Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ

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Secular institute of women in the Franciscan tradition founded by Agostino gemelli, OFM, and Armida Barelli in Assisi, Italy, November 1919. The original band of 12 young women professed the Franciscan Tertiary Rule and lived in chastity, poverty, obedience, and devotion to the active apostolate, especially of Catholic Action. From 1919 to 1928 the society, called the Family of Franciscan Tertiaries for Promoting the Social Reign of the Sacred Heart, was under the minister general of the Friars Minor. Members lived at home following their own occupations. From 1928 to 1939 Pius XI guided the group, naming it the Pious Association of Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ. After 1947 the association conformed to the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater. On July 12, 1948, it received the decree of praise as a pontifical secular institute; definitive approval followed on Aug. 3, 1953. From Italy the institute spread to all the continents. Missionaries of the U.S., organized by Stephen Hartdegen, OFM, in Washington, D.C., labor in many states. At the beginning of the 21st century, there were more than 3,000 members worldwide in 20 countries.

The institute's importance derives from its ability to influence secular environments (professional, occupational, and social), through competence and Christian action. Members are not publicly known as missionaries but as laity. The related Men's Institute of Missionaries, founded by Gemelli in 1928, was approved by Pius XI. Entrusted to Cardinal Schuster of Milan in 1929, it was reorganized in 1942 as the "Union of Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ." It became a diocesan secular institute, Oct. 4, 1951. A third institute founded by Gemelli, the diocesan Secular Institute of Priest Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ, under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Milan, arose from the attraction to the ideals of the lay institutes of missionaries by their priest directors. Members renew annually the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and devotion to the apostolate.

Bibliography: Like Burning Lamp, tr. s. hartdegen (Paterson 1962). g. escudero, Gli Instituti Secolari (Milan 1957). j. beyer, Les Instituts séculiers (Bruges 1964).

[s. hartdegen/eds.]

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Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ

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