Marian Fathers

views updated


The Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (MIC, Official Catholic Directory #0740), popularly called Marian Fathers, were founded in Poland in 1673 by Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary papczynski to honor the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, to teach the poor, and to pray for the souls in purgatory. The Marians first began as a diocesan community with simple vows. Within six years of their founding, King John III Sobieski granted permission to establish houses throughout his dominions. In 1699 Innocent XII gave the Marian Fathers the Rule of Ten Evangelical Virtues of Our Lady (approved by Alexander VI in 1501) and designated the community as an order with solemn vows. This rule was complemented by statutes composed by the founder. The distinctive religious garb of the Marians was a white habit with cincture and cape.

The Marians made foundations in Lithuania, Portugal, and Italy, but religious persecutions gradually forced them out of Rome in 1798, Portugal in 1834, and Poland and Lithuania in 1864. Most Marians were either exiled to Siberia or absorbed into the diocesan clergy by 1864. Those who remained were permitted to live in the monastery of Mariampole, Lithuania, but were forbidden to accept novices. In 1908 there remained in Mariampole the last surviving Marian, Vincent Senkowski-Senkus, superior general. However, the order was saved from extinction by two Lithuanian priests, professors of the Roman Catholic Ecclesiastical Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, who appealed to the Holy See to be admitted secretly into the order. In order to facilitate restoration, Pius X approved the change from solemn to simple vows, and from the conspicuous white habit to the black cassock of a diocesan priest. On Aug. 29, 1909, by papal dispensation, George Matulaitis-Matulewicz made his religious profession without the required novitiate, and Rev. Francis Bucys was admitted into the novitiate. To rescue the reborn congregation from Russian persecution, the novitiate was transferred in 1911 from St. Petersburg to Fribourg, Switzerland. In 1910 a new constitution (revised in 1930) was approved by Pius X and supplanted the original rule. In 1930 Pius XI confirmed the former status of the Marians as exempt religious.

In 1913 the Marian Fathers first settled in Chicago, Ill., and from there spread to Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. Some of them minister in the Byzantine-Slavonic rite. In the spirit of their founder, they preach missions, teach, administer parishes, and publish newspapers, books, and periodicals.

The generalate is in Rome. There are two American provinces: St. Casimir (with its headquarters in Chicago, IL) and St. Stanislaus Kostka (with its headquarters in Stockbridge, MA).

[m. rzeszutek/eds.]