la Salette, Missionaries of Our Lady of
LA SALETTE, MISSIONARIES OF OUR LADY OF
(MS, Official Catholic Directory #0720); a congregation of priests and brothers devoted to preaching missions and retreats, conducting shrines and centers of devotion to Our Lady, working in the foreign missions, and caring for parishes.
Beginnings. The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette had their origin in the group of diocesan priests organized in 1852 by Bp. Philibert de Bruillard of Grenoble, France, to serve at the church being erected on the mountain of La Salette, on the spot of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Sept. 19, 1846. The first three members, P. Burnoud, M. Sibillat, and A. Denaz, began their work in May 1852 and were joined the following spring by P. Bonvallet and P. Archier. Although Denaz was the first to express a desire for religious life, he died before the first profession, when six of his companions took their
vows on Feb. 2, 1858, the foundation day of the congregation.
The first rule was merely an outline drawn up by the vicar-general of the diocese; however, Revs. Sylvain Giraud and Pierre Archier soon crystallized the nature, purpose, and spirit of the congregation. Giraud, who had entered the congregation in November 1858 and was appointed novice master in 1862, wrote La Pratique de la Dévotion à Notre Dame de la Salette (1863) and De la Vie d'Union avec Marie (1864). His books embodied the spirit and spirituality of the congregation. Between 1858 and 1876, however, two tendencies developed within the community—one for a contemplative, Trappist-like life, and the other for an active apostolate. A chapter in 1876, which elected Archier as superior, firmly oriented the congregation toward the active apostolate.
Development. In 1876 Archier opened a minor seminary and sought the approval of Rome for the congregation. leo xiii gave the first decree of approbation in May 1879; the rule was finally approved in 1926. In June 1880 the first band of missionaries left for Norway, and five years later, three of the group were ordained, the first in Norway since the Reformation. In 1881 the major seminary was moved to Switzerland and in 1896 to Rome. Two priests were sent to the U.S. in 1892 to begin a foundation at Hartford, Conn.; in 1899 missionaries departed for Madagascar.
In 1901, when all French foundations were lost to the congregation through governmental legislation, the care of the basilica and the pilgrimage on the mountain of La Salette reverted to the bishop. After World Wars I and II, however, the former foundations were reestablished and new ones begun; the fathers returned to La Salette in 1943. The first foundation in Rome dates from 1896, when some seminarians were sent there to complete their studies.
American Foundations. In 1902 at the request of Bp. Thomas Beaven of Springfield, Mass., five Swiss priests were sent to Cracow, Poland, to learn the language to prepare them to minister to Polish immigrants in the U.S. This led to a Polish province and foundations in the U.S. and Argentina.
Bp. Lawrence McMahon welcomed the two priests who were sent to Hartford, where a number of priests, seminarians, and lay brothers joined them. Encouraged by the hierarchy, the U.S. province also entered actively into parish work. In 1937 the mission territory of Arakan, Burma (eventually also the Prome-Thayetmyo district) was given to its care. In 1927 the basis for a new province was laid with the purchase of property in Enfield, N.H., to serve as a minor seminary for the French-speaking in New England and Canada. In 1958 the western part of the U.S., two foundations of the Polish province (Olivet, Ill., and Milwaukee, Wis.), and five in Canada, was established as a separate province, with provincial residence at St. Louis, Mo.
The generalate is in Rome. There are three provinces in the U.S.: the Province of Our Lady of Seven Dolors (1934) with its headquarters in Hartford, Conn.; the Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (1945) with its headquarters in Attleboro, Mass.; the Province of Mary Queen (1958) with its headquarters in St Louis, Mo.; and the Province of Mary, Queen of Peace (1967) with its headquarters in Twin Lakes, Wis.
Bibliography: j. jaouen, Les Missionnaires de Notre Dame de la Salette (Les Grands Ordres Monastiques et Instituts Religieux 43; Paris 1953). j. p. o'reilly, The Story of La Salette (Chicago 1953). l. bassette, Le Fait de la Salette (Paris 1955).
[j. a. lefrancois/eds.]