Sacred Heart Missionaries

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(MSC, Official Catholic Directory #1110); a congregation of priests and brothers founded in Issoudun (Indre), France, by Rev. Jules chevalier to renew the faith of France through devotion to the Sacred Heart. Chevalier, a young assistant pastor in the Issoudun parish, had formulated plans for his new organization while still a seminarian in Bourges. In 1854 he made a novena to the Blessed Virgin in preparation for her feast of December 8; this day is considered the founding date of the new community, which was granted status as a diocesan congregation on Sept. 9, 1855. The congregation was recognized by the Holy See in 1869.

The first MSC apostolic school (minor seminary) was opened on Oct. 2, 1867, at Chezal-Benoît, France. During the French anticlericalism of the 1880s, the members of the society were dispersed; they opened similar schools in other countries, thus making the congregation international in character early in its history. MSC members expanded their work further when Leo XIII requested them to undertake the difficult island missions of Micronesia and Melanesia in the South Pacific. Despite limited resources and his knowledge of previous missionary failure there, Chevalier accepted the assignment and three priests and two brothers embarked from Barcelona, Spain, Sept. 1, 1881. Although not originally founded as a foreign mission congregation (members must volunteer for mission assignment), the society considered this work very appropriate to the fulfillment of its motto: May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be loved everywhere!

The U.S. province is headquartered in Aurora, IL. This province developed from the work of a few priests under the leadership of Joseph Stettner, MSC; in 1910 they left the German province to assist in the Diocese of La Crosse, WI, where they established a mission house at Sparta. The MSC opened another mission house in Reading, PA, and accepted the responsibility of the parishes in Nazareth and in Haycock Run, PA. In 1924, under Father Bernard Greifenberg, they formed an MSC community in Aurora, IL (which later became the provincial headquarters), and in January 1926 began classes in the minor seminary in nearby Geneva. In 1927 the congregation officially organized all these communities as the American district under Father Stettner and in 1935 inaugurated a major seminary at Shelby, OH. On July 22, 1939, the various MSC communities in the U.S. (excluding those of the Canadian province) were granted independent status as the U.S. province, with Joseph Averbeck, MSC, as first provincial. The generalate is in Rome.

Bibliography: a. dupeyrat, Papouasie: Histoire de la mission, 18851935 (Paris 1936). h. vermin, Le Père Jules Chevalier (Rome 1957). The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart: 18541954 (Berwyn, IL 1954).

[l. f. petit/eds.]

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Sacred Heart Missionaries

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