(CSV, Official Catholic Directory, #1320). The Clerics of St. Viator were founded in 1835 by Louis Joseph Querbes (1793–1859), pastor of Vourles, in the Archdiocese of Lyons, France. Since the French Revolution had plunged France into a state of religious illiteracy, Querbes assembled a group of young men dedicated to the task of teaching Christian doctrine and serving the altar. He chose as the patron of this community St. Viator, who, in the 4th century, had discharged similar functions as a lector in the cathedral church of Lyons. Three years later the statutes of the congregation were approved by Gregory XVI.
Under the generalship of Querbes, the membership increased so rapidly that before his death there existed three provinces of the society in France and Canada. The clerics not only taught in elementary schools and colleges, but also established a publishing house from which were issued a large number of practical school classics and educational magazines, such as L'École et la famille and L'Ange gardien, setting forth the necessity of cooperation between the home, Church, and school. After passage of the 1903 law, suppressing all religious schools in France, most of the Viatorians emigrated to Belgium and Canada. In 1847, Bp. Ignace bourget of Montreal obtained teachers from Querbes for a small college in Joliette, Canada. In subsequent years the Canadian Viatorians were divided into two provinces, Montreal and Joliette, and two subprovinces, Abitibi and Rimouski. In addition to their other teaching, the Viatorians have established several large schools for the deaf.
In 1842 they began their first mission in the U.S. at Carondelet, MO, but unfavorable circumstances led them to abandon the project in 1857. In 1865 the Viatorians from Canada were invited to open a school for boys in Bourbonnais, IL. Another was established at the Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, IL, in 1884. The Viatorians taught there until the cathedral parish was divided in 1904; their school was made a parochial school for boys and girls under the direction of sisters. St. Viator College, Bourbonnais, IL, the principal foundation of the Viatorians in the U.S., was begun in 1868. It included under its administration not only the usual courses leading to the bachelor's degree, but also a seminary, a high school, and the upper elementary grades. To comply with new educational requirements, the last two mentioned were discontinued by the year 1929. The results of two disastrous fires (1906, 1926) and the financial crash of 1929 made the maintenance of St. Viator College impossible; it was closed in 1938.
In the U.S., the Viatorians take charge of schools and parishes; many work as teachers, administrators, chaplains, counselors, pastors, spiritual and retreat directors, and missionaries. The U.S. provincialate is in Arlington Heights, IL. The generalate is in Rome.
Bibliography: e. l. rivard, St. Viator and the Viatorians (Chicago 1916). a. bernard, Histoire des clercs de Saint-Viateur au Canada…1807–1882 (Montreal 1947).
[e. v. cardinal/eds.]