to be itinerant in the fashion of the Apostles; he did not even want them to engage themselves in public worship or the confessions in the Church of La Merced. For these tasks, he counted on two priests, his friends. When he departed for Cuba, he left Fr. Stephen Sala as Superior and Frs. Bernard Sala and Dominic Fábregas as consultors.
The Communities of Vic and Cuba
With the departure of the Founder, the community of Vic stagnated in its growth. Fr. Stephen Sala did not devote himself exclusively to the newly founded Institute. The Missionaries engaged themselves basically in giving Popular Missions and Spiritual Exercises and in the publication of pamphlets and leaflets.
By this time they were already staying in the convent of La Merced. The new revolution of 1854 plunged the Institute in greater difficulties yet. That year they worked among the cholera patients and dedicated themselves preferably to giving retreats and to the direction of the Carmelite Sisters of Charity.
Meanwhile, the Congregation lived a latent life in Cuba, around Fr. Claret, with different characteristics, but with the same rules and spirit. He had brought with him Fr. Manuel Vilaró, cofounder. On May 26, 1857, Fr. Claret was appointed confessor to Queen Isabel II.
Death of Fr. Stephen Sala
When the Founder was already in Madrid, Fr. Stephen Sala died on April 18, 1858. Shortly before, on June 27, 1857, the Constitutions of the Institute had been published with the bishop’s approval. At the death of Fr. Sala, the Congregation had one house, twelve priests and three helping brothers.
CONSTITUTION OF THE INSTITUTE (1858-1870)
Election and First Actuations of Fr. Xifré
After the death of Fr. Stephen Sala, they went on to elect the person who would become the Superior General of the Institute. The election fell on Fr. Joseph Xifré. He was not slow in taking the first steps in the government of the Congregation that had been entrusted to him. As early as 1859 he gathered in Vic the first General Meeting of the Congregation, convoked and presided over by the Founder. This General Meeting is considered as the first General Chapter.
Subsequently there were two General Chapters that were transcendental for the Congregation, because they dealt with the definitive drafting and approval of the Constitutions. The first one took place in 1862 and the second in 1864. Fr. Claret was also present in both.
The First Spiritual Directory
Our Fr. Founder published this Directory in 1858. It had seven sections: examination on the Constitutions for the recollection day; suffrage for those who are travelling; itinerary; practical way for starting and ending the mission; eight formulas for as many blessings; prayers for those who return from a trip, for the sick and for thanksgiving; and meditation on death for the recollection day.
Noviciate and Scholasticate in Vic
In 1861 the Noviciate for Priests and Brothers was established. The students that began to flow posed a problem of difficult solution. Fr. Xifré took the first steps to solve some of these problems of the Noviciate and Scholasticate, mainly that of admission of young students. Fr. Claret always viewed the Noviciate and Scholasticate of Vic with fondness and sympathy. In 1862 he even wrote the “Reglamento” or Regulations that became a part of the Constitutions with some variations. That same year Fr. Xifré wrote an “Instruction,” that was considered as the first document on vocational promotion in the Congregation.
Mission House of Vic
The Mission House of Vic was the main house of the Institute. It was used as retreat house for clergy and laity, and as residence. Although at the beginning they did not handle any church, later on they did accept one: the church of La Merced.
Foundation in Gracia
With the foundation of Gracia (Barcelona), the expansion aspirations of both the Founder and Fr. Xifré began to take shape. The house of Gracia that was about to be founded was an isolated building. Towards the end of 1858 the foundation was already accepted in principle, but couldn’t quite be finalised because the promised funds for the work to be done did not come very punctually. Later on, thanks to the steps taken by Fr. Claret, they were able to obtain three thousand “duros” and, later, the rest. On January 23, 1860 Fr. Clotet and two Coadjutor Brothers moved into the building and took charge of the house.
Foundation in Segovia
The mission house of Gracia could not satisfy the yearnings of Fr. Claret and Fr. Xifré. It was necessary to expand. The Founder wanted to have one house in each diocese. It was he who initiated and directed the steps towards the foundation of Segovia, at the request of Bishop Friar Rodrigo Echevarría y Briones. It was established in the church of St. Andrew and officially founded on November 22, 1861. Later on it moved to St. Gabriel, the convent-church of the “alcantarinos.” Thus began the foundation in the Castilian region. The first persons assigned to Segovia were Fr. Clement Serrat as Superior, Fr. Francis Crusats and Bro. Joseph Saladich. Shortly after, Frs. Dominic Fábregas and Antony Vilaseca joined them.
The Founder with his Missionaries
Fr. Claret was still present in his Institute in spite of his many duties as archbishop and royal confessor. He visited the houses of Vic and Gracia in 1659, 1860, 1862, 1864; and that of Segovia during his summer stay in La Granja with the Queen. During these visits he lived with the missionaries as one of them. In 1865 he stayed with them in Vic for three months and gave them spiritual exercises. He did the same in the house of Gracia. In these exercises he prophesied that the Congregation would have a martyr: this would be Fr. Crusats. He also exerted efforts to have some members of the Institute stay with him in Madrid, like Frs. Vilar and Puig and Bros. Saladich and Calvo.
Fr. Xifré ordered our Fr. Founder, by virtue of obedience, to write the Autobiography in order to contribute to the formation of new apostles. He wrote it in Madrid and submitted it personally to Fr. Xifré during a trip he made to Vic in 1862. The so-called Autobiography was not published until 1915 in the first volume of Archivo Histórico de la Congregación (‘Historical Archive of the Congregation’). Its reading was reserved to the more mature priests of the Congregation, because it included some delicate stories intended to give orientation in the direction of souls and in the confessional. Its reading was not brought into general use until 1951 when an expurgated edition was made. Today we can consider the Autobiography as the true Programmatic Letter of the Congregation and a source of inspiration for all Claretian missionaries. The original autograph is kept in the Claretian Archive in Rome.
The Pattern of the Missionary
Although the obligations of his office did not allow him normally to live with the missionaries, he was always near. For this reason, in 1861 he sent from Madrid to Fr. Xifré a most valuable document: the Pattern or pen-portrait of the missionary, which is a true gem of Christian spirituality. This document was well known and transcribed in multiple occasions by the first missionaries. Condensed in it is the life ideal that the Founder sought for himself and wanted to transmit to his sons. For this reason it has been included in the present text of the Constitutions. Here is the text of one of the two drafts that still exist and he left written in the Autobiography: “I tell myself: A Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a man on fire with love, who spreads its flames wherever he goes. He desires mightily and strives by all means possible to set the whole world on fire with God’s love. Nothing daunts him; he delights in privations, welcomes work, embraces sacrifices, smiles at slander, and rejoices in suffering. His only concern is how he can best follow Jesus Christ and imitate Him in working, suffering, and striving constantly and solely for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.”
The Consoling Promise
This type of promises is not exclusive of this Congregation. It is the third of the three statements that have been traditionally picked up from the prophecy of our Founder: the expansion throughout the whole world, the permanence until the end of times and the promise of salvation for all those who die in the Congregation. Fr. Xifré made it known in a circular letter of 1897 and it was later taken up by other publications, such as those of Frs. Cepeda and Ribera, but it was never taken as an official teaching of the Congregation.
“The Spirit of the Congregation”
This book was written by Fr. Joseph Xifré in 1867. We can say that this work inspired the live of many Claretians in the beginnings, because of the scant knowledge of the works of the Founder. “The Spirit of the Congregation” is a small book in three parts: the first part contains the means for one’s own salvation; the second, regulations to give Missions and Retreats successfully; and the third, various notes and useful preaching materials for the missionaries. His project was approved by the Founder.
Soon foundations were made in Huesca (1864), Jaca /1867) and La Selva del Camp (1868), and there were offerings for other foundations: Astorga, Valencia, Cadiz, Compostela, Zaragoza.
The Missionaries in the Missions
The only ideal of the first missionaries were popular missions and spiritual exercises. Later on, this ideal would extend to other ministries like confessions, direction of seminaries, teaching.
The Founder was the first missionary and, from the beginning, the missions were very successful. Like Fr. Xifré, the local Superiors dedicated themselves also to the missions.
The Missionaries at Home
The life of the missionaries was ruled by the Constitutions, the Directory and the Director. The Constitutions and the Directory had been written by the Founder, and the Director was the work of Fr. Clotet, dedicated to the Brothers.
Life at home was quite regulated from the outset. They rose at four in the morning and, after one hour of personal meditation, the Mass was celebrated. There was an obligatory conference on morals, examen and noon meal at 12:15, during which there was some reading. In the afternoon, after prayers, there was another conference on preaching and a stroll. On returning, there was a conference on mystical theology, supper, a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and recreation until a quarter to ten when they retired to rest. But, although everything was regulated, the family spirit, which was the ideal of the Founder, could always be felt.
Oath of Permanence, Consecration and Vows
After the General Chapter of 1862, the noviciate, the oath of permanence, the consecration and the vows were adopted, and the students were accepted as a new class of members in the Congregation. In 1865 the formula of religious profession was confirmed and the door was opened for all the members of the Congregation to make it. Fr. Claret himself made the profession at the end of his life on October 8, 1870 in Fontfroide, at the hands of Fr. Xifré.
Civil and Canonical Approval of the Institute
The civil approval of the Institute was necessary in order to insure its future in Spain and was soon obtained, on July 9, 1859. The canonical approval was obtained in 1860. It was Pope Pius IX who gave the definitive approval of the Institute when he approved “ad experimentum” the Constitutions on 22 December 1865.
Drafting and Final Approval of the Constitutions
The origin of the Constitutions is found in some first norms drafted by our Fr. Founder in 1849 for the first community. No copy is left of these first Constitutions. In 1857, when Fr. Claret had been newly installed in Madrid, in order to obtain the civil approval of the Congregation, he dedicated himself, together with Fr. Stephen Sala, to the actualisation of the Constitutions. These are the first Constitutions that we know today. In 1862 an appendix was added with 29 corrections to the previous text. In the text of 1865, the order and the structure are maintained, and the chapters on formation are added. This was the text approved by Pius IX “ad experimentum” that year, and definitely on February 11, 1870.
The Revolution of 1868
On those stormy days the communities went through particularly tragic moments. The house of Jaca definitively ceased to exist, painfully and without glory. The community of Vic was dispersed and, although Fr. Hilarius Brossosa bravely maintained that of Huesca, a general discouragement prevailed. In Segovia the missionaries were expelled from the province and went to the dioceses of Valladolid and Avila. Some priests abandoned the Congregation while the national Government civilly suppressed the Institute on October 18, 1868. The house of La Selva was assaulted and the Congregation could offer there its first martyr, Fr. Francis Crusats, newly arrived from Segovia.
Dodging the Storm
Fr. Xifré had to cross the Pyrenees, not by an exclusive personal decision, but in order to look for some house in France where he could gather the dispersed members. It was not an easy task, but after many efforts and after a short time in Perpignan, he found in the small town of Prades a small house to let. With the foundation of this house on February 2, 1869, that small enclosure in the exile became the centre and heart of the Institute.
Foundation in Algiers
The preoccupations of Fr. Xifré were about expansion, taking into consideration the circumstances and the growth of the members of the Congregation. The first foundation was in Algiers, a territory under France. Invited by Msgr. Lavigerie on October 4, 1869, Frs. Alibés, Quintana, Bech and Bro. Philip Gómez left for that territory. The missionaries found many difficulties there: lack of work, hostile ambience, even on the part of the Prelate, a very impulsive man who very easily hurled excommunications: even the missionaries themselves were not exempt from them. Although the Procurator of the Republic in Algeria protected them, things were becoming ever more critical, even in the economic aspect, and they abandoned the foundation in 1888.
The First Foundations of America in Chile
This foundation as well as that of Algiers had been done with the approval of the Founder. It was a proposal of the priest Santiago de la Peña, who had constructed a chapel and wanted to keep alive the worship there. On December 13, 1869, the first missionaries departed for Santiago de Chile. In charge was Fr. Paul Vallier. They found great hostility among the people and, one week after their arrival, they had to move to another residence. Fr. Xifré visited them as soon as they were established. He made no less than three visits to the missionaries of Chile. Fr. Vallier expanded the Congregation in Chile by opening a new foundation in La Serena in 1873. In 1876 he was appointed Visitor.
Foundation in Barbastro
Fr. Diego Gavín explained to Fr. General the convenience of establishing a foundation in Barbastro. Once the old house of Jaca was abandoned, and after taking the opportune steps in Barbastro, the house was founded in the year 1869. This house would later become an example for the entire Congregation, because of its numerous martyrs during the Spanish civil war in the year 1936. There also the first church dedicated to the Heart of Mary in Spain was built. The admission of some children and young adolescents in this house was also the beginning of the schools for postulants in the Congregation. Fr. Xifré wrote the first “Reglamento” or Regulations for them in 1876.
Last Days and Death of our Founder
Our Founder arrived to the house of Prades on 23 July 1870. That was an oasis of joy in the midst of his sufferings. Prophetically he saw the Congregation spread throughout the whole world and he sensed that his death was already at the door. But soon, on August 6, he had to leave his own children and go into exile in the Cistercian monastery of Fontfroide, near Narbonne.
After several days of terrible uncertainty and of slow and painful agony, Fr. Claret gave up his spirit to God in the said monastery on 24 October 1870.
Providentially the Founder was the first one to die after the definitive approval of the Institute with the official profession of vows, and after he himself made such profession.
FIRST GREAT EXPANSION (1870-1899)
The Congregation in France
Fathers, students and novices were together in the house of Prades. They lived there in straitened circumstances and there too persecution arrived. But soon after, in May of 1871, thanks to Fr. Clotet, a house was founded in Thuir. The Noviciate house was established there and it became at the same time the quarters of the General Government. Fr. Clotet acted as Superior, and Fr. Clement Serrat as Novice Master. Soon the number of students and priests increased. In ten years it went from 100 to 400. Frs. Gavín and Genover, two great missionaries, were there, while Fr. Bech took care of recruiting new vocations in Spain.
The community of Thuir devoted itself mainly to formation, but it also worked giving missions in that region, and learning to adjust themselves to France. This community lasted until October 26, 1880. On that day, because of a French law by which all Congregations that were not approved had to leave the country, the Secretary General went to the house with some policemen to inform the missionaries that they had just a few days to abandon the building.
Restoration in Spain
On October 5, 1875 the copy of the Royal Order by which they could return to their former possessions in Spain arrived in Thuir, sent by Fr. Xifré. Alfonso XII had already entered Madrid. The houses of Vic, Segovia and La Selva were recovered. Those who went to La Selva soon founded in Tarragona, where the Congregation had already been since1872, but had been compelled to quit. The houses of Gracia and Huesca were also recovered.
In 1876 the IV General Chapter was celebrated in Gracia; Fr. Xifré was reelected General, as were also the same assistants, Fr. Clotet as Subdirector and Frs. Serrat, Font and Solá as consultors.
First Foundations in Spain after the Restoration
There were new foundations in Alfaro and Alagón (1875), Solsona and Calahorra (1878) and Pamplona (1880). Fr. Antony Pueyo, future bishop of Pasto (Colombia), was sent to Cordoba to make the first foundation in the South of Spain on 3 September 1876.
Foundation in Madrid
Fr. Antony Solá was entrusted with the foundation in Madrid in 1877, in Toledo Street, n. 42. There was great interest on the part of Fr. General in this foundation in the capital of Spain; this was important to facilitate the transaction of all affairs with the National Government. Fr. Mata succeeded Fr. Solá and, for 20 years, he carried out with great success works in Madrid such as “Iris de Paz” and “Annales” of the Congregation. Frs. Postíus and Dueso worked tirelessly in this house.
Disastrous Foundation in Cuba (1879)
This was an offer by the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba. It had always been a dream of the missionaries to be able to continue the work of the Founder in that diocese. Fr. Xifré sent the first expedition in May, with Fr. Manent in charge. Everything started well, but tragedy soon struck. A few months after their arrival, three members of the expedition fell in three days, victims of the yellow fever. Two weeks later, two more died. In view of this, Fr. Solá was greatly discouraged. When Fr. Xifré ordered Fr. Solá to return to the peninsula, telegrams were crossed: one with this message: “Solá, Sassoliver, Pérez, dead. Xuriach critical: quid? Urgent. Manent.” Fr. Xifré’s answer was: “Come first ship. Xifré.” Of the 6 Priests and 5 Brothers only two remained alive: Fr. Manent and Bro. Sesé. The reaction was a shower of voluntary offerings from the whole Congregation to go to Cuba.
The Missions of the Gulf of Guinea
This Vicariate had been under the care of the Jesuits since 1858. In 1868 the subsidy was withdrawn from them and they left definitely in 1872. Things did not go well in that mission until, finally, in 1882 Fr. Xifré was invited to assume it. By accepting the mission, the Congregation obtained also the exemption from military service on behalf of the young missionaries in formation, something Fr. Xifré longed for. The first expedition of 10 voluntary missionaries was sent in 1883. Fr. Ciriaco Ramírez went as Apostolic Prefect. The history of this mission is completed in the chapter on Missions.
Foundation in Rome
To have a foundation in Rome was the dream of any Institute with aspirations of expansion and agility in its transactions. They started in 1884 with the direction of the Spanish College of Rome that would later be transferred to Via Giulia and become the Hispanic-Roman seminary.
At the same time two more houses were founded in Spoleto: the Fosco and San Félix. They were founded by Fr. Antony Naval, but were soon suppressed.
Foundation in Mexico
The idea of having a foundation in Mexico had already crossed the mind of Fr. Claret when he was in Rome on the occasion of the Council. But he was not very enthusiastic, due to the political situation. Not until 1883, when the situation improved, could they seriously discuss the matter. A canon, nephew of the Archbishop of Mexico City, approached Fr. Xifré in Barcelona and suggested this foundation. It was accepted, and Fr. Dominic Solá was tasked with its realisation. He arrived there on 15 November. Toluca was the city chosen to begin the Claretian presence in Mexico. On August 3, 1884 they took possession of the church and the house and soon after a school was erected.
In 1887 the house of Jesús María would be founded in the Mexican capital and in 1892 that of San Hipólito.
Two Providential Foundations: Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Cervera
The church and the University-College of the Franciscans were the basis of the foundation of Santo Domingo in 1885. It was the first great house of studies of the Congregation in Spain. All the theologians from Gracia moved there and the noviciate was transferred there as well. Fr. Isaac Burgos took part in this foundation. Its first Superior was Fr. Serrat. Fr. Vallier, newly arrived from Chile was the novicemaster. Some conditions had been imposed upon the authorities: they should repair the building. Since these conditions were not complied with, Fr. Xifré ordered the community to abandon Santo Domingo but, through the intervention of Fr. Philip Amigo, a priest of the city, things were arranged and the order of transfer was revoked. Soon the hospital and the schools were constructed. The community continued increasing and the new installations were also occupied.
The initial difficulties in Santo Domingo and the increase of the number of formandi in the Congregation compelled the Superiors to accept in 1887 the providential offer of occupying the grandiose building of the former University of Cervera, bigger yet than the building of Santo Domingo. Fr. Mulleras was the first Superior, followed by Fr. Antony Naval. Soon the work began and the Noviciate and Scholasticate for the philosophy students were opened.
Other Foundations in Spain until the General Chapter of 1888
In the year 1881 a foundation was opened in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Fr. Joseph Prim, eminent missionary of those islands, carried out this foundation. Fr. Hilarius Brossosa would consolidate the work.
On July 14, 1881 the house of Zafra was founded, with Fr. Genover in charge.
In 1882 Valmaseda was founded, although it had a population of only 2,500 inhabitants. Tarragona followed in 1883.
The bishop of Lérida insistently requested a foundation in his diocese. In 1885 Fr. Peter Mulleras arrived with the task of organising the foundation, at a time when the cholera was scourging the city.
Jaén was also founded at the request of its bishop in 1885.
In 1886 the foundation of Bilbao took place, with Fr. Diego Gavín as Superior.
Plasencia was an advantageous foundation that was also realised with the help of the bishop. Fr. Navarro took possession of it in 1886.
First Study Houses
When the Spanish civil authorities in 1885 gave the Congregation authorisation to teach, there were already schools in Segovia (1884), Toluca (1884), Gracia (1885) and in the following years, more were created in other houses such as Zafra (1886), Alfaro, Calatayud, Rioseco, Las Palmas, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, etc. Our Fr. Founder had thought of the Brothers to carry out this ministry, but Fr. Xifré thought it more convenient to assign priests also.
On 20 November 1885 the General Government published the first number of the “Boletín Religioso de la Congregación” that would later be called “Annales Congregationis.” Its aim was to inform about everything that happened in the Congregation, but also to fill up the void caused by the prohibition of the habitual reading of dailies and newspapers. To this end, it published a selection of the most important news of the whole world.
Cordis Mariae Filius (CMF)
The primitive practice offered a great variety of abbreviations to be used at the end of the signature of the Claretian Missionaries: Pbro., Mro., P. Del C. De Mª., del I.C. de Mª. The present abbreviation cmf started to be used toward 1878. It began to spread until 1887 when Fr. Xifré gave this disposition in the Boletín Religioso: “everyone should attach to his name the initials C.M.F. (Cordis Mariae Filius), since this is the true distinguishing mark by which we, the members of the Congregation, are honoured.”
V General Chapter and New Foundations
In 1888 the V General Chapter was celebrated in Madrid, from June 8 to 17. During this Chapter, Fr. Joseph Xifré was re-elected General of the Congregation. At that moment the Institute had 3 Visitorships, Chile, Fernando Póo and Mexico. Previous dispositions were revised and primary and secondary education were adopted.
During these years, the following foundations were made: Almendralejo (1889), Don Benito (1893), Calatayud (1894), Ciudad Rodrigo, Medina de Rioseco and Valladolid (1894), Écija and Ciudad Real (1895).
Iris de Paz
In 1889 the future “Iris de Paz” or “El Inmaculado Corazón de María” was born in Bilbao. At the beginning it was called “Boletín del Corazón de María.” It was the Congregation’s first own and exclusive publication. It was to be the non-official organ of the Congregation (the official one was Annales). Its first director was Fr. Diego Gavín. From the very outset it was liked, although Fr. Xifré had some reservations. Soon the work exceeded the possibilities of Fr. Gavín, and in 1891 Fr. Joseph Mata was appointed director and the magazine was transferred to Madrid. In 1892 it began to be called “Iris de Paz.” In 1897 its format was enlarged and it became fortnightly. From this magazine would later on split away another no less important one in the history of the Congregation: “Ilustración del Clero.”
Chronicle of the Congregation
Fr. Xifré started to write this historical Chronicle of the Congregation on 13 January 1893, aboard the British vessel Mendoza, during a trip from Panama to Guayaquil, across the Pacific. When it was finished is not known. The manuscript is kept in the General Archives of the Congregation in Rome and was first edited in Annales of 1915.
Division in Provinces: Catalonia and Castile
In 1895 the VI General Chapter was celebrated in Cervera (September 3-16). During this extraordinary Chapter the Institute was divided in two Provinces: Catalonia and Castile. But Fr. Xifré continued personally intervening in everything.
The Province of Catalonia comprised Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia and Murcia; the Balearic and Canary Islands; USA, Mexico and other Republics of Central America. Fr. Felix Alexander Cepeda, Chilean, was elected first Provincial Superior. The first foundations of the Province were Sta. Cruz de Tenerife (1896), Sabadell (1899) and Olesa de Montserrat (1899).
The Province of Castile comprised the two former Castiles, Estremadura, Andalusia, Leon, Navarra, Galicia, Asturias, the Basque country and the South American Republics. Fr. Isaac Burgos was elected first Provincial Superior. The first foundations of the Province were Aranda de Duero (1897) and Aldeia da Ponte, first foundation in Portugal (1898), which disappeared immediately after the persecutions of 1901.
Creation of Visitorships
Soon it was obvious that there was a need of creating some Visitorships, since they could not be made into Provinces, due to scarcity of personnel.
Through the Visitorship of Guinea two new Apostolic Prefects passed after Fr. Ramírez: first, Fr. Vall-Llovera (1888) who died one and a half year later, of a gangrenous sickness. Shortly after, came Fr. Armengol Coll, a great missionary that would later be appointed Apostolic Vicar.
In the Chapter of 1895 the Visitorships of America were created, although they remained dependent from the new Provinces of Spain. That of Mexico, from Catalonia; and those of Chile and Brazil, from Castile.
As regards the Visitorship of Chile, there had already been two foundations in Valparaiso and Curicó (both in 1880). In 1895 the house of Linares was founded.
In the Visitorship of Brazil, after the campaign of Fr. Raymond Genover and nine other missionaries, the foundations of São Paulo and Campinas were established (1899). In São Paulo the results of the foundation were surprising. Fr. Eusebio Sacristán presided over the foundation. Among the members of this community was Fr. Francis Ozamis, future bishop of San José de Tocantins.
In charge of the North American Visitorship, which comprised Mexico and USA, was Fr. Dominic Solá (1888) until Fr. John Melé was appointed (1889). The foundations of Guanajuato (1895), Leon (1895), Puebla (1896) and Orizaba (1900) were also established.
The Magazine Ave Maria
A Brazilian Catholic, Mr. Tiburtino Martín, very devout of the Blessed Virgin, founded in 1898 the magazine “Ave Maria.” It would not have lasted long, had not the Claretian missionaries, newly arrived in São Paulo, taken charge of it the following year. The growth of the magazine was spectacular. In 1908 it was already the Catholic magazine with the largest number of subscribers of the whole of Brazil. After more than one century of existence, it has become a great editorial emporium, basically focusing on the spreading of the Holy Bible.
Situation of the Institute at the End of this Period
Fr. Clotet represented the tendency to the establishment of Provinces in the Congregation, out of fidelity to the Constitutions. Fr. Xifré, on the contrary, was in favour of a more centralised Congregation. The Chapter of 1888 had posed the question and the formation of Provinces was rejected. However, during the extraordinary General Chapter of 1895 the theme was taken up again, and the result was a unanimous decision in favour of the division into two Provinces: Catalonia and Castile.
At any rate, the powers of the Provincials were not clearly defined. There was a new extraordinary General Chapter in 1896, but the situation was not clarified either. By that time, Fr. Dominic Fábregas had already died (1895) and Fr. Jaime Clotet had just died (1896).
The Provincials, in turn, especially Fr. Isaac Burgos, began to prepare with sufficient time the Ordinary Chapter of 1900. They were trying to obtain the decentralisation of the government in the Institute. But Fr. Xifré died on November 3, 1899, after having ruled the Congregation for 41 years. His was an immense work. He received the Congregation with one house and 10 persons and, at the moment of his death, it had 61 houses and 1,368 persons.
GENERALATE OF FR. CLEMENT SERRAT (1899-1906)
The Congregation without Fr. Xifré
Immediately after the death of Fr. Xifré, the VIII General Chapter was celebrated in Vic from December 19 to 27, 1899. Fr. Clement Serrat was elected Superior General, with the prestigious Frs. Martin Alsina and Francis Naval as companions. Neither in this Chapter nor in the subsequent Provincial Chapters of Catalonia and Castile were they able to advance in the consolidation of the provinces. Their fruits however were not long in coming and, in 1901, the decree of constitution of the two noviciates of Vic and Segovia was promulgated. Also, beginning this year, the American Visitorships became dependent from the Provinces: those of South America (Chile, Argentina and Brazil) from Castile and that of Mexico from Catalonia.
During this period, the Congregation continued its progress toward the consolidation, without neglecting the establishment of new foundation. We could say that its history became more complex because the two Provinces followed separate ways.
In 1900 the first Disposiciones Generales are published. They are an organic and systematic compilation of the general norms of the Congregation, emanated from the General Chapters. In addition to insuring observance, they give the Institute its own face and character, like its own distinctive seal. They were updated in 1905, 1906 and 1912.
Andacollo (Chile), First Parish
In the year 1900 a house was founded in Andacollo at the request of the Bishop of La Serena. The first contract was provisional, till they could see how this foundation developed, considering that the permanent attention to the Marian Shrine and to a vast rural zone was not very adequate to the ministry so far performed by the missionaries. Soon the efficacy of their work and the necessity of not depending on the pastor of La Serena became evident. Thus the creation of the first parish of the Congregation was requested and easily obtained.
First History of the Congregation (1901)
Fr. Mariano Aguilar, who had already published the Vida Admirable del P. Claret, prepared the first Historia de la Congregación, which did not satisfy everyone, because it showed “a not sufficiently generous and ample concept of the nature and demands of History.”
The Religious Vocation
In 1902, on his birthday, Fr. Serrat published a beautiful circular to the Congregation entitled La Vocación Religiosa, through which he wanted to stimulate in everyone feelings of gratitude, by reminding them of the gift of divine vocation. At the same time he invited to fidelity and the imitation of the Master by three means: humility and meekness, two typical virtues of a Claretian missionary, patient charity, avoiding harshness and severity, and unity.
The Mission of Guinea in this Period
Thanks to a Decree of the Ministry of State of 1902, which imposed the presentation of a yearly Report of the Spanish possessions in Africa, we have abundant information from Fr. Coll. In 1903 too, the publication of the fortnightly Claretian magazine “La Guinea Española” began, with the aim of “commenting on the religious, material and moral interests of the Gulf of Guinea.”
The Provinces of Catalonia and Castile
Fr. Cepeda was re-elected Provincial of Catalonia in the provincial chapter of 1901. Soon difficulties began to arise that led him to resign from his office in 1902. Fr. Francis Cases was appointed to take his place. In this period the Province of Catalonia made only one foundation in Cartagena (1906).
The Provincial Chapter had re-elected the Provincial Government en bloc, with Fr. Burgos as Superior, who was leading the Province with determination. The quarters of the Government were established in Segovia. In 1902 the Province founded the house of Zamora as a result of a Retreat preached by Frs. Dominic Solá and Edward Gómez. One of the first to be assigned to this house was Fr. Nicholas García, future General of the Congregation. In 1904 the houses of Jerez de los Caballeros and Gibraltar were founded.
In Portugal where Aldeia da Ponte was the only existing foundation, the Province of Castile founded during these years the houses of Fraga (1903) and Lisbon (1905).
Progress of the Visitorships
The Visitorships of Chile, Argentina-Brazil and Mexico continued as such, in a growing process until the extraordinary General Chapter of 1904, when they were constituted as General Vicariates or Quasi-Provinces.
In that of Chile there was a great foundational activity in this period. There were foundations in Andacollo (1900), Temuco (1901), Coquimbo, Antofagasta and Talca (1903). The sowing was hard but the harvest was extraordinary, thanks to the tireless work of missionaries such as Fr. Thomas Sesé, stimulated by Fr. Raymond Genover, dependent Visitor from the Province of Castile to which this Visitorship belonged. It’s unavoidable to mention here Frs. Avellana and Soteras, extraordinary missionaries; the first died in the hospital of Carral in 1904 with the reputation of being a saint, and the second in La Serena in 1905.
The South American Visitorship grew during this period both in Argentina and in Brazil. In Argentina the first foundation was in Buenos Aires in 1901; then followed Tucumán (1902) Catamarca (1903) and Rosario (1904). The initiative originated also in Fr. Genover, Visitor of Castile, to which this Visitorship also belonged. The most salient figure in Argentina during this period was Fr. Zacharias Iglesias, coming from Chile. In Brazil a house was founded in Pouso Alegre (1901), also under the impulse of Fr. Genover. The first steps of this foundation were described by Fr. Ozamis.
Mexico, already made into a Vice-Province, founded in Monterrey (1904). The person in charge of carrying out this foundation was Fr. Raymond Prat, Vice-provincial Superior. There was also a foundation in Celaya (1905). During this period, Fr. Cepeda, again in Mexico, founded the magazine “La Esperanza.”
Foundation in the United States
As a result of the missions preached from Mexico in Texas and California, Fr. Raymond Prat carried out the foundation of San Antonio in 1902. First from the residence of the Bishop and later on from their own residence, they started their tireless missionary work throughout the entire region. At the same time they started to take the first steps toward the foundation in San Marcos, a small town of 2,000 inhabitants, about 200 kilometres from San Antonio.
IX Extraordinary General Chapter
In 1904 the IX extraordinary General Chapter was celebrated, in which it was granted that the Provinces should have their own Scholasticate, and the Central House of Studies was created for those who finished their career: it was called Año de Aranda. The three General Vicariates of Mexico, Chile and Argentina-Brazil were created and segregated from the Provinces of Spain, in addition to that of Fernando Póo. Shortly after, the latter was elevated to Vicariate, with the Most Rev. Fr. Armengol Coll as its first Vicar. He was also the first bishop of the Congregation after the Founder.
Creation of the Province of Betica
In this Chapter it was also decided to create the third Province of the Congregation, that of Betica. The resolution was implemented at the beginning of October of 1906, Fr. Cándido Catalán being appointed Provincial Superior. He fixed his residence in Zafra.
Statistics and Apostolate in this Period
During this period, the Congregation went from 1,368 Claretians in 1899 to 1,490 in 1907, with 84 houses, 24 more than at the death of Fr. Xifré. The principal ministry was still preaching, but without the exclusive attachment to missions and exercises. Other ministries, like parishes, were accepted, especially in America, where the first parish of the Congregation was established in Andacollo, Chile, in 1900. Secondary education was also accepted in both internal and external schools. In this period was also born a rudimentary publishing house (1903), seed of the future “Editorial del Corazón de María.” In the same way, publications like “La Guinea Española” or “El Misionero” (1903) spread throughout the whole Congregation.
FR. MARTIN ALSINA AND THE INCREASE OF THE CONGREGATION (1906-1922)
Death of Fr. Serrat and new Superior General
On January 6, 1906 Fr. Clement Serrat unexpectedly died in Segovia. The X General Chapter of the Congregation was convoked and celebrated in Aranda de Duero from June 5 to 17. In this Chapter Fr. Martin Alsina, till then Subdirector of the Institute, was elected as the new Superior General. The only novelty in the Government was the inclusion of Fr. Antony Naval, Francis’ brother. Until 1912, the quarters of the General Government would continue in Aranda de Duero.
The Revision of the Constitutions
As soon as the new government was elected, it began to work on the preparation of an improved text of the Constitutions. The new draft would be ready by April 1910, to be studied in the General Chapter of 1912.
The “divine pious motion”
In 1906 the new Fr. General wrote his first circular to the Congregation, entitled Remedies against Dissatisfaction in Religion. He had observed that dissatisfaction was one of the main evils that affected the missionaries and their vocational fidelity. As a remedy he proposed the “divine pious motion,” which was not a matter of intelligence but of will, of practical fidelity and dedication to one’s vocation. We could say that it was a call to joy and happiness.
The Quasi-Province of Chile
From 1905 to 1912 Chile was a Quasi-Province ad experimentum. In this period it had two Major Superiors: Fr. Thomas Sesé until 1909 and Fr. Anselm Santesteban until 1912. During the first mandate the new foundation of Ovalle (1907) was made. During the second, the orientation was changed and efforts were basically dedicated to the consolidation of the communities. However, the Congregation also expanded with new foundations in Bolivia (Cochabamba) and Peru (Lima), both in 1910; to these, that of Cocharcas (Peru) would be added in 1912.
The Quasi-Province of Argentina-Brazil
With Fr. Zacharias Iglesias at the helm, the Quasi-Province of Argentina-Brazil continued till 1908, when it was divided in two, in a climate of expansion. In Argentina foundations were made in Cordoba in 1906, in Tránsito in 1907 and in Bahía Blanca in 1908. Also in 1908 the first foundation was made in Uruguay, concretely in Montevideo. In Brazil the foundations of Curitiva (1906) and Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre (1907) were made.
In 1808 two independent Quasi-provinces were erected: Argentina-Uruguay and Brazil. In Argentina, Fr. Mariano Sahún was elected Major Superior in 1909. His priority concern was the consolidation of past foundations. However there were also new foundations in this period, like Goya (1911) and Mendoza (1912). In Brazil Fr. Joachim Bestué, from Lisbon, was elected Vice-Provincial Superior; he soon erected the foundations of Bahía (1909), Belo Horizonte and Livramento (1811).
The Visitorship of Mexico-North America
Fr. Raymond Prat continued as Vice-Provincial till the Provincial Chapter of 1909, when he was replaced by Fr. Felix A. Cepeda. During this period the houses of Querétaro (1908) and Tépic (1910) were founded and a push was given to the foundations in the United States: San Fernando (1907), San Gabriel (1908), San Antonio (1909) and Los Angeles (1910).
The Prefecture of Chocó
A series of circumstances made Fr. Martin Alsina decide to assume in 1909 the missions of Chocó, which would later give much glory to the Congregation. It was a vast territory with two provinces: San Juan and Atrato, with Istmina and Quibdó as capitals. Fr. John Gil, who was from Segovia and at the time Superior of Plasencia, was appointed first Apostolic Prefect. The first difficulties were immense and only men of untiring zeal could have been able to overcome them. Some of them however had to pay for the great effort with their own life, among them the Apostolic Prefect himself, who died shortly after drafting his first report. He was replaced with Fr. Francis Gutiérrez.
Soon they saw the need to found a community that would act as bridge and Procure for the mission, and Cartagena was selected for this purpose in 1909. The community of Bogotá was founded in 1912 with the same objectives. Here, at the request of the bishop, they assumed the responsibility of the Shrine of the National Vow to the Heart of Jesus, with Fr. Antony Pueyo, Consultor of the Province of Betica, in charge; later on, he would be appointed bishop of Pasto.
It would be impossible to describe all the works of the Missionaries in Equatorial Guinea in the course of time. But we cannot help stating here the names that will forever form part of this great Claretian epic: Batete-María Cristina, San Carlos, Musola, Concepción, Basilé, Banapá and Santa Isabel, as well as the islands of Corisco and Annobón. More important would be to consign here the names of those who gave up their life in this generous undertaking, but selecting just a few names would be unfair, and writing all of them up, too long. Let it suffice to say that all these efforts were somehow rewarded with the creation of the Seminary and the growth of the magazine “La Guinea Española.”
Missionary Expansion of the Congregation
During these years many expeditions were sent to America and Africa. The Congregation was fully missionary. The Propagation of the Faith assigned to it the missionary care of the Lower California, and the territories of Río de Oro in Africa. Many were the foundations, but many more were the offers received, which had to be rejected: The Prefecture of Arauca, the Apostolic Vicariate of Pará (Brazil), the Islands of Providence and of San Andrés…
Foundations in Spain and Portugal
The Congregation continued expanding in Spain: Seville (1906), result of the efforts of Fr. Pueyo, a man who greatly shone in the beginnings of the Betica Province. Cartagena (1906), San Fernando (1908), Berga (1909), Beire and Baltar (1910), El Ferrol, Salvatierra, Játiva…
In Portugal, however, the revolution in 1910 expelled all the missionaries; they would return however in 1920, this time to Freineda.
“Illustration of the clergy”
The section dedicated to priests in “El Iris de Paz” gained so much following that in 1906 it was deemed convenient to create a specific magazine for them, “Ilustración del Clero.” From the very beginning the acceptance was great both in Spain and in Latin America. Later on it would develop to become the present “Misión Abierta.”
The Mirror of the Postulant
This small directory for the postulants, which Fr. Alsina adopted for all the postulants of the Congregation, has neither an author’s name nor a date of publication. Through other sources we know that Fr. Raymond Ribera wrote it in Vic for the postulants of that centre in 1907. Several editions were made, and in 1962 it was adapted with the name of “Manual del Seminarista Claretiano [Manual of the Claretian Seminarian].”
Situation of the Congregation in 1912
In this year there were 112 houses in the whole Congregation, with a total of 1,633 professed members and 120 novices. Since the death of Fr. Xifré, the number of houses had almost doubled, but not the number of professed members who were 1,368 in 1899. The formation centres had been stabilised and there was already a Plan and Ordination of Studies. At last, the General and Provincial organisms had been consolidated.
Internal Events in the Institute
On April 28, 1912 the XI General Chapter of the Congregation began in Vic, and lasted till May 31. In it, Fr. Martin Alsina was again elected Superior General. In This Chapter the suppression of the general consultors for the provinces was requested, the Quasi-Provinces were definitively established, the regime of the Provinces was discussed, the coat of arms of the Congregation was changed and the abbreviated name of “missionaries” was adopted.
The following year the “General Dispositions” of the Chapter were published and the Constitutions were translated into Spanish.
Due to juridical and governmental requirements and interests, the General quarters were transferred from Aranda de Duero to Madrid in the year 1913.
First Foundations in Central Europe: England, Germany and France
In 1912, after untiring efforts of Fr. Raymond Genover, finally the foundation in London (Hayes) was effected, thanks to the zeal of Fr. Pueyo.
Very different was the road that led to the foundation in Trieste, city that belonged to the then Austrian-Hungarian Empire, which in turn led to the birth of the Congregation in Germany. In 1908, a young German youth had arrived from Italy to Spain, soliciting acceptance in the Congregation. He was admitted in the noviciate of Cervera. A “Memoria” about the Institute was drafted there and, translated into German, was sent to some German centres. The petitions were not slow in coming, and in 1912 there were no less than 22 German postulants. This precipitated the desire to found in Germany. The already experienced Fr. Genover was sent for this purpose and, after going through Germany and Austria, he ended up in Trieste, where the foundation was established in 1912.
In November of 1913, after long negotiations and preparations, a foundation was also started in Paris, a place with many Claretian echoes, due to the presence of the Founder there toward the end of his life.
The main political events that affected the Congregation in this period took place in Mexico and Europe. In 1914 the Carranza revolution triumphed, and the missionaries had to flee. This revolution provided the Congregation with the opportunity to offer the second martyr, Bro. Mariano González, who was shot in Toluca on August 22, 1914.
In Europe the First World War flared up, which only economically affected the Congregation.
Again in Cuba
In the year 1918 the Claretian missionaries established themselves anew in Cuba, but this time in Palma Soriano. By then, the memory of Fr. Claret had been quite lost, in spite of the fact that the Saint had visited that city twice, the second time accompanied by Blessed Stephen of Andoaín.
The main increase was in personnel. In 1922 the Congregation had 1,943 members (not counting the 834 postulants), among them 3 Bishops and one Apostolic Prefect. Till then, 2 Bishops, 388 Priests, 244 Students and 283 Brothers had died, or a total of 917. There were 10 Provinces and Vice-Provinces with 154 houses: Catalonia, Castile, Betica, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Guinea and USA.
FR. NICHOLAS GARCÍA’S FIRST MANDATE (1922-1934)
Main Internal Events
On March 2, 1922, after strenuous work for the good of the Congregation, Fr. Martin Alsina died in Zafra, leaving a wide, hope-filled prospect for the future. In October of the same year the XII General Chapter was celebrated in Vic. A new Superior General was elected in the person of Fr. Nicholas García, who would rule the Congregation for many years. In this General Chapter, the Constitutions were adapted to the new Canon Law that had just been promulgated in 1917, the observance of the Congregation was revised, the transfer of the General Quarters to Rome was recommended, and matters on liturgy, missions, seminaries, etc. were discussed.
In 1923 the Provinces of Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Guinea, Colombia and USA were created. On July 16, 1924 the Constitutions, adapted to the new Canon Law, were definitively approved and the CIA (Particular Law of the Congregation) was published. That year the Diamond Anniversary of the Congregation was celebrated and its prestige grew more and more among the bishops and the Roman Curia.
Mission to Russia
The Holy See organised in 1922 a charitable mission to bring material help to remedy, as much as possible, the hunger and its disastrous effects in Southern Russia. First, the Nuncio of His Holiness in Spain and, later, the Secretariat of State appealed to the Congregation asking for its co-operation and personnel for the Pontifical Mission. The Superiors, always eager to support the desires of the Holy See and thankful for the honour shown to the Congregation in asking it to participate in such important work, generously offered their resolute co-operation and presented to the Holy See Frs. Peter Voltas and Angel Elorz. They joined the Pontifical Mission and went to Russia where they heroically worked in helping those in need.
The International Votive Temple of Rome
On 15 July 1925 the construction work of the international votive temple was started in Rome, in the Parioli area. The idea of this grandiose monument came from Pope Pius XI who, in his desire that the Immaculate Heart of Mary should have in the Eternal City a Temple worthy of the capital of the Catholic world, entrusted the task to the sons of Fr. Claret. There were great difficulties, because the land was not apt to support such an enormous weight, but the Popes sustained the work with their encouragement.
The Codex Iuris Additicii (CIA)
The usually called CIA was a compilation of all the ordinations and dispositions given by the General Chapters and Governments until the General Chapter of 1922 inclusively. Later on, it had three editions with their respective revisions and adaptations (1925, 1940 and 1953). In 1955 it was given the name of Epítome del Derecho Adicional in its Spanish translation.
New Persecutions in Mexico
In Mexico, a journalist attributed to the Archbishop of the capital, Msgr. Joseph Mora y del Río some declarations, according to which he had protested against some evil laws, oppressive of the Church. As a consequence of that, the Government, based on the prevailing Constitution, ordered the deportation of 18 foreign priests. Most of them were Spaniards and four of them Claretians. A victim of this persecution in 1927 was Fr. Andrew Solá, whose cause of beatification is only waiting for the beatification date to be decided upon.
The Ordo Studiorum Generalis (O.S.G.)
The Chapter of 1922 had asked for a new ordination of studies in the Congregation. A commission worked on this matter until 1929 when Fr. Nicholas García promulgated the book that came to be known as OSG. This plan of studies gathered, in addition to the orientations of the Chapter, the proposals of the Congregation, channelled through the Prefectures of Study, and other documents of the Holy See, of Religious Institutes and Congregations, of Seminaries and Church Universities. The OSG was in vigour in the whole Congregation until its adaptation in 1959.
The Well Instructed Novice
The passing of time, the publication of the new Code and the development of our particular law demanded that a new original and specifically Claretian work be published for the novices, which would pick up the original charismatic spirit of the Founder. Thus the idea of the treatise El Novicio Instruido [The Well Instructed Novice] was born. It was written by Fr. Raymond Ribera in 1931. The work has abundant references to the Word of God, the Heart of Mary and the Congregation.
Mission in China
In 1928 the Holy See offered the Congregation the direction of the Central Seminary of Kaiffeng in China. In October of 1929 Fr. Anastasio Rojas and his companions embarked for Shanghai. In 1933 new missionaries left to take charge of the Vicariate of Wuhu. The Congregation lived a moment of missionary euphoria through the letters that were being received. In 1937 the Apostolic Prefecture of Tunki was created and entrusted to the Congregation. Fr. Joseph Fogued was made first Apostolic Prefect. There were great difficulties: the language, the scorn with which they treated foreigners. Everything was neglected. But our missionaries immediately began to reconstruct the Christian community. It was the first time that Asia opened up to our missionaries. This adventure would not last too long, since they were expelled in 1949 by the Communist revolution.
Beatification of Fr. Claret
On 25 February 1934 the first fruit of the efforts of the Claretians was obtained when they saw their Founder beatified. Many were the decrees, discourses and congratulations that came from everywhere immediately after Fr. Claret’s beatification. But the most expressive of all was, no doubt, the allocution of Pope Pius XI and the words he addressed on several occasions to the people and to the Congregation on this particular event. Some of them: “Congratulations to Spain… for this hero of holiness who so well knew his Spain, to which he consecrated his entire life under all circumstances, even in the midst of the turbulence and dangers of the preludes of a revolution.”
It would be impossible to continue taking note of the many foundations in the Congregation in this and subsequent periods, but it is worth mentioning some of the more important ones.
In December of 1923 the first Claretian missionaries arrived in Venezuela, concretely to San Fernando de Apure and San Casimiro, diocese of Calabozo. That same year a foundation was established also in Panama and in Santo Domingo, the first in the Dominican Republic. In 1925 the Vicariate of Darien in Panama and the Prelature of San José de Tocantins in Brazil were accepted. That year, two Bolivian dioceses were given to two Claretians: Frs. Abel Antezana and Raymond Font. In 1925 the Vice-Province of Peru was erected. In 1927 the first foundation in El Salvador (San Salvador) was opened, and that same year the houses of São Tomé and Príncipe were founded.
In 1924 the house of Spaichingen was founded, followed by others in Germany and Poland (Miedary 1932), and the first German Visitorship was founded in 1932. Some of its members went also to evangelise in America.
In 1930 the Province of Italy was created.
In 1935 the professed members of the Congregation were 2,435, plus 134 novices and 821 postulants, with 204 houses.
FR. PHILIP MAROTO’S SHORT GENERALATE (1934-1837)
The XIII General Chapter
In 1934, shortly after the beatification of Fr. Claret, the XIII General Chapter of the Congregation was celebrated in Rome from March 15 to April 30. In it Fr. Philip Maroto was elected as new Superior General. He was very well known in Rome for his spiritual and intellectual gifts. He had an exceptional disposition for law. He was so well known that some times the Claretians were called “Marotines.”
In this Chapter they dealt on the Government of the Congregation, observance, ministries, studies, administration… They also decided to transfer the General Curia to Via Giulia in Rome.
Claretian International College
One of the decisions of the General Chapter of 1934 was the establishment of the International College of Rome that, in effect, opened its classes that same year in the facilities of Via Giulia, while looking for a better place. In 1937 it began to function in Albano until 1953, when it was moved to the famous “terzo piano” of the house of Parioli. In 1959 the “Claretianum” was inaugurated.
The Seriousness of the Events in Spain
The most important event of this period and what would mostly bring about the quick death of Fr. Maroto were the events of the Spanish civil war. The Congregation started to crimson with the blood of its martyrs in July 1936. Everything happened right after the national revolt of 18 July. All apostolic ministries were paralysed, 271 professed members died, Priests, Students and Brothers, in addition to many other material losses. At any rate, this painful loss would become the glory of the Congregation that could already count with numerous martyrs in its bosom. In that period the expeditions abroad stopped almost completely.
Repercussion in the missions
The consequences of the Spanish civil war soon started to be felt in the missions, especially in Equatorial Guinea and China, and in the sources of propaganda and financing in Spain. The magazine “El Misionero” was suspended, the funds of the “Pía Unión Misionera” (Missionary Mass Fund) were stolen, the Philatelic Circle of Cervera disappeared, etc. On this occasion Fr. Maroto appealed to the solidarity of everyone by means of the circular The Missions of the Congregation (1937).
TOWARD THE FIRST CENTENNIAL OF THE CONGREGATION (1937-1949)
New Mandate of Fr. Nicholas García
On July 11, 1937 Fr. Philip Maroto suddenly died in Rome. In Albano Laziale, near Rome, the XIV General Chapter of the Congregation was celebrated from 22 November to 7 December. Fr. Nicholas García, who had already governed the Congregation from 1922 to 1934, was again elected Superior General.
In this new mandate, the Congregation would be involved in the turmoil of disorder caused by the continuation of the Spanish civil war and the second great world conflagration.
In Spain, many of the houses that had been confiscated were returned at the end of the war in 1939. Then the publications and the expeditions to mission territories started anew. At the same time, the remains of the martyrs were transferred with all reverence.
The Second World War harmed the Congregation because of the isolation it brought about from 1941 to 1945 and because of losses of personnel in the Russian war. Fr. General made many visitations during his mandate and received several decorations for the enormous work of the Claretians all throughout the world.
In 1947, with the General Government back in Rome, normalcy returned to the governance of the Congregation.
The events of the Spanish civil war caused an important drawing back in the personnel in Spain, a circumstance that was noted by the General Chapter of 1937. This inspired Fr. Nicholas García to write a circular entitled The Missionary Vocation (1938), in which he invited all Provinces to increase their schools for postulancy and prepostulancy and to create the figure of vocation promoter.
The Review “Religious Life”
As early as 1938 Fr. Arturo Tabera had presented to the General Government a project to create a review on religious life, but it was not until 1944 that he finally succeeded, and the first issue of the review entitled “Vida Religiosa” came to light in Madrid. It was re-structured after the Vatican II Council. This magazine is now acknowledged as the great pioneering instrument of renewal of religious life, not only in Spain but also in 85 other countries of the world.
Consecration of the World to the Heart of Mary
The consecration of the world to the Heart of Mary was a great event for the Church and for the Congregation due to the great effort that was exerted in this work. It was made by Pope Pius XII on October 31 and on December 8, 1942. Immediately after this consecration, many other consecrations were made in Archdioceses, Dioceses, Congregations, etc. The Claretian Congregation considerably contributed to make this dream come true. Since 1944, these consecrations were followed by coronations of the images of Our Lady, Titular of the Claretian Missionaries.
In 1940 Fr. Narciso García Garcés, together with a group of Spanish theologians, founded the Spanish Mariological Society, which would give origin to the Mariological Weeks and would publish the Marian Studies which would later be followed by the review Ephemerides Mariologicae.
Ephemeral Foundation in the Philippine Islands
In 1946 a new continent lay open to the Congregation with the foundation of the Catholic Mission of Santa Barbara in the Philippine Islands. The initiative was carried out from the United States and Fr. Raymond Catalán was the person who made it possible. It did not live long, but it is good to put on record this first attempt that would be repeated later with lasting success.
Statistics of 1949
On the threshold of the centennial of the foundation of the Congregation a gigantic step could be observed in the growth with respect to that taken in the time previous to 1922. The Congregation had 2,638 professed members and 160 novices.
The most peculiar aspect was the expansion of the Congregation outside of Spain. The sum total was 240 houses distributed throughout the various continents: 97 in Europe, 8 in Asia, 11 in Africa and 124 in America. All of them grouped in 10 Provinces, 2 Vice-Provinces and 5 Visitorships.
The publications had increased and the schools had scattered throughout the continents, especially in Europe and America.
Among the hierarchical dignities of the Church, the Congregation counted in its first century of existence with 3 Archbishops, 8 Bishops, 1 Apostolic Vicar and 6 Apostolic Prefects.
A NEW CENTURY FOR THE CONGREGATION (1949-1967)
An Era Ends
The year 1949 marked the end of the mandate of Fr. Nicholas García who, after a period of sickness, died the following year. The XV General Chapter was convoked from May 1 to 28, 1949 in Castel Gandolfo, summer palace of the Pope, which was let to the Congregation in gratitude for its services. Fr. Peter Schweiger, Visitor of Germany, was elected Superior General. His election was a clear exponent of the universality of the Congregation, since he was the only non-Spanish member of the Chapter. During the Chapter Fr. Augustine Lobo, Provincial of Castile and capitular, died in tragic accident.
First Centennial of the Congregation
On July 16, 1949 the Congregation celebrated its first centennial. Optimism filled the hearts of all the Claretians. Celebrations proliferated everywhere, and the General Government published a special work that compiled the circular of Fr. General and diverse articles on the Marian, Claretian and Missionary identity of the Congregation, together with various literary contributions.
Canonisation of Our Fr. Founder
The following year, on May 7, 1950, Pope Pius XII canonised the Founder of the Congregation, St. Anthony Mary Claret. It was a culminating moment in the history of the Congregation. All Claretians could call their Founder a Saint and venerate him on the altars. Claretians from all over the world attended the ceremony of canonisation. On May 8 a papal audience took place, followed by a homage act in the Gregorian University, where the Spanish poet Joseph María Pemán discoursed upon “The historical moment lived by St. Anthony Mary Claret.”
Inauguration of the International Votive Temple
In the year 1952 the Pontifical Votive Temple to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was inaugurated in Rome. The Superiors gave up the construction of the dome that had been designed by Armand Brasini. On the occasion of the consecration, the general quarters were also moved from Via Giulia to Parioli, beside the Votive Temple. Fr. Peter Schweiger took the opportunity to write a Circular commenting on the meaning of this event for the Congregation.
The Congregation in Japan
On 2 January 1952 the Missionaries established themselves for the first time in the parish of Imaichi (Japan), invited by the Bishop of Osaka, Msgr. Paul Sakaguchi. In a short time foundations multiplied in that nation of the Far East.
Universalist Impulse of the Congregation
The concern for vocations and for the quantitative growth of the Congregation throughout the world was one of the main concerns of Fr. General who in 1955 wrote a Circular in which he called the attention to the inadequate growth of the Congregation and the desire for its universalisation.
The Theologates in Rome and Salamanca
In 1959 the “Claretianum” was inaugurated in Rome. It was an interprovincial theology study centre affiliated to the Lateran University, a large building with capacity for 80 students in Via Aurelia. Its objective was to give the students of the Congregation an opportunity to complete their common studies and suitable specialisations in the Roman universities, subject to approval by the General Government. In 1969 this congregational Study Centre that had functioned in different stages since 1034 was closed.
In 1960 the new interprovincial theologate of Salamanca was also opened. After 11 years of successful functioning, it was closed in 1971 for reasons beyond the control of the academic institution itself, leaving behind a generous group of professors and alumni from various provinces, formed in the theological studies and in the shared Claretian charism.
First Cardinal of the Congregation
In 1959 the joyful news of the appointment of Fr. Arcadio Mary Larraona as Cardinal of the Church reached the entire Congregation. He was the first Cardinal of the Congregation
XVI General Chapter
The XVI General Chapter was celebrated in Rome from April 23 to May 16, 1961, with the announcement of the forthcoming Ecumenical Council. This fact put a curb on some aspects of renewal, waiting for the conclusions of the said Council. Fr. Peter Schweiger was re-elected Superior General. In this Chapter, the use of the adjective Claretian was confirmed and the Claretian Secretariat was created. The Claretian Collaborators were born and the Letter of Kinship of the Claretian family was written.
Vatican II Council
The year 1962 was to be a historical year for the entire Church and, therefore, also for the Congregation. The Second Vatican Council started. The Church drafted the lines of renewal of all religious Institutes.
Following the footsteps of St. Anthony Mary Claret, the only canonised saint of the First Vatican Council, nine Claretians attended the Vatican II Council. Here are their names:
Arcadio Mª Larraona, Cardinal and Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites
Abel Antezana, Archbishop of La Paz (Bolivia)
Arturo Tabera, Bishop of Albacete (Spain)
Francis Prada, Bishop of Uruaçú (Brazil)
Geraldo Fernandes, Bishop of Londrina (Brazil)
Peter Grau, Apostolic Vicar of Quibdó (Colombia)
Jesus Serrano, Apostolic Vicar of Darien (Panama)
Francis Gómez, Apostolic Vicar of Fernando Póo (Spanish Guinea)
Peter Schweiger, Superior General of the Congregation.
Four experts also attended, who had been appointed by the Holy Father: Siervo Goyeneche, Anastasius Gutiérrez, Gregory Martínez de Antoñana and Antony Peinador.
The Persecutions Continue
The sign of persecution followed the Institute at close range in various parts of the world. From 1949 to 1952 the Congregation suffered an implacable persecution in China. The Church was doomed to extinction in that country and the few remaining missionaries were expelled.
In 1956 religious persecution emerged in Argentina; there too the Congregation suffered.
A few years later, immediately after the Cuban revolution of 1959, the Claretian missionaries were expelled from Cuba, and their possessions confiscated in that island that held so much significance for the Congregation.
In 1964 the Congo struggled in the midst of revolts and the missionaries were able to leave the place without much loss.
New Vicariates and Prelatures
During this period several Vicariates and Prelatures were entrusted to the Congregation. In 1952 the Prelature of Quibdó (Colombia) was created and Fr. Peter Grau became first Apostolic Vicar. In 1963 the Prelature of Isabela (Philippines) was created and Fr. Joseph Mary Querexeta was appointed first Prelate. And in 1965 the Vicariate of Río Muni (Equatorial Guinea) was constituted and Fr. Raphael Mary Nze was made first Apostolic Vicar.
The foundations continued but, above all, an intense consolidation took place in this period. There were first foundations in Costa Rica and Austria (1951), Japan (1952), Canada (1953), Ecuador and the Netherlands (1955), El Salvador (1956), Switzerland (1958), Nicaragua (1960), India (1961), Zaire and Belgium (1962), Guatemala (1966). Many other foundations were rejected for lack of personnel.
Major Organisms were created: Germany and France (1949), Cantabria (1950), Central America (1952), Central Brazil and the present East Asian Delegation (1954), Portugal, United Kingdom-Ireland and USA East (1956), Antilles (1957), Philippines and Venezuela (1960), Aragon and Bolivia (1962), Occidental Colombia (1964), Canada (1965).
In 1966 the Congregation reached the number of 3,607 missionaries, not counting the postulants: 2,017 priests, 1,026 students and 564 brothers.
History of the Congregation (1967)
In 1967 Fr. Christopher Fernández published the Historia de la Congregación in 2 volumes. Earlier in 1941, he had published he life of “Beato Antonio Mª Claret.” Fr. Nicholas García and the General Chapter of 1949 had suggested this work which the author shunned. Later on, upon the insistence of Fr. Peter Schweiger, he accepted but limited his work from 1849 to 1912.
THE CONGREGATION RENEWS ITSELF (1967-1979)
The Renewal Chapter
Sure enough, we can say that this XVII Chapter of 1967 was the motor of the renewal that was being urged by Vatican Council II. Gathered in Rome during the months of September and October, the Capitulars accomplished the Documents that implied a spectacular change in the orientation of the Congregation. Especially emphasised was its missionary character from what is “most urgent, timely and effective;” at the same time religious and apostolic life was deeply revised, returning to the sources that inspired the charism of the Founder. In this Chapter, Fr. Antony Leghisa, a Slovene, was elected General. One of the most important endeavours was the beginning of the adaptation of the Constitutions to the norms and the spirit of the Council, as well as the renewal of our Directory. The first draft of the new Constitutions was that of 1971. Subsequently would come that of 1982 and the definitive one in 1986.
After this Chapter, a new information organ was born in the Congregation under the name of NUNC (Nuntii de Universa Nostra Congregatione).
New Provinces and New Missionary Expansion
In Spain the Provinces were re-structured in April of 1968: the Province of León was created and the Provinces of Castile and Euskalerría reorganised. Also created was the Visitorship of Austria.
Starting from the General Chapter of 1967, the Provinces looked for leading fields suitable for missionary expansion. Thus Catalonia went to Japan and Brazil, Castile to Panama and Honduras, Euskalerría to Bolivia, Betica to Argentina and the Philippines, Aragon to Brazil, Leon to Peru, USA-East to Guatemala, USA-West to Nigeria and the Philippines, Italy to Gabon, Canada to Cameroon, Germany to India and Zaire, Portugal to Angola and Mexico and Occidental Colombia did it in its own territory of Guerrero and Chocó.
The Interprovincial Conferences Are Born
As soon as the Renewal Chapter ended, Interprovincial Conferences started to be instituted in order to facilitate the work of apostolic communion and co-ordination. Concretely the Conferences of Spain and Guinea, the Latin- and the Anglo-American conferences, which later on would be adapting to the new realities:
. ACLA: Association of Claretians of Africa.
. ASCLA: Association of Claretians of Asia.
. CEC: Conference of Claretians of Central Europe.
. CICLA: Interprovincial Confederation of Claretians of Latin America.
. IBERIA: Spain and Portugal.
. NACLA: Association of Claretians of the North Atlantic.
Statistics in 1970
This year the Congregation had 17 provinces, 10 quasi-provinces and 3 visitorships. 349 houses. 2 cardinals, 8 bishops, 1 prelate, 2,046 priests, 721 students and 507 brothers. A total of 3,285 professed members and 80 novices.
After the Council and the Renewal Chapter, the Congregation experienced a process of considerable number of secularisations and abandonments which, together with the decrease of vocations, made it imperative to re-structure communities and, above all, seminaries. Among them we must mention the suppression of the two international Theologates of Salamanca and Rome (1970).
The Congregation Continues Expanding to New Countries
During this period foundations were made for the first time in Honduras (1967), Angola (1969), India and Cameroon (1970), Slovenia (1971), Nigeria (1973), Gabon (1975) and Yugoslavia (1977). The Claretian foundations of India and Nigeria would be providential for the Congregation. Slowly they would become centres of numerous vocations so as to constitute major organisms.
Once Macías took over the command of Equatorial Guinea in March of 1969, the expulsion of foreign missionaries began, among them, Claretian Bishop Gómez Marijuán. In 1972 Msgr. Raphael Nze, a native Guinean, also had to leave under threat of death. Even the catechists were persecuted and in December 1976 all the Claretians residing in Bata were imprisoned and tortured and the churches closed. The nightmare lasted 11 years, till August 3, 1979.
Since 1973, and already with the presence of Msgr. Peter Casaldáliga, the Claretian missionaries were also persecuted in the mission of São Felix, Brazil, for their struggle on behalf of the peasants. The decisive moment came in October 1976, when one of the priests was assassinated in front of his bishop.
In December of 1977 the Moslem rebels of the Philippines burned down the hospital of Basilan managed by Claretian Bro. Joseph Torres. This was to be the beginning of a nightmare that would continue to affect the missionaries from then on.
Centres for Study of Religious Life
In 1968 the first course of studies of Religious Life began to function in Madrid, which would later be completed with the Theological Institute. This initiative gave place to a new important front in the evangelising task of the Congregation. Later on, it would extend to Rome (1972) and, with lesser intensity, to Mexico and the Philippines.
General Chapter of 1973
This Chapter revised the progress of the Congregation since the conciliar renewal. It was verified that dispersal (the Congregation was present in 41 nations) favoured pluralism but was an obstacle to apostolic incision, and that the 30 major organisms did not enrich the labour fronts. To this was added the preoccupation for the great number of departures from the Congregation. Basically the Chapter revised the on-going renewal, and re-oriented community life, being sensitive to the values of freedom, autonomy, participation, dialogue, co-responsibility, incarnation, commitment, etc. This revision would be completed in the General Assembly of the Congregation in Costa Rica in 1976.
The Congregation had this year 2,805 missionaries: 1,978 priests, 378 students, 449 brothers.
“The Heart of Mary and the Congregation”
This was the title Fr. General, Antony Leghisa, gave the Circular he wrote in 1977, which meant a very important step in the renewal of the Cordimarian spirituality. The purpose of the Circular was to help the Congregation overcome the critical moment it was going through, and to spur it on to a greater fidelity to the Cordimarian dimension of its vocation.
The Continental Missionary Encounters Begin
In 1978 a missionary encounter of Latin America was held, the first ever in the entire history of the Congregation. It was celebrated in February and in two consecutive moments: the first in Argentina and the second in Colombia. In November of the same year the first missionary encounter of Africa was held in Zaire, for the purpose of emphasising this important work in the Congregation, by re-discovering the prophetic sense and the preferential option for the poor. From then on, encounters of this type have been expanding and multiplying.
The Claretian Associates
In April 1979 the first international encounter of Claretian Associates was held in Brazil. This was to be the first impulse for the emergence of the Lay Claretians Movement. At last the apostolic dream of Fr. Claret came to birth, in which the laity was to play “an important role in the salvation of people.”
THE MISSION OF THE CLARETIAN TODAY (1979-1991)
XIX General Chapter (1979)
In this chapter a re-reading of the Claretian mission was made, asking for a more missionary, enculturated and liberating community. Some options were specified in the Congregation for the six-year period: missionary evangelisation from the viewpoint of the poor, with priority dedication to the formation and incorporation of lay evangelisers, to youth and to the field of family apostolate. The Chapter Document “The Mission of the Claretian Today” (MCT) was published and the Argentinean Fr. Gustavo Alonso was elected new Superior General. The Chapter also continued working on the adaptation of the Constitutions and the Directory.
Encounters of Missionary Brothers
In June 1980 the first encounter of Missionary Brothers was held; others would follow. The vocational crisis that affected the Congregation in general became more urgent in the matter of the lay charism. These encounters intended to study and revise the present situation of the Brother within the Congregation, and to discover possible lines of action towards a future promotion.
Courses of Claretian Spirituality
Starting in 1981 the Courses of Claretian Spirituality began to follow one after the other in Rome. To these would later be added the Claretian Priestly Weeks of Vic and other Claretian spirituality courses in India, Latin America, USA, etc. in an effort to intensify and recover the various aspects of our own spirituality. In addition, the publications on Claretian topics proliferated and, as a sign of this concern for safeguarding the spirit of Claret, the remodelling of the new Claretian Museum in Vic was undertaken in 1991.
Revision of Positions
Starting in 1982 a collective reflection was also let loose in the Congregation about the revision of positions (works, structures, services…) which ended in the General Assembly of Los Teques (Venezuela) in January 1983. The basic aim was to make possible the implementation of the objectives and options of the MCT.
“The Claretian Mission”
In 1982 the yearbook “The Claretian Mission” began its publication under the responsibility of the Secretariat for the Churches in formation. This publication has become a mosaic where the progress of the varied pastoral activities of the Congregation can be observed.
Symposia of the Claretian Family
In October 1984 the First World Encounter of the Claretian Family took place in Rome. Its objective was to deepen in the comprehension of the charismatic gift of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, to share the experiences of the various branches of the Claretian Family and to propose common objectives for the future. In attendance were the four original nuclei: Claretian Missionary Men and Women, Cordimarian Filiation and Lay Claretians, as well as the Institutes with Claretian intervention: Cordimarian Missionary Sisters, Missionary Sisters of the Claretian Institute and Missionary Sisters of St. Anthony Mary Claret. This encounter was to be the first of others that would follow.
XX General Chapter (1985)
This Chapter focused its attention mainly on the person of the Claretian in his Process of Renewal. Its fruit was a document known as CPR. This Chapter worked also on the adaptation of the Constitutions to the new Code of Canon Law, authorising the General Government to present them to the Holy See for their definitive approval. Fr. Gustavo Alonso was re-elected Superior General.
New Constitutions and Directory
The work of adaptation of the Constitutions and the Directory to the norms emanated from the Vatican II Council and to the new Code of Canon Law had started with the Renewal Chapter of 1968. At last, the Holy See definitively approved the Constitutions with the Decree of 15 May 1986 and the Directory on 24 October of the following year. In order to deepen in the history and the spirit of the new text, the General Government started the publication of Commentaries to the constitutional text.
Impelled by the intense moment that was the Marian Year (1988) and in view of the congregational concern over our somewhat faded Cordimarian identity, the General Government decided to ask all the members of the Congregation about their Cordimarian experience. This was carried out starting in April 1987. This initiative, together with the week of Cordimarian spirituality held in Vic in 1988 and other publications, have meant a new impulse in the Cordimarian identity of the Claretian.
The Image of Fr. Claret in the Vatican
On December 6, 1988 a mosaic of St. Anthony Mary Claret was installed beside the altar of the holy martyrs Processus and Martinianus in the Vatican Basilica. It is located exactly in the right wing, where the First Vatican Council was celebrated. It must be remembered that Fr. Claret attended this Council and is now the only canonised Conciliar Father. The image is a half-bust, with episcopal garb; it has in his left hand the Gospel with the quotation of Mk 1,14. It carries a Latin legend that says: “S. Antonius Maria Claret Fundator C.M.F. –Pater Conc. Vat.I- 1807-1870.”
The Inexhaustible Missionary Spirit of the Claretian
Inspired by the MCT and the CPR, the Claretians have been discovering new ways of reaching all people with the message of Jesus. Both in their reflection (Encounters, Conferences, Workshops, Weeks…) and in the search for new methods (popular missions, labour with emigrants, vanguard missions, work with drug addicts, youth, formation of leaders, presence in the suburbs, commitment for peace and justice, dialogue with the Moslems, social communication media, presence in universities, indigenous promotion, women promotion…) they had no boundaries. The Claretian mission was an open mission toward the future.
Statistics and Foundations
The statistics as of January 1, 1991 give us the following data: 1,917 priests, 3 deacons, 297 brothers, 623 students, and 108 novices. A total of 2,995 Claretians coming from 48 different nationalities. During this period there were first-time foundations in new countries like Australia (1983), South Korea (1985), Ivory Coast and Indonesia (1990), Sri Lanka, Byelorussia and Kenya (1991). The vocational resurgence of some of the major organisms such as India, Nigeria and Poland caused the future of the Congregation to acquire the light of a dream come true.
SERVANTS OF THE WORD (1991-1997)
The General Chapter of 1991
Servants of the Word (SW) was the title of the document of the XXI General Chapter. It summarised the key to understand the near future of the Claretians. In view of the challenge implied by the fact that two thirds of humanity do not know Christ, the response of the Claretians was: let us be hearing servants of the Word. All this in the unity and diversity of a new face of the Congregation, more varied as regards races, languages and latitudes. For the first time a Chapter gave orientation to the Congregation in keeping with its different continental geographical situation. The New Evangelisation really had in the Congregation a new face, a new impulse, a new method. In this Chapter Fr. Aquilino Bocos, a Spaniard, was elected Superior General.
The Beatification of the 51 Martyrs of Barbastro
Seeing the 51 martyrs of Barbastro on the altars on 25 October 1992 was a privilege and an unparalleled motive of thanksgiving for the Congregation. They were the Claretians who were shot in Barbastro during the Spanish civil war of 1936. With their generosity and their missionary dream, which they themselves could not make into reality, they had been a source of inspiration for many acts of heroism. Almost all of them died young, all conscious of their martyrial epic.
Eastern Europe Opens up
After the General Chapter, the Congregation fixed its gaze on the new missionary possibilities of Eastern Europe. The presence of the Province of Poland in Byelorussia began to consolidate starting in 1991. In 1992 a foundation was definitively made in Krasnoyarsk (Siberia), and in 1995 in Praga (Czech Republic). In 1996 the missionary activity of the Congregation extended to Slovakia with the help of the Polish Province.
Circulars of Fr. General
During this period Fr. General has addressed five circulars to the Congregation. The first was entitled: “Missionary witness of our martyrs” (1992) and was written on the occasion of the beatification of the martyrs of Barbastro. The second was published in 1994 with the title “Towards a renewed missionary commitment.” Fr. General points out in it the challenges of the future, and encourages the Congregation to open up with docility and generosity to the new impulses of the Spirit. The third circular was written in 1995 on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the approval of the Constitutions. The fourth, entitled “On the road toward the year 2000” (1996) he urged the Congregation to accept the invitation of the Holy Father to prepare for the Jubilee of the beginning of the third millennium. In 1997 he wrote a circular on “The Missionary Brothers” and in 1998 another one entitled “Heritage and Prophecy,” on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Congregation.
During these years the “October letter,” which Fr. General addresses to the Congregation on the occasion of the feast of St. Anthony M. Claret, has also become traditional.
New General Projects
One of the most salient projects in the Congregation these years was the “Word-Mission” Project, which is a process of reading, reflection, community sharing and prayer around the Bible. It was promoted by the General Prefecture of Apostolate, prepared by an international commission and presented in six volumes.
The commentaries on the Constitutions, called “Our Project of Missionary Life,” in three volumes, are the work of various members of the Congregation.
“Claretian Missionaries,” a work in two volumes by Fr. Jesus Alvarez, is an attempt to approach, from the viewpoint of history, the charismatic roots, the spirit and ideal of the Congregation.
During the six-year period the General Plan of Formation was concluded. It was promoted from the General Prefecture of Formation, with the help of an international commission. This plan has been gradually adapted to each Province by means of the Provincial Plans.
A third project that has been promoted during this period, but not set in writing, was the organisation of missionary experiences in mission zones, open to all the members of the Congregation. The first was implemented in the Philippines and Japan (1994) and the second in India (1996).
The “Heart of Mary” School of Formators inaugurated in 1996 was born with the purpose of forming formators and facilitating the assimilation of the basic lines of the General Plan of Formation.
In addition, the Encounters of Claretian Renewal continue in Vic and Rome and Workshops of Evangelisation continue being held at congregational level: urban evangelisation, inter-religious dialogue, etc.
Mission Procures and PROCLADE
Among the initiatives of this period we should emphasise the promotion of the Mission Procures in the economically stronger Provinces and the General Procures of Rome and Madrid, to support missionary projects in poorer zones. In Spain these Procures took the official form of NGO PROCLADE (non-government organisation Claretian Promotion for Development).
Two new Provinces were created in the Congregation in 1994: Poland and Madras (now Chennai). The first originated from the mission works of the German Province in Silesia about 1932. In 1982, in view of the abundance of vocations, it was elevated to the rank of Independent Delegation and later on, to that of Province.
The Province of Chennai (Madras) arose from the drastic increase of vocations in the Tamil Nadu region. Thus it was segregated from the Sri Lanka Delegation Dependent from Germany, and became the second Province of India, after that of Bangalore.
Restructuring of Organisms
In 1994 the Province of Castile gave up the missions entrusted to it in Panama and Honduras. In this way it collaborated in the new restructuring of the Province of Central America that would be carried out in 1995, when all its congregational organisms were reintegrated into it, including the USA mission of Izabal in Guatemala.
In April 1995 the Provincials of Germany, Italy and Canada opted for the creation of a Confederation of French-speaking Missions of Africa, integrating the missions of Zaire, Gabon and Cameroon.
Centennial of the Provinces of Catalonia and Castile
In September 1895 the first division of the Congregation was made, and the Provinces of Catalonia and Castile were created. On the occasion of the centennial of this event, both Provinces had special celebrations in Sallent and Segovia respectively.
Synod of Consecrated Life
In the year 1995 the Synod for Consecrated Life was celebrated in Rome. The Claretian Missionaries had an important role both in the preparation and in the realisation of the Synod. These are the names of those who participated in such memorable event: Fernando Sebastián, Aquilino Bocos and Matthias Augé. Abilio Pina Ribeiro also participated as auditor.
First Visits to China
From March 18 to 23, 1995, the long awaited visit to the old mission of the Claretians in China, the Vicariate of Tunki, took place. It was done by several members of the community of Taiwan, founded for the purpose of learning Chinese and preparing us for the eventual return to China. They still met some old Christians who remembered the first Claretian missionaries and who had undergone more than 30 years’ imprisonment and forced labour for the sake of their faith. The mission house had become a hotel. The human remains of the two missionaries that died in the mission, Frs. Joseph Sánchez and Sebastian Soler, still lay beside the Heart of Mary chapel
In July 1995 a new visit was made to China, this time from Korea. For fifteen days, two Claretian brothers and 30 Korean Christians visited the autonomous zone of Jilin.
In October of this same year, two more missionaries of Taiwan visited the zone again.
Delegation of Syro-Malabar Rite
In 1996 a new Delegation was born, of Syro-Malabar rite, dependent from the Province of Bangalore (India). It is made up of three houses and several parishes. The aim is to be able to offer to the Claretians who belong to the Syro-Malabar Church the possibility of having a juridical structure that will allow them more fully to express their ritual identity and contribute to the development of the Congregation in that Church.
New Foundations in Africa
Some new foundations worth mentioning because of their importance in this period were Tanzania and Uganda (1995) and Ghana (1997). Also the houses of Libreville, in Cameroon (1995) and Lubango, in Angola (1997) were founded. In the section on the Missions a more detailed information about them is given.
In this period several members of the Congregation were promoted to the episcopacy: Fr. John Matogo, Bishop of Ebebiyin (Equatorial Guinea) in 1991, Fr. Peter Olmedo, Bishop of Humahuaca (Argentina) in 1993 and Fr. Angel Garachana, Bishop of San Pedro Sula (Honduras) in 1994.
In 1993 Fr. Fernando Sebastián was transferred from Archbishop Coadjutor of Granada to Archbishop of Pamplona (Spain), Fr. Manuel Revollo from Auxiliary Bishop of Cochabamba to Auxiliary to the Military Ordinary of Bolivia in 1993, Fr. Plácido Rodríguez in 1994 from Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago to Bishop of Lubbock (USA) and Fr. Luis Gutiérrez from Auxiliary Bishop of Madrid to Bishop of Segovia in 1995. In 1998 Msgr. Joseph Saraiva was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the causes of the Saints.
Persecution Does not End
Several places and persons have suffered the effects of violence during this period.
In December 1991, in the mission of Juanjui (Peru), 350 terrorists of the revolutionary movement Tupac Amaru seized the city of about 30,000 inhabitants, with great display of weaponry. Five at least were killed, and the house of the missionaries was burned.
About that same time violence in Zaire intensified, and the Institute of Philosophy of Kinshasa, where our seminarians were studying, was ransacked. As a consequence, the fifteen non-Zairian students had to go to Yaoundé (Cameroon). A little later some of the formators also had to go.
On April 4, 1992 a Moslem threw a grenade inside the small church where the Eucharist was being celebrated in one of the missionary centres of Basilan. Only 17 out of the 500 persons present were wounded. On March 18, 1993 Fr. Bernard Blanco was kidnapped in the same mission; on May 6, after a bizarre escape, he was able to reach safety away from the Moslem rebel groups. In March 1993, the “Claret School of Tumahubong,” one of the four secondary schools of the Prelature of Isabela, was razed to the ground by criminal hands. In March 1996, two bombs exploded in the churches of San José and San Antonio Mª Claret when the liturgical celebrations were going on. There were no victims.
In the mission of El Estor (Guatemala), the missionaries also experienced threats and judicial persecution towards the end of 1994, due to the social and education work they were doing in more than 70 villages in the area.
In May 1995, a bomb exploded in the Guadalupe Church of the Claretians in Managua (Nicaragua). Neither the cause nor the author of this attack, which caused serious damage in the church and surroundings, was ever known.
The situation of Equatorial Guinea in these years has had a repercussion in the missionaries, some of whom have been imprisoned and tortured, accused of campaigning for the opposition.
In 1997 the situation that was deteriorating in Zaire became worse. The repercussions were especially important in the formative structure.
In the zone of Quibdó (Colombia) the hardships of the people, harassed by the paramilitary, have continued. In this harsh situation they have been at all times accompanied by the Claretian missionaries, in spite of the danger.
Barbastro, a Place and a Symbol
After the beatification of the martyrs, Barbastro has become a place of pilgrimage for the Congregation and for the Church in general. The creation of the museum and the construction of the Crypt where the martyrs are buried, a work of Fr. Cerezo Barredo, have greatly contributed to highlight the place. Various biographies have also been published and their name has been given to several churches, as their patron saints, in the different continents.
Artists of Universal Renown
Although their trajectory does not belong to this period, but all of them have reached, in the course of the years, artistic maturity. We just emphasise four personalities, two in the field of painting, one in sculpture and one in music: Maximino Cerezo Barredo, Peter Beruete, Segundo Gutiérrez and Luis Elizalde.
The New Economy
We can say that these years, through the efforts of the General Economic Council and the expert visitations, a new style has emerged regarding the congregational use of economy, an economy essentially based on putting it at the service of evangelisation, keeping in mind the commitment to poverty and a sense of solidarity. For this purpose several avenues have been created, such as the Aid Fund and the Claretian Cultural Fund.
The Institute of Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA)
In June 1997 the Institute of Consecrated Life in Asia, was inaugurated in Manila, under the Pontifical University of Santo Tomás. The aim of this Institute is to offer its services to young religious not only in the Philippines but also in the whole of Asia. In the ceremony more than 1,100 religious participated from 106 congregations. A considerable number of religious from other Congregations collaborate as professors.
Claretians in Internet
The year 1997 has been marked for the Claretian Missionaries by their entrance en masse in the world of communication, internally and toward the outside, through Internet. The possibilities open toward the future are unforeseeable and the Claretians all over the world are preparing to integrate this privileged means in their missionary task.
At the moment of the celebration of the XXII General Chapter the number of Claretians rose to 2,894, of which 18 were Bishops, 1981 Priests, 2 permanent Deacons, 488 Students, 271 Brothers and 134 Novices. 1,093 are Spaniards, 309 Indians, 171 Nigerians, 160 Colombians, 124 Brazilians and the other nationalities are under 100 members.
IN PROPHETIC MISSION (1997-2000)
XXII General Chapter
The XXII General Chapter of the Congregation was celebrated in Rome in the summer of 1997. Its main concern was to recover the prophetic dimension of the missionary service of the Word (PM). Fr. Aquilino Bocos was reelected Superior General. A special worth noting feature of this Chapter is the great variety of languages and cultures that reflect the presence of the Congregation in 56 countries.
The 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Congregation, the 50th year of the canonisation of our Fr. Founder and the centennials of the death of Frs. Clotet and Xifré have made of 1998-2000 a period of particular congregational activity. It was opened with a Meeting of Major Superiors of the entire Congregation in Bangalore (India) in October 1998, during which the Circular of Fr. General “Heritage and Prophecy” was launched. The celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Foundation was held in the cathedral of Vic, birthplace of the Congregation. On this occasion, the sepulchre of our Fr. Founder was remodelled and the body of Fr. Xifré moved to the crypt of the temple of Vic. Taking advantage of various circumstances, efforts have been made to emphasise the figure of our Founder by setting up several statues and memorial tablets: among them, those placed in the cathedrals of Vic, Madrid and Las Palmas and in the temple of the Holy Family in Barcelona.
The Congregation has always endeavoured to keep norms and life at a parallel level. For this reason the General Government has deemed it necessary to reform and update, in keeping with the times, some of the documents. Among them we must emphasise the new Directory (1999) and our particular liturgical books. At the same time intensive work is going on to publish the Vocational Directory and the Manual for Secretaries. To this must be added the effort to translate the most significant congregational documents to the various languages.
Re-classification of Organisms
Immediately after the Meeting of Major Superiors in Bangalore, some criteria were given to re-classify the major organisms of the Congregation. For example, an organism must have at least 40 perpetually professed members to continue being considered a Province. For this reason, the General Government decided to make into Delegations the Provinces of Antilles, Central Brazil, Equatorial Guinea, Venezuela, Canada and the United Kingdom-Ireland. In the same way, Central America was declared a Formed Province.
This is not a period of expansion but rather of consolidation of the new missionary fronts. However it is necessary to point out, in addition to those within the organisms, two significant foundations, namely Haiti and European Russia. The foundation of Haiti was due to CICLA’s initiative since, for the Congregation in America, their presence in the poorest country of the Continent presented itself as a real challenge. The foundation was carried out in 1999 with personnel from CICLA under the responsibility of Antilles. The foundation of St. Petersburg was implemented by the Province of Castile in 1998. This presence is a response to the Church’s call to evangelise this Russian zone where the work is especially difficult due to the situation of the country, the bureaucratic difficulties, the climate, the orthodox pressure and the absence of autochthonous Catholic clergy.
One of the initiatives lately promoted in the Congregation has been the integration of some formation institutions with the intention of pooling efforts in culturally neighbouring zones. Concretely we can mention the interprovincial noviciates of Iberia, Central America-Mexico-Antilles, South Cone of America, USA-Canada, India, French-speaking Africa and English-speaking Africa.
Congress of Spirituality
This is also an initiative that came out of the Meeting of Major Superiors in Bangalore. It consists in organising, on the occasion of the congregational Jubilee, a process of reflection on the missionary spirituality of the Claretians starting from their own experiences. This process would conclude with a Congress to be celebrated during the year 2000.
The persecutions in different places of the world have not come to an end. In the case of the Philippines, these persecutions have given the Congregation a new martyr, Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, tortured and assassinated in Basilan by Moslem extremists. To this persecution we must add that of East Timor, Indonesia, where not only the priests but also the students were hounded and persecuted like the rest of the population, and the churches and properties were destroyed. Also in Chocó, Colombia and in Peru the missionaries have shared the tragic fate of the people, with death itself frequently hanging about.
Presence in the Social Communication Media
Little by little and at a pace with society, the presence in the SCM has been increasing in the Congregation. In regard to the publication of books, it is necessary to emphasise the translation of the Pastoral Bible into Chinese both in traditional and in simplified characters, printed in China at the initiative of Claretian Publications of the Philippines. The Latin-American Agenda and the Biblical Diary, an initiative of CICLA, have also had a great international echo. In Manila the Religious Life review has started to be published. Great importance should be given also to the various initiatives that are being developed through Internet, with numerous Web pages throughout the world. Since 1998 the Claretian publication houses (Claretian Communications in the Philippines, Claret in Catalonia, Ave Maria in Brazil, Editorial Claretiana in Argentina, Ediurcla in Rome, Publicaciones Claretianas in Madrid and Claretian Publications in Bangalore) regularly take part in the International Book Fair in Frankfurt.
Presence in the Synods
Members of the Congregation have been present and have contributed in two Synods of Bishops held in this period. Bishops Angel Garachana and Romulo Emiliani and Fr. Francis Fierro participated in the Synod of America. Bishops Joseph Saraiva and Ferdinand Sebastián and Fr. General, Aquilino Bocos attended the Synod of Europe.
Justice and Peace
The General Government, in addition to continuing the various encounters and courses started in previous periods, is promoting, mainly from the Secretariat of Justice and Peace, workshops of congregational sensitising on themes of justice, peace and integrity of creation. The Secretariat’s aim is to promote communication and collaboration among the provincial secretariats and illumine both reflection and action from the viewpoint of God’s Word by means of subsidies and publications.
Among the initiatives originated in the Provinces, The Forge must be stressed. It is a project of Claretian re-initiation that lasts 4 months, open to all members of the Congregation. It consists of four stages called, in Latin, “Quid prodest?,” “Patris mei,” “Charitas Christi” and “Spiritus Domini.” Its aim is to help the Claretian missionary relive the fundamental experiences of his vocation as a servant of the Word. The name is taken from the allegory used by our Fr. Founder to describe his own formation process as a missionary (Aut 342). It is carried out in Colmenar Viejo (Spain).
Latest Statistics (1-1-2000)
The number of Claretians rose to 3,005, of which 15 were Bishops, 2005 Priests, 3 permanent Deacons, 577 Students, 260 Brothers and 145 Novices.
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Álvarez, J.: “Misioneros Claretianos” [Claretian Missionaries] (I-III), 1993-97.
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Fernández, C.: “Compendio histórico de la Congregación de los Hijos del I. Corazón de María” [Historical compendium of the Congregation of the Sons of the I. Heart of Mary] (2 Vols), 1967.
Izquierdo, M.: “Historia sucinta de la Congregación de Misioneros Hijos del I. Corazón de María” [Concise history of the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Im. Heart of Mary], 1975.
Jiménez, M.: “Historia de la Congregación”, 1997 (notes).
Palacios, J.M.: “Notas históricas sobre la formación en la Congregación” [Historical notes on formation in the Congregation], 1997.