The Order of the Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools (Sch.P.), popularly known as the Piarists, was established in 1597 by a Spanish diocesan priest, St. joseph calasanctius (Calsanz) (1556–1648) in Rome. The founder wished to provide free education for youth, both rich and poor. All Piarists profess four religious vows, including a special vow to educate youth, especially the poor. The order, which dates its official foundation from March 25, 1617, has grown despite the numerous political persecutions it endured. In 1808, Napoleon destroyed the flourishing German-Swiss province; in 1832, the large and fruitful provinces in Lithuania and Poland were liquidated by Russia in the wake of the Polish revolution of the previous year. The Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) caused great destruction to the schools and the four provinces in Spain; 260 priests were killed. In the 1950s, foundations in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania were abolished by communist governments.
Piarists are found in 33 countries in Europe; North, South, and Central America; Asia; and Africa. Established in 1975, the American province has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Members of the American province serve in Washington, D.C.; Devon, Pennsylvania; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Miami, Florida; Lackawanna, New York; Passaic, New Jersey; and Martin, Kentucky. Piarists also work in New York-Puerto Rico vice province and California vice province.
Alumni of the Piarists' schools include Pope Pius IX, who graduated from the Piarist school in Volterrs, Italy, and St. John Nepomucene Neumann, CssR, fourth bishop of Philadelphia and a graduate of the Piarist school in Straznice, Moravia. St. Anthony Maria Claret, founder of the Claretians, was also a student of the Piarists. Thaddeus Kosciusko, the American Revolutionary hero, Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics; the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya; Haydn; Mozart; Schubert: all had been educated by the Piarists. Prominent Piarists include Bishop Ladislaus Iranyi, the first bishop for Hungarians outside of Hungary, and Alfonso Mistrangelo, who became a cardinal in 1916 and was appointed archbishop of Florence. The Order has two saints among its members: St. Joseph Calasanctius and Pompilius Maria Pirotti (canonized, 1934), and several beati including Glycerius Landrinai, Peter Casani, and 13 Spanish martyrs of Spain.
Bibliography: j. c. bau, Biografía crítica de San José de Calasanz (Madrid 1949). c. s. durant, The Life of St. Joseph Calasanctius (Los Angeles 1954).