(SMM, Official Catholic Directory #0870); Missionaries of the Company of Mary, known also as the Montfort Fathers and the Society of Mary of Montfort (SMM), was founded in 1705 by St. Louis Marie grignion de montfort.
In 1700, Louis Marie journeyed throughout western France, preaching missions and retreats, and teaching total consecration to Jesus through Mary. At the time of his death in 1716, the Company of Mary numbered two priests and a few brothers. The community, however, took root near the tomb of its founder at Saint-Laurentsur-Sèvre, in Vendée. Although limited by royal decree to no more than 12 priests, this small mission band accomplished work that merited praise from Rome in 1719 and again in 1747. Nine of the priests and brothers were martyred for the faith during the French Revolution, leaving the congregation with but five priests and two brothers. Gabriel deshayes, founder of five religious congregations, joined the Company of Mary and became the superior. When he died in 1841 the society had grown to 18 priests and 40 brothers.
Louis Marie's manuscript, "True Devotion to Mary," was discovered in 1842; it marked a turning point in the history of the congregation. Although all recruits for the priesthood were from the secular clergy, the community expanded and was raised to the rank of a pontifical congregation in 1853. The society's first minor seminary was founded in France in 1876; the first major seminary, in Holland in 1880. The beatification of the founder, in 1888, was accompanied by a rapid development of the society, which spread throughout the world, preaching missions and retreats, and was dedicated to restoring the reign of Christ through Mary.
Although the Montfort Fathers were invited to the U.S. in 1835 by Bp. Benedict Flaget of Kentucky, the first American establishment of the order was made in the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1903. The U.S. provincial headquarters was established at Ozone Park, N.Y. The generalate is in Rome.
[p. j. gaffney/eds.]