CHAPTER VI: THE CLARETIAN FAMILY
THE CLARETIAN FAMILY
Religious Sisters of Mary Immaculate, Claretian Missionary Sisters
St. Anthony Mary Claret, in one of his apostolic trips to Tarragona in the year of 1850, met the novice Maria Antonia París. During the dialogue they held, she expressed to him what she had understood to be God’s Will regarding the foundation of a new apostolic Institute for the proclamation of the Holy Law of God. He assured her that the work would push through.
The Venerable Maria Antonia París was born in Vallmoll, a small town of the Province of Tarragona in Spain, on June 28, 1813. The following day, feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, June 29, she was baptised in the Parish of St. Mary of Vallmoll. In keeping with her religious vocation, she enters the noviciate of the Society of Mary on October 23, 1841. In 1842, while in prayer, she has a mystical experience in which the Lord makes her understand her calling as a foundress. She is to found a new Institute of apostolic life, in which the living of evangelical poverty and the proclamation of the Holy Law of God play a very important role in promoting the renewal of the Church. In 1851 she leaves the noviciate in order to be more free to carry out the work God had shown her. For one and a half years she devotes herself to the formation of the young ladies who join her in order to share her own ideal. On August 15, together with them, she makes the vow not to leave the group and to cross the ocean, should this be God’s will. On February 22 of the following year, called by St. Anthony Mary Claret, newly consecrated Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, she embarks, together with her four companions, headed for the pearl of the Antilles. After a journey full of dangers and vicissitudes, she reaches Santiago on May 26, 1852. A little time later they begin their apostolic labour among the Cuban children, thus collaborating with the pastoral plan of the Archdiocese.
On August 25, 1855 Archbishop Claret signs the Decree of Foundation and, two days later, on August 27, Maria Antonia makes her profession in the hands of the saintly Archbishop, Founder together with her of the Religious of Mary Immaculate, Claretian Missionary Sisters. In 1859 St. Anthony Mary Claret, who was in Spain at the time, calls Maria Antonia to the Peninsula for the purpose of establishing a noviciate house in Tremp, Province of Lerida, for the missionary formation for the New World. Then follow the foundations of Reus, Province of Tarragona, Carcagente, Province of Valencia and Vélez-Rubio in Almeria, in Spain, and Baracoa in Cuba. On January 17, 1885, after a long sickness, Maria Antonia dies in Reus. Her cause of Beatification and Canonisation has already been introduced. The Decree on the heroicity of her virtues was signed on December 23, 1993. At present the Sisters, faithful to the mission bequeathed to them by their Founders, are working in the spreading of the Gospel throughout all the different parts of the world where the Congregation is established.
Between 1840 and 1850 a singular idea started to haunt the heart of Claret and to “keep him busy before God:” Is the external structure of religious life essential to the consecrated life? How can the opportunity of embracing the gospel radicalism be offered to those who wish to remain in the world or are compelled to live in it? Furthermore, should the process of de-Christianisation, which was then beginning, continue its progression, how to bring the Good News to people when they should come to reject whatever was presented to them as a visible sign of gospel demand? Claret then began to glimpse the need of introducing in the very heart of the world the transforming force of people who should have made of Christ the supreme value in which all other values could find their place and meaning. Little by little this idea was taking shape until it became a dream and, later on, a joyful reality.
The first step was the publication of a booklet, “The Daughters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary,” which was published in the spring of 1850. The ideal presented was almost revolutionary at that time: living the fullness of consecrated life in the world, side by side with the rest of people, having the Heart of Mary as cloister. In the time of Claret nothing more could be done, and Cordimarian Filiation could only be a water spring born in silence, a current perceived only by those who, like Claret, received a prophetic vision projected toward the future. But the life of that inexhaustible spring unhurriedly pushed from inside. More than a century would go by before the Church would realise that a new current had been born in her inner self, that was struggling to permeate the most hidden corners of the world with Gospel transparency. That current would come to be known as Cordimarian Filiation.
Plasencia (Spain), 1943. A group of Claretian Missionaries lovingly picks up the lamp lighted by Fr. Claret and decides to make the dream come true. The Claretian book becomes the “rule of life” for a core of enthusiastic young girls, decided to constitute themselves into a “family” within the Church. At the same time, the same spark ignites in several places of Europe and America and several groups are organised. All of them are animated by the same spirit and a strikingly rich unity can already be seen in that diversity that had brought it to life. In 1947 Pius XII promulgates the apostolic constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia, that recognises and approves the Secular Institutes among the forms of life that imply Gospel radicalism. Fr. Claret’s dream has already got its own channel within the Church, and the organisational efforts are now directed to obtain its definition as a Secular Institute. On November 21, 1973, feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, Cordimarian Filiation is approved by the Church as a Secular Institute of Pontifical right. It was the end of a long journey and the beginning of a horizon hopefully open toward the third millennium of the Christian era.
Following Christ virgin, poor and obedient in the midst of a world dominated by selfishness, consumerism and self-sufficiency, thus making of one’s own life a self-sacrifice for the sake of the brethren: this is Cordimarian Filiation today. Claret did not want the Daughters of the Hear of Mary “separated” from the rest of society. They were born in the Church to “remain and act in the world until it is transformed in Christ.” Through their life and their word, the radicalism of the Gospel must be made present in daily life, in the common conditions of the world, in the general law of work, with its risks and insecurities.
Lay Claretians Movement
“In these last days it seems that God wants the laity to play an important role in the salvation of souls ” (St. Anthony M. Claret).
The Lay Claretians Movement has its origin in the groups of lay people St. Anthony M. Claret organised for the work of evangelisation. Among these groups stand out: the Fraternity of the Heart of Mary (1847), the Fraternity of Christian Doctrine (1849), the Academy of St. Michael (1858) and the Popular and Parochial Libraries (1864). This same year he planned to create an association with the name of Archconfraternity of the Heart of Mary that he conceived as a great army of evangelisers with three branches: the Missionaries, Sons of the Heart of Mary, dedicated to itinerant evangelisation, the Diocesan Clerics who would carry out their apostolic mission through fixed and stable structures of evangelisation, and the laity.
Claret’s death (1870) and the difficult situation brought to the Spanish Church by the coming of the revolution of 1868 made it very difficult for the lay groups created by Claret to survive. In effect, in the course of a few years all of them disappeared. The groups disappeared, but many lay persons remained who, animated by the spirit of Claret, co-operated in the evangelising work, usually side by side with the Claretian Missionaries.
The process of reorganisation of the Claretian laity began in the year 1938, when the Superior General of the Missionaries created the association of “Claretian Collaborators.” This association that was conceived as a “proper work” of the Congregation, was approved by the Hole See in 1943. In its statutes it is stated that those who wish to live in keeping with the spirit of the Congregation and collaborate in its apostolate may be Claretian Collaborators.
In 1972 the Claretian Collaborators begin to be called Claretian Associates. The General Chapter of 1973 says that Claretian Associates are clergymen and lay people that share in the Claretian charism and commit themselves, in various degrees and in a permanent way, to live that charism in communion with the Congregation of Missionaries.
In 1979 they take the name of Lay Claretians. The General Chapter of this same year gives a new orientation to the Claretian laity. It states that the promotion of the Lay Claretians should not be done for the sake of the needs or the interests of the Congregation. The Lay Claretian vocation has in itself its own inner value and there is a need to support the action of the Spirit who from the beginning has also called the lay people to fulfil the Claretian mission.
The laity and the religious are two different manners of being Claretian. The Lay Claretians do not share in the charism of the Congregation, as used to be said in earlier times, but rather in the charism and mission of Claret.
OTHER MEMBERS OF THE GREAT CLARETIAN FAMILY
Cordimarian Missionary Sisters
The Institute was founded in Mexico City on 19 March 1921, by two persons. On one hand, Ms. Carmen Serrano y Rugama, a very humble woman, endowed with a profound love of God and of the Heart of Mary, who had received the inspiration in 1913. On the other, by Fr. Julian Collell y Guix, a daring and tenacious man, exemplary priest, member of the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Both were tireless catechists, very zealous for the glory of God.
The Mission of the Congregation is to spread the Gospel Message, with great burning zeal, to all those in need of it, especially to the lowliest: the peasants, natives, imprisoned, disabled persons. Among them, priority is given to women, youth and children, through catechesis, education and social communication media.
The spirituality of the Congregation is rooted on the spirituality of St. Anthony M. Claret, as lived and perceived by its founders. The spirituality of the members is characterised by a profound intimacy with the Heart of Mary, in order to learn from her how to live in intimacy with the Lord. Thus they should follow Christ the Missionary, who offers himself to the Father as a living host, and delivers himself to Him as a victim for the redemption of people.
Missionary Sisters of the Claretian Institute
Fr. Luis Pujol Todera was born in Taradell (Barcelona, Spain) in 1903. At the age of 12 he joined the Congregation of Claretian Missionaries. He was ordained priest in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, in 1927. On 25 May 1951, he founded the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of the Claretian Institute, together with the present Superior General, Mother Mary Dolores Solá Carol, in the new Retreat House of Vic. Their Father Founder, a man of prayer and mission, went to the Father’s house in Vic, on 8 May 1976, shortly before his favourite work reached its 25th anniversary of its foundation.
“The Claretian Institute is a religious-apostolic Institute for the evangelisation, in keeping with the experience of the Spirit as lived by its Founder, Fr. Pujol, in the style of Claret. In answer to this divine vocation, we adopt the lifestyle of Jesus, which the Blessed Virgin Mary embraced in faith, and we conform ourselves with Christ virgin, poor and obedient in the Church” (Constitutions, n. 5).
In 1998 the Archbishop of Barcelona approved the work as an Institute of Religious Life of diocesan right.
Missionary Sisters of Saint Anthony Mary Claret
Mother Leonia Milito was born in Sapri, Italy, on 24 June 1913. Since her childhood, she was known for her love of God and neighbour. In her adolescence she joined the Catholic Action where she opened her spirit to great and noble ideals. Later on she felt called to the consecrated life and, after much prayer and reflection, in the midst of struggles, sufferings and opposition, she entered the religious state at the age of 22. Moved by the Holy Spirit, she placed herself totally at the disposal of the Church. Under the guidance of Msgr. Gerald Fernandes, she founded the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of St. Anthony M. Claret, to take care of the poor, motivated by a vibrant missionary zeal. On July 22, 1980 death caught up with her on the road, but her work continued alive, faithful to her religious and missionary ideal.
Drawing inspiration from the ideal of St. Anthony M. Claret, the Congregation’s spirituality is grounded on the devotion to the Eucharist, which is the secret of its perennial vitality. In front of the tabernacle, the life and apostolate of each member is transformed into an oblation, together with Jesus, who sacrifices himself for the glory of the Father and the salvation of humankind, becoming one with Him.
Msgr. Gerald Fernandes was a dynamic and fervent apostle, concerned only with doing the will of the Father always and in everything. Being a Claretian fully convinced of his vocation and of his mission, full of zeal for the spreading of the Reign of Christ, he manifested a special concern for the poor. He took upon himself to be a true father and spiritual guide of the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of St. Anthony M. Claret. Born in Contagem (State of Minas Gerais), in Brazil, on 2 February 1913, he joined the Congregation of the Claretian Missionaries, and went through the stages of preparation for the priesthood with great dedication and fidelity. He was ordained a priest in 1936. In 1957 he was appointed Bishop of Londrina, and made Archbishop of the same diocese in 1970.
As the Father of the Congregation, he followed up its development for 25 years, giving it orientation and ample proof of his pastoral concern. He consumed his life in the service of his people whom he always loved and guided, aware that “this world could still be happier,” as he states in his spiritual testament. Msgr. Fernandes left for the Father’s house on 29 March 1982, in São Paulo, Brazil.
Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate
This African Institute was born in Equatorial Guinea under the loving concern of the Sons of the Heart of Mary and the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (Conceptionists). Its founder, Fr. Armengol Coll Armengol, Claretian, first Apostolic Vicar, and Imelda Makole, its foundress, communicated their spirit to the first Sisters, Regina, Clotilde, Eugenia and Felisa. The Institute was born on 7 October 1909.
Fr. Armengol was so busy with his pastoral visitations and the care of the entire Church of Guinea, that he could not personally attend to the formation of the Sisters. For this reason, he entrusted this task to Fr. Cyril Montaner Fabré. At this time they were still known as “Auxiliary Sisters of the missions.”
Their mission was to evangelise Africa, a continent of poor, alienated, dispossessed and humble people. To this end, they were to collaborate with all those who seek the transformation of the world in accordance with the designs of God, especially with the bishops and missionaries of the young Churches of Africa. They collaborate with human and Christian formation of African women, and prepare them for their mission in the ecclesial community and in the world.
INSTITUTES RELATED TO FR. CLARET
Carmelite Sisters of Charity
Saint Joaquina de Vedruna founded the Institute in 1826. Claret met her when he was still a student. The foundress asked him to examine the Rules. He also worked towards the definitive approval of their Constitutions and was the Director of the Institute until he was substituted by Fr. Stephen Sala. The basic work of the Institute is centred on education and health.
Sisters Adorers Handmaids of the Blessed Sacrament and of Charity
This Congregation was founded by St. Michaela of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Fr Claret was her neighbour and spiritual director in Madrid. He advised her to write her autobiography and to maintain her friendship with Queen Isabel II. He encouraged the Institute and collaborated in its foundation in 1950, giving his approval to the Constitutions. In 1964 Paul VI made St. Anthony M. Claret the principal Patron of the Institute. The apostolate of the Sisters Adorers is basically focused on the re-education and re-insertion of young girls afflicted by problems of marginalisation, but they also engage in education and attention to rest homes.
Missionary Handmaids of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Maria Esperanza González y Puig founded this Institute in Lérida, Spain, in 1862. As early as 1846, in the course of a mission that Fr. Claret gave in that city, he had a decisive influence in her Cordimarian spirituality. Later on, in Madrid, he was consulted through Fr. Joseph Escolá regarding the intentions of Mother Esperanza. At the beginning Fr. Claret was reluctant to give his support to a new foundation, since there were already many institutes with the same aims. However, during a visit to Lérida in 1864 he showed himself in favour of the new Institute. At present, the aim of the Missionary Handmaids is the education of children and young girls and the protection and re-education of estranged children and young girls.
Daughters of Christ the King
They were founded by Fr. Joseph Gras y Granollers towards 1887 in Granada, Spain. They were influenced by Fr. Claret through their founder who frequently consulted him about his founding projects and received encouragement and advice through numerous letters. This Institute works mainly in the field of education, as well as in the university and parish milieu and in foreign missions.
Handmaids of Jesus of Charity
Their foundress, Mary of the Heart of Jesus, approached Fr. Claret regarding her doubts about her vocation. After hearing her in general confession, as she herself tells, he guided her in her vocation and predicted the role she would play in the Church. In 1871 she founded the Congregation in Bilbao, Spain. The specific aim of the Institute is the assistance to the sick in their homes, in hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, rest homes for the elderly and day-care centres.
Sisters of St. Philip Neri
Fr. Claret was also involved in the foundation, consolidation and promotion of this Institute founded in Mataró, Spain, in 1858 by the brother-sister Mark and Gertrude Castañer. Ever since he preached a Lenten retreat in Mataró, Spain, in 1845, he kept a close friendship with both of them. In 1859 he gave his support to the foundation and in 1870, in Rome, he had the opportunity to stimulate them in their work, in spite of the persecution in Spain, encouraging them to spread beyond Mataró. At present their work evolves in the field of education, houses of spirituality, hostels for young girls and ladies, parish and social work, youth movements and prayer groups.
Missionary Sisters “Immaculate Heart”
Rev. Joachim Masmitjá, founder of this Institute, became acquainted with Fr. Claret in Olot, during a mission. Later on, after he founded the Institute in Olot in 1848, he always received the comfort and affection of the saint, who wrote to him several times encouraging him in his task of promoting the Institute. The basic work of the Institute centres in catechesis, Christian education and evangelisation, with special attention to estranged women.
Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Mother of the Divine Shepherd
This Institute was born in Ripoll, Spain, in 1850. Both Fr. Joseph Tous and the Blessed Mary Ann Mogas had contacts with Fr. Claret. He, from their common origins in Sallent; she, later on, together with Fr. Sala. Both encouraged the two founders in the difficult task of forming and consolidating the foundation. At present the Missionary Franciscan Sisters carry out their mission in the fields of education, health and social assistance, rural parochial ministry and retreat houses.
Dominican Sisters of the Annunciata
They were born in Vic in 1856, under the impulse of their founder the Blessed Fr. Francis Coll, friend and companion of Fr. Claret. His influence in this Institute was not merely spiritual; he also made efforts to obtain the government approval for the Institute. From several letters to Fr. Coll we can obtain data regarding his invaluable interventions. The basic work of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciata is focused on Christian education, presence in marginalised quarters and the missions.
Oblate Sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer
The founder of the Congregation, Msgr. Joseph Maria Benito Serra, Bishop of Daulia, kept correspondence with Fr. Claret regarding his intentions as a founder. In 1862 they had an interview. According to a letter of Benito Serra to the foundress of the Oblate Sisters, Antonia Maria de Oviedo, the three-hour conversation, was about the foundation of the Benedictines. However, there is no doubt that it had something to do with the foundation of the Oblates themselves, who were founded two years after this conversation.
Daughters of Mary, Sisters of the Pious Schools
There is no evidence of any personal relationship of Fr. Claret with the foundress, the Venerable Paula Montal, even though she was a Catalonian. However, it is known that, during the life of the foundress, he did have some influence in the convent of St. Elizabeth of this Institution in Madrid. In fact, during the time that Fr. Claret stayed in the Montserrat Hospital at the Plaza Antón Martín, every year he gave Spiritual Exercises to the Sisters in that convent while the foundress was there.
Sons of the Holy Family and Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family
When Blessed Joseph Manyanet, founder of the Sons of the Holy Family and of the Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family, was beneficiary of the collegiate church of Tremp, he had relations with Bishop Caixal and with the Claretian Missionary Sisters. For this reason, there is no doubt that he also had personal relationship with Fr. Claret. From a letter to Fr. Francis Naval in 1900, even though it is unsigned, we can infer that he knew Fr. Claret, even ate with him several times, and consulted him about matters of importance, some of them related to his foundation.
INSTITUTES RELATED TO THE CLARETIAN MISSIONARIES
Missionary Sisters of Charity, Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Mother Mary Güell, native of Valls, Spain, founded this Institute in 1899 in Cervera (Lérida), Spain, under the direction of Fr. Francis Naval. The Claretians have always accompanied them in their spiritual itinerary. Their Constitutions and congregational documents are inspired in their own spirit. The Cordimarian Sisters, whose specific charism is the practice of charity, have opted for the most destitute members of society: the sick, the elderly and children, as their preferential subjects. They are spread throughout Spain, Brazil, France, Portugal and Italy.
Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (Conceptionists)
Their foundress, Carmen Salles y Barangueras was born in Vic in 1848. Being an adorer novice, she joined the Institute of Tertiary Dominican Sisters of the Annunciata. After a time of probation, and supported by Bishop Manuel Gómez Salazar, she founded the Conceptionist Sisters in 1892. They have Fr. Claret as the special Protector of their Institute, and there has always been a fraternal relationship between them and the Congregation of Claretian Missionaries. For this reason in 1954 they were granted a Letter of Kinship by the latter.
Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception
They were founded in Mataró, Spain, by M. Alfonsa Cavin Millot, a native of France. In 1884, in answer to a request made by Fr. Joseph Xifré, they went to the mission of Guinea, where they entered into a deep contact with the Claretian Missionaries. They received the Letter of Kinship in 1954, and they still maintain a close fraternal relationship.
Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Their mother house is in Porto Alegre, Brazil. They are dedicated to teaching. They also received their Letter of Kinship in 1954 and still keep constant communication with the Claretian Missionaries of Brazil.
Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate and Saint Catherine of Siena
They are also known as “Missionary Sisters of Mother Laura,” from the name of their founder, Mother Laura Montoya. In 1924, Mother Laura found in Fr. Ezekiel Valera the sure orientation she needed to carry out her missionary project. Later on they maintained constant communication, above all with Cardinal Larraona. They collaborate with the Claretian Missionaries, especially in Darien and Chocó. In 1985 they were granted the Letter of Kinship.
Handmaids of the Mother of God
In 1984 the Letter of Kinship was granted to this Institute founded in Colombia, due to the spiritual affinity that unites both Congregations. The foundress, Mother Elisa Jaramillo, for many years had Fr. Martin Jové, a missionary in Colombia and Venezuela, as spiritual director. From him she received enlightenment for her own life and for the foundation of her Institute. Subsequently, the Claretians continued to be their assistants and advisers.
“Follow Me” had its origin in an agreement made by some lay persons in 1965 during a Mass celebrated in the Catacombs of St. Calixtus in Rome. On that occasion they agreed to constitute, under the leadership of Fr. Anastasio Gutiérrez, cmf, a lay association for human and Christian promotion. The soul of the group was Paula Majocchi who, in her classes, had contrived to arouse in some girls the interest for a committed life. In 1984 it received the definitive pontifical approval. In line with the new Code it adopted the form of mixed private, lay association of pontifical right. It is not an Institute of consecrated life. Presently it has groups in Italy, Spain, Albany, and it is spreading through Africa and Latin America.
CMFF.: “La fuerza del evangelio” [The strength of the Gospel].
CMFF.: Various Symposia of the Claretian Family.
CLARETIAN MISSIONARY SISTERS:
Álvarez, J.: “Historia de las RR. de María Inmaculada” [History of the Religious Sisters of Mary Immaculate], 1980.
Álvarez, J.: “María Antonia París”,
Álvarez, J.: “Espiritualidad. Misioneras Claretianas” [Spirituality. Claretian Missionary Sisters], 1970.
Cepeda, F.A.: “La S.D.M. Antonia París”, 1928.
Juberías, F.: “Por su cuerpo que es la iglesia” [For the sake of his Body, the Church], 1971.
Lozano, J.M.: “Con mi iglesia te desposaré” [To my Church will I marry you], 1974.
Lozano, J.M.: “María Antonia París. Escritos” [Writings of M.A.P.], 1985.
Ugalde, F.C.: “Vida de la S.D.M. Antonia París de S. Pedro” [Life of M.A.P. de S. Pedro], 1948.
Claret, A.Mª.: “Hijas del Santísimo e Inmaculado Corazón de María” [Daughters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary], 1990.
Juberías, F.: “A zaga de tu huella” [Behind your footsteps], 1970.
“El Seglar Claretiano. Ideario y organización” [The Lay Claretian. Ideology and organisation], 1987.
Bermejo, J.: “El apóstol claretiano seglar” [The Lay Claretian Apostle], 1979.
Vidales, A.: “Comentario al Ideario de Seglares Claretianos” [Commentary to the Ideology of the Lay Claretians], 1991.
Compilation of Subsidies for the Lay Claretians (19)
CORDIMARIAN MISSIONARY SISTERS
Monasterio, F.: “Almas heroicas” [Heroic souls], 1964.