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Popular name of the Order of St. Camillus (OSCam, Official Catholic Directory #0240), whose official title is the Order of the Servants of the Sick (Ordo Ministrantium Infirmis ). The order was founded in Rome by St. camillus de lellis about 1582 and given final approval as an order with solemn vows in 1591. To the usual three religious vows was added a fourth, that of serving the sick, including the victims of the plagues so common at that time. Camillus composed his rule with this specific character of the order in view.

The first Camillians rendered their services by visiting the hospitals of Rome, bringing the patients both physical and spiritual assistance. In 1594, however, they began founding communities housed within the hospitals, where the religious took the place of the chaplains and of the servants who were hired for nursing. Establishing itself in Naples in 1588, the order grew rapidly. At the time of the founder's death in 1614 there were 330 professed members in 15 cities of Italy. After the death of Camillus the religious began caring for the sick in their homes, gradually giving up the communities within the hospitals. By the end of the 18th century they were exercising this form of apostolate not only in Italy, but also in Hungary, Spain, Portugal, and several parts of Latin America.

The Order of St. Camillus, like other religious orders, suffered greatly from the suppressions and confiscations of the 19th century. At one point it was reduced to about 100 members, all of them in Italy. In the 20th century, however, they experienced a recovery, expanding their mission beyond Italy. In the U.S. the first foundation was made in Milwaukee, Wis., in 1924. By the end of the 20th century, the order had 11 provinces and four foundations in Europe, one province, three delegations and four foundations in Asia, two delegations and five foundations in Africa and Australia.

[p. tutwiler/eds.]