Context, Purpose, History & Sources

Ted Cirone, C.M.F., April, 2005


(For a detailed study of the historical background of the constitutions, refer to Our Project of Missionary Life, Commentary on the Constitutions, Vol. I, PP. 27-114)




1. Universal Law of the Church: (Canon Law, Decrees. etc.)

2. Proper Law of the Congregation

  1. a)Decrees, prescripts & other administrative acts of the Holy See for the Congregation.
  2. b)Constitutions.
  3. c)Directory.
  4. d)General Decrees emanating from legitimate internal authority e.g., Decrees of the last General Chapter, of General Government, (cf. Annales Congregationis CMF) e.g.: “FORMATION OF MISSIONARIES; General Plan of Formation.” (cf. Directory, n. 1)


“The Constitutions are an expression of the action whereby the Spirit calls some members of the Church

  • to follow and imitate perfectly the evangelical! life of Christ
  • according to the form in which our Father Founder lived and proposed it.

The Constitutions have been officially accepted by the Church for the glory of God and the lasting good of the people. In them:

  • the nature, characteristics and most essential and permanent demands of our mission in the Church are set forth, and our lifestyle and the type of government befitting a missionary Congregation are defined.” (Directory n. 4)



“The Directory is the aggregate of criteria and norms of a general character for the whole Congregation which are set forth in systematic order and constitute the complementation of the Constitutions.” (Directory n. 12)


1.       Episcopal Conferences and Diocesan Norms. etc.

2.       Major Organisms (Provinces. Vice-Provinces….)

  1. a)Provincial Chapters.
  2. b)Provincial by-laws, directories, etc. (e.g.: formation, vocation).
  3. c)Norms of the current Provincial Government: Directives of Provincial visitations, etc.

3.         Local Communities:

  • Community Plan & Schedule (Directory no. 150).
  • Decisions of the Community Plenary Meeting (Directory 430).


  1. 1.The General Chapter is the official interpreter of the Constitutions. Changes in the text must be approved by the Holy See.
  1. 2.The Claretian vocation should not be considered as a calling parallel or superadded to the Christian vocation, but rather as the Christian vocation itself brought to fulfilment through the distinctive modality that the Spirit has inspired in us. In like manner, the Constitutions which moderate this Claretian modality of the Christian life should not be understood as a program of life parallel or superadded to the program of life traced out in the Gospel. The Gospel continues to be our only ideal and our only program of life, a program we strive to give shape to by following the Constitutions. This definitely means that we are following the one and only Gospel that is valid and obligatory for all Christians, but according to the distinctive rereading of the Gospel that St. Anthony Claret carried out by means of a special grace granted him by the Spirit. The Constitutions do not supplant the Gospel; rather, they help us to Uve it by helping us understand its demands in each and every circumstance of our life and mission. (Cf. Commentary on the Constitutions (CoCC) vol. 1, p. 6)
  1. 3.The Constitutions arose from the experience of St. Anthony Claret and his followers, the Claretians, in various times and places. Our Constitutions are not a theological or juridical treatise on the different elements that make up our project of life and mission nor are they merely a set of norms to apply to the concrete reality of our life and mission. Rather, they are altitudes that arouse, orient and guide our spiritual and missionary experience as Claretians. (Cf. CC vol. 1, p. 10). We too must learn to integrate our own experience and inculturate the Constitutions as needed in various times and places. (CoCC vol. 1, pp. 23-26).


  1. a)Vatican Council II: “Perfectae Caritatis” (“On the Renewal of Religious Life:
  • Gave the order to proceed to the renewal of Constitutions (PC 3) in keeping with the guidelines established for the overall adaptation of Religious Life, marked by a return to origins and an accommodation to changed circumstances affecting the world and the Church.

b) Paul VI: “Ecclesiae Sanctae”:

  • established concrete channels to be followed in renewing Constitutions. They must be shorter, contain the evangelical! and theological principles relating to religious life and its place and role in the mystery of the Church (ES 12a), and to the juridical norms required in order to determine the proper character of each Institute and to guarantee its functioning (ES 12b).

c) The Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983: According to the new Code, Constitutions must contain:

  • The intentions of the Founders regarding nature, aims, spirit and character of each institute, as well as sound traditions (can. 587);
  • Fundamental norms regarding governance, discipline, incorporation, formation of members, as well as the specific object of the sacred bonds that bind the members (can. 587.1);
  • The spiritual & juridical elements required for the normal development of the institute, but without needless multiplication of norms (can. 587.3);
  • All of the above are to be done with a view to fostering and facilitating the supreme norm of the religious life, which is the following of Christ as set forth in the Gospel and as expressed in the Constitutions of the Institute.


(Taken mostly from CoCC, vol. 1, pgs 27-113; 381-491)

PART ONE (1849-1967)


1849 Constitutions

  • Needed because of Claret’s departure for Cuba
  • No extant copies.

Probably had 11 chapters: on the title and aim of the Congregation; Superior General and local superiors; the General Congregation; admission; means for own sanctification; means to use for salvation of souls; Domestic Regulations; Rule for time of Missions; Exercises of the Missions.

1857 TEXT (“First Constitutions”)

Returned from Cuba, Claret needed to present a written text to Queen for official State approval of the Institute. Revised text has 15 chapters; we can distinguish 5 parts:

  1. Fundamental: title and aim
  2. Juridical part: superiors; General Congregation; admissions
  3. Ascetical Part
  4. Pastoral Part: means of apostolate
  5. Disciplinary part:
  1. oRegulations: domestic; mission time; mission exercises; Rules for brothers: general; specific
  2. oJuridical profile is monarchical; spiritual is strictly missionary. Congregation of “Missionaries”. Government: has minimal’
  3. o“Houses, residences & quasi-residences” aimed at future.
  4. o-“Director General” elected by all for life; almost absolute monarchical authority. Helped/ “balanced” by Sub director.
  5. oAll superiors directed “mission & ministries”.
  6. o“General Congregation” every three years.

Coadjutor Brothers (11 brothers from 1849 to 1859); Mostly domestic duties; chapters written by Clotet.

1862 additions to 1857 Constitutions:

            General Congregation at Gracia, July 7-14.

            Congregation now had 3 houses, and students.

            1862 Chapter added 7 chapters on formation of students.

            Religious Vows were allowed and advised.

            Claret wrote “Act of Consecration” & “Formula for Profession”.

            Special Act of Consecration to IHM.    

1865-1870 Constitutions (“Second Constitutions”)


General Chapter of Gracia, July, 1864, gave act of confidence to Claret (with Xifré) to revise & draft Constitutions in dialogue with Holy See.

  1. oText mostly by Claret; Government parts by Xifre; Brothers part by Clotet. Claret revised and approved all.
  2. oClaret was in Rome to intervene on two occasions.
  3. oRoman officials had many objections, made many corrections; Entire project had to be thoroughly revised.
  4. oText approved “ad experimentum” by Pius IX, Dec. 22,1865.
  5. oDefínitive approval by Pius IX February 11,1870.
  6. oCongregation approved as “Institute of Perfection with simple vows.” Not yet considered “Religious” in canonical terms of that time.
  7. oEnded the “constitutive phase” of the Congregation.

Approved text:

  • Now in Latin: 3 parts: Juridical; Spiritual; Brothers.
  • Much of it copied from other sources: J. Petitdidier, S.J.; CSSR:; Rodríguez, etc.
  • Became less “missionary” and more “religious”.
  • Specific element of apostolate is” ministerium verbi”.
  • Spiritual followed order of purgative, illuminative, unitive.
  • Government: Ist part: From higher to lower authorities.
  • Superior General’s term is 12 Years.


For other government changes, see CoCC pgs. 410-421.

1924 Modifications to the Constitutions

  1. oChurch required Religious to incorporate changes of new Canon Law, promulgated 1917.
  2. oRenewed CMF Constitutions incorporated also changes adapted in previous General Chapters, especially Chapters of 1912 and 1922.
  3. oReal modifications were mostly in governance & structure. Only minimal or literary changes were made in other sections. For list of government changes see CC pgs. 436-437.

Chapter of 1912 had added “Missionary” to official title of Congregation: “Missionary Sons…” Chapter of 1922 eliminated it. Theory of “missionary” as generic & “Sons of IHM” , as specific.

These were the Constitutions in vogue until the General Chapters of renewal after Vatican II.

PART TWO (1967 -1986) (CoCC vol 1. PP. 70 -115)


            As mentioned above, the Congregation set out to implement the Church’s requirements to revise our life and Constitutions.

The various General Chapters made distinctive contributions:

  • 1967: Distinctive CMF charism and identity   
  • 1973: New notion of community embodied in our government
  • 1979: Mission of the Congregation emphasized
  • 1985: Adaptation to new code of Canon Law (1983

1974 Constitutions (Published January 6,1974)

  • Text revised and approved by General Chapter of 1973.
  • 1967 General Chapter had given some indications for revision of the Constitutions, and mandated the appointment of a post-Capitular Committee. The committee sent a draft of a revised Constitutions to the entire Congregation in late 1971. See “Annales” (1971) pp. 389-457.

In applying the criteria given by the Church (see above) the committee noted some specific areas of our Constitutions which needed to be attended to. (For enumeration, see CoCCp.445)

  • The 1973 General Chapter approved a text for the revised Constitutions. This was printed and promulgated. It was understood that this text was now our official Constitutions, even though still only provisional and experimental.


Most significant changes in this new text: Structure:

            There is a fundamental constitution.

            Three parts are maintained, but reversed.

  1. 1.Religious-Apostolic Life of the Congregation
  2. 2. Members of the Congregation
  3. 3.Government of the Congregation Chapter one begins with community.
    1. oIn government, the local community is treated first, then the provincial community, and finally the general community.
    2. o“Missionary Brothers” are fully integrated. “Deacons” are accepted as a new category of members.


New Principles & Structures of Government: See CoCC pgs. 460-462):

  • Principles: Dialogue & Co-participation;
  • Consultation & Information;
  • Representativeness;
  • Decentralization (Subsidiarity).

New Structures:

  • Possible election of Provincial & Local Governments.
  • Plenary Meeting of Local Community, etc..

            As much as possible, texts of the earlier Constitutions were incorporated; but in reality there was very little that could be salvaged. The Constitutions are basically a new document. Yet they are in full keeping with the requirements of the Church in Vatican II, and with the genuine spirit and authentic tradition of the Congregation. The Claretian identity and mission is clearly articulated and maintained throughout. There is greater unity and coherence. There is biblical and doctrinal enrichment

1982 Constitutions

  • Prior to the 1979 Chapter, a special commission worked well, sent out a detailed draft with comparative texts and suggestions.
  • USA & Philippine provinces presented a proposal for a shorter Constitution of only 2 parts. It almost was accepted.

            Chapter approved new additions & revisions to be presented to the Holy See.

  • More concise: e.g.: 13 chapters of part 2 reduced to 4; 12 of part 3 reduced to 6.
  • Better unity. Better biblical & Claret references.

            The new revision is stronger & clearer on missionary evangelization; our mission in the world; “Missionary” replaces “Apostolic-Religious”. More Christocentric.

The Holy See was laudatory, but presented some corrections and adaptations that would be in the new canon law. The General Government dialogued and eventually accepted most of these, and incorporated them into the text.

The Official Approval of the Holy See carne on February 11,1982

1986 Constítutíons     (Definitive)

            January 25,1983: John Paul II promulgated new code of Canon Law.

With the permission of the Holy See, the General Government prepared new texts adapting our Constitutions to canon law. These were later studied and approved by the 1985 General Chapter.

Most of the changes were technical matters of government & law. For a list see CoCC pgs. 487-488.


Definitive text approved by Holy See on May 15,1986.