(AA; Official Catholic Directory #0130); the Augustinians of the Assumption (AA) is an apostolic community of priests and brothers with simple vows, who live "the common life according to the Rule and the spirit of St. Augustine, for the sake of the Kingdom." It was founded in 1845 by Emmanuel Daudé d'Alzon (1810–1880), vicar-general of the Diocese of Nîmes, France, with several professors of a school that bore the name, College of the Assumption. It is not a specifically Marian congregation. The first members pronounced their vows on Christmas Day 1850. A pontifical brief of Nov. 26, 1864, encouraged the foundation. The constitutions were approved on Jan. 30, 1923. Following Vatican Council II, a new Rule of Life was approved by the Congregation for Religious on Dec. 8, 1983.
The founder, a staunch supporter of ultramontanism, was strongly influenced by the thought of Félicité de lamennais. The purpose assigned to the institute was "to restore higher education according to the mind of St. Augustine and St. Thomas; to fight the Church's enemies enlisted in secret societies under the revolutionary flag; to fight for the unity of the Church." D'Alzon's spiritual doctrine was essentially Trinitarian, tending to a contemplation of the Three Divine Persons and a participation in the mysteries of Jesus, in the spirit of the French school of spirituality of the 17th century. This spirituality was expressed in the founder's Directory (1859–65), Instructions, Circular Letters (1868–75), as well as in many Sermons and Meditations (1879–80). Under Emmanuel d'Alzon, the Priests of the Assumption, in keeping with the threefold purpose of the institute, established three kinds of activities: teaching, the Catholic press (in Paris they created and are still responsible for the Catholic daily, La Croix), pilgrimages to the Holy Land, to La Salette and Lourdes, as a form of popular education. They opened houses in Bulgaria—later in Turkey, Rumania, and Russia—and welcomed members of the Byzantine Catholic Church. A mission in Queensland (Australia) was short-lived.
Expelled from France at the end of the nineteenth century by the anticlerical government, the congregation temporarily closed most of itshouses there, and it migrated to Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, Chile, and the United States. One of their first American settlements was in Louisiana, where they stayed only a short time. In 1891 they settled in New York City, where they opened the first Hispanic parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1903 they founded Assumption Preparatory School in Worcester, MA, from which the contemporary Assumption College derives. In the meantime, they consolidated their work in Eastern Europe. One of their members. Pie Neveu, was made a bishop in Russia and remained in Moscow after the Soviet Revolution. In Jerusalem they built the first major hostel for pilgrims, Notre Dame de France, at the end of the nineteenth century. This was abandoned after major damage was caused to the building by the fighting between the armies of Israel and of Jordan after the creation of the State of Israel. It now belongs to the Holy See in its restored form, under the name, Notre Dame of Jerusalem. Under Gervais Quenard, fourth superior general (1923–51), the congregation was divided into provinces.
Before 1939 Assumption missionaries were in the Congo, Brazil, Tunisia, and Manchuria. After 1945 they entered the Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Algeria, and New Zealand. Their province of Central Africa, centered in Butembo (Nord-Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo), has extended to Kenya and Tanzania. After World War II the Assumptionists greatly suffered from the communist regimes, as they were expelled from China and three of their Bulgarian priests were condemned to death and executed by firing squad as "spies of the Vatican." In spite of this, one of their American members remained in Moscow through the Second World War, looking after Latin Catholics in the city. The congregation is still in charge of the oldest Latin parish in Moscow.
The spirit of the founder inspired an intellectual apostolate focused on Byzantine studies (begun in 1897, successively located in Istanbul, Bucarest, and Paris), and later on Augustinian studies in Paris (founded in 1939). For lack of recruits and volunteers these institutes were turned over to the Catholic Institute of Paris in the 1960s. Concern for the unity of the Church was responsible for the foundation of reviews devoted to ecumenical questions, Echos d'Orient in 1897 (renamed Revue des Études Byzantines when it moved to Paris in 1945), L'Union des Églises (published from 1922 to 1938, in Lyon, France), and, in Nijmegen, Netherlands, a quarterly dealing with the Eastern Churches, Het Christelijk Oosten en Herenining. In Athens, Greece, they opened an ecumenical library.
The irenic attention that was paid at first to Orthodoxy later included the Anglican and Protestant Churches and the ecumenical movement in the World Council of Churches. When John XXIII created the Secretariat for the Unity of Christians, an Assumption priest was among the consultants; he was appointed later a peritus of Vatican II and became an active member of several of the major ecumenical dialogues.
The headquarters of the American province moved in 1982 from New York City to Boston. The province maintains houses in Massachusetts, in the province of Quebec, and in Mexico. Its most active center is at Assumption College in Worcester, MA. The generalate is in Rome.
Several communities of religious sisters are connected, by their origin and their spirituality, with the Augustinians of the Assumption: the Religious of the Assumption, who were actually founded before the Agustinians, by Eugénie Milleret de Brou (Blessed Marie-Eugénie de Jésus, beatified in 1975) with the help of Abbé Combalot, the Oblates of the Assumption (founded by Emmanuel d'Alzon, with Marie Correnson as the first Mother general), the Little Sisters of the Assumption (founded by Étienne Pernet and Marie-Antoinette Fage), and a contemplative community, the "Orantes" of the Assumption (founded by François Picard and Isabelle de Clermont-Tonnerre). Other members of the Congregation founded the Sisters of Joan of Arc in Massachusetts and Quebec, and the Little Sisters of the Presentation in Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Bibliography: s. vailhÉ, Vie du Père Emmanuel d'Alton (Paris 1926–34); Lettres du P. Emmanuel d'Alzon, 1822–1835, 3 v. (Paris 1923, 1925, 1926). p. touveneraud, ed., Lettres du P. Emmanuel d'Alzon, 1861–1880, 13 v. (Rome 1978–1996). a. sage, Un Maître spirituel du XIX e siècle (Rome 1958). g. h. tavard, The Weight of God. The Spiritual Doctrine of Emmanuel d'Alzon (Rome 1980); Le Père d'Alzon et la Croix de Jésus: Les lettres aux Adoratrices (Rome 1992). a. sÈve, Christ Is My Life (New York, 1988). w. dufault, The Spiritual Legacy of Emmanuel d'Alzon (Milton, MA 1988).
[g. h. tavard]