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Vincentians

VINCENTIANS

Lazarists and Paúles are other popular names for the members of the Congregation of the Mission (CM), a community of priests and brothers. Founded by St. vincent de paul (c. 15811660), they and the Daughters of Charity constitute the "Double Family of St. Vincent," under one superior general. The aims of the congregation, besides personal sanctification of its members, are parish administration, chaplaincies, foreign missions, pastoral ministries, social outreach, and academic and seminary education.

Foundation and Organization. The congregation derives its origin from Vincent's awareness of the lack of religious instruction among the peasants on the estates of Count Philip Emmanuel de Gondi, whose chaplain and almoner he was. Vincent's sermon at Folleville, Jan. 25, 1617, is regarded as the beginning of the congregation, although it was not formally organized until April 17, 1625, when Vincent and his first disciple, Antoine Portail (15901660), pledged themselves to preach missions on a permanent basis. Endowed by the Count de Gondi, and authorized by the count's brother, the archbishop of Paris, they took up residence at the Parisian Collège des Bons Enfants. On Sept. 4, 1626, Vincent de Paul, with

Portail and two other priests, legally signified their intention to live in community, an act that received episcopal and royal approbation and, ultimately, confirmation by Urban VIII, Jan. 12, 1632. Vincent then took possession of the former priory of St. Lazare at Paris, whence the Vincentians came to be known in France as Lazarists. From this headquarters 550 missions were organized between 1632 and 1660. To obviate friction between regular and secular clergy, Vincent desired that his missionaries partake of the nature of both: they were to be secular priests living in community according to a rule.

Early Expansion. During Vincent's lifetime the congregation grew to 500 members, located mainly in 23 houses and 15 seminaries in France. Not only was the original purpose of country missions diligently pursued, but many projects of clerical training evolved from the first clergy retreat given at Beauvais in 1628. Retreats for ordinands began in 1631; presently five or six per year were given at Paris. From 1633 to the French Revolution the renowned "Tuesday Conferences" at St. Lazare attracted many earnest ecclesiastics; among them were the Sulpician founder Jean Jacques olier and the future Bishop Jacques Bénigne bossuet. The Collège des Bons Enfants began to function as a seminary in 1636.

Negotiations with the Papal Curia required the presence of Vincentians at Rome where a house was permanently established in 1642. By papal directive all ordinands in Rome were obliged to make a retreat with the Vincentians. Foundations in Italy multiplied: at Genoa (1645), Turin (1654), and Naples (1668). The advent of a French queen in Poland led to the opening of a Vincentian house at Warsaw in 1651. Vincentian missionaries exposed themselves to savage reprisals in Ireland and Scotland between 1646 and 1679; the cleric Thady Lee became the Vincentian protomartyr in 1651. French diplomatic relations with the Muslim world contributed to establishing a chaplaincy to the consulate at Algiers with a Vincentian often serving as interim consul. Alhough missionary opportunities were limited, 1,200 Christians were ransomed from the Moors. Jean Le Vacher was slain at this perilous post in 1683. Vincent's disciples also responded to the summons of the Holy See to evangelize Madagascar, but 17th-century tropical Africa proved uninhabitable for Europeans; disease or unfriendly natives claimed the lives of 31 priests and ten brothers between 1648 and 1674. Nevertheless the field was reopened in 1896.

European Development: 16601800. Vincent de Paul's successor as superior general, René Alméras (166172), presided over a general assembly in 1668 that drew up the basic constitutions. His successors were Edmond Jolly (167397), Nicolas Pierron (16971703), François Watel (170310), Jean Bonnet (171135), Jean Couty (173646), Louis De Bras (174761), Antoine Jacquier (176287), and Felix Cayla de la Garde (17881800). Missions given gratuitously preserved Vincent's "Little Method" of simple instruction in contrast to contemporary baroque norms. Any parishes or chaplaincies that the congregation accepted were usually bases for such missions. Vincentians in Marseilles continued to care for some 10,000 galley prisoners, while those of Les Invalides looked after pensioned soldiers. As the Tridentine reforms were introduced into France, more prelates erected seminaries. On the eve of the French Revolution, Vincentians directed 60 of these in France and 30 more in Italy, Poland, and the Spanish Peninsula. Prelates who favored gallicanism or jansenism sometimes tried to dictate the content of seminary instruction, but the Vincentian assemblies and superiors firmly purged the congregation of the disaffected, and in 1724 the general assembly exacted an oath in support of the papal pronouncements against Jansenism.

Vincentian instruction strove to stress traditional solidity rather than novelty. Pierre Collet (16931770), who achieved distinction as a theologian, also compiled Meditations long in use in the congregation. Victor Soardi (171352) upheld papal primacy, and (B1.) Louis Francois (175192) issued pamphlets against the schismatic civil constitution of the clergy. Francois Brunet (17311806) was a pioneer in comparative religion. The foreign missions were served by the Malagasy grammar of Philippe Caulier, the Chinese dictionary of Joaquín Gonçalvez, the Turkish primer of Pierre Viguier, and Jean Coulbeau's Ethiopic Missal.

The French Revolution inflicted heavy material losses on the 78 Vincentian houses, but revealed spiritual resources. Cayla led the majority of 824 French Vincentians in refusing the schismatic oath to the Civil Constitution. Louis Francois, superior of St. Firmin Seminarythe old Bons Enfantswas martyred during the September Massacres along with (B1.) Henri Gruyer (173492) and 75 inmates or refugees. St. Lazare was plundered and then confiscated; the general and his subjects had to flee abroad or go underground. (B1.) René Rogue (175896) and scores of other Vincentians were executed or imprisoned down to the cessation of the persecution in 1799.

European Revival in the 19th century. One of the consequences of the concordat with the Holy See (1802) was the decree of 1804 legalizing the Congregation of the Mission anew in France. Yet so disrupted was Vincentian government that for 25 years after Cayla's death in Rome (1800) there were two provisional vicarsgeneral, one residing at Rome, the other at Paris. Finally Leo XII named Pierre de Wailly sole superior general (182728), and he took up residence in the new Parisian motherhouse, the former Hotel des Lorges, 95 rue de Sèvres, that housed only 14 survivors of St. Lazare. The new chapel was blessed by Archbishop de Quelen of Paris, Nov. 1, 1827, and here St. Vincent's relics were solemnly reinterred, Eastertide 1830. Later the same year the Blessed Virgin commended the miraculous medal to St. Vincent's Double Family in apparitions to the Daughter of Charity, (St.) Catherine labourÉ, at nearby Rue du Bac.

Vincentians participated in the great Catholic revival in France during the early 19th century. New seminaries were confided to them, and prior to the dissolution of the concordat in 1906 they possessed some 50 establishments. Confiscation by the state then seriously hampered their educational activities, although with the waning of anticlericalism new foundations have since been made. The congregation revived in Poland, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and promising new provinces were organized in Belgium and Holland. Vincentians also returned to Germany and Austria-Hungary, although they suffered during Bismarck's Kulturkampf. In the 20th century they have shared the protracted ordeal of communism. The Spanish Civil War (193639) claimed the lives of 37 priests, 20 brothers, and 30 Daughters of Charity, while the Polish, Hungarian, Czechoslovakian, and Yugoslavian provinces were veiled by the Iron Curtain from 19451989. These losses have been compensated to some degree by growth in other areas; during the 20th century Irish Vincentians extended their missions successfully into England, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand.

Foreign Missions. French interests within Muslim territories continued to give Vincentian missionaries a foothold in Tunis and Algiers, but ministrations had to be confined largely to French colonists. Pierre Viguier initiated Vincentian residence at Constantinople in 1782 and shortly thereafter a promising Bulgarian mission was launched. Vincentians, entering Syria in 1784, founded schools and parishes, and by 1838 a Near East province could be formed. Eugene Boré (180978), later superior general, had come to Persia as a lay Oriental scholar, and in 1840 he obtained entry for Vincentian missionaries. At the invitation of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the Italian Vincentian (B1.) Giustino de jacobis (180060) went to Alexandria, Egypt, whence he penetrated into Ethiopia and established a promising mission. In 1958 Stephen Sidarouss became Catholic Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria.

Following the suppression of the Jesuits, Nicolas Raux (17541801) led a group of Vincentian replacements to the missions of the Far East. They soon encountered persecutions in China that claimed the lives of many, including Francois Clet (17481820) and Jean Perboyre (180240). The missionaries were driven from Peking, but Joseph Mouly (180768), vicar apostolic of Chil-li, was able to return there in 1860. One of his successors, Bp. Alphonse favier (18371905), was at Beijing during the Boxer massacres (1900). Noted Vincentians in the China area were: Évariste huc (181360), Tibetan explorer; Joaquín Gongalvez (17811844), sinologist; Armand david (18261900), naturalist: and Vincent lebbe (d. 1940), influential in establishing a native clergy. When China became communist in 1949, there were many native Chinese Vincentians besides the missionaries from France, Italy, Holland, Poland, and the U.S. After their expulsion from mainland China, many of the refugee missionaries went to Taiwan.

Vincentians in the U.S. The purchase of Louisiana from France by the U.S. in 1803 was the occasion for Vincentian entry into America. Frequent changes of administration had retarded growth in this area, and Bp. Louis dubourg of New Orleans, La., was in desperate need of priests. On his visit to Rome for episcopal consecration, he secured the services of Italian Vincentians for his immense diocese. The pioneers were Felix De Andreis (17781820), superior of the band; Joseph rosati, later bishop of St. Louis, Mo.; John Acquaroni; and Brother Martin Blanka. Disembarking at Baltimore, Md., July 26, 1816, they set out for St. Louis, but broke their journey at Bardstown, Ky., where they assisted for some time as professors in the existing seminary. On their arrival at St. Louis, January 1818, Bishop Dubourg named De Andreis his vicar-general for the Upper Mississippi district. A temporary novitiate was opened at St. Louis, and before the end of the year Father Andrew Ferari and the subdeacons F. X. Dahmen and Joseph Tichitoli became the first Vincentian recruits for the U.S. The donation of 640 acres of land 80 miles south of St. Louis by Catholic families of the "Barrens," Perryville, Mo., laid the foundations in 1818 for the Vincentian American motherhouse. By 1820 a log rectory-seminary had been built and missionary work was begun in the neighborhood. De Andreis's delicate constitution succumbed to unstinted exertions; he died Oct. 15, 1820.

Rosati succeeded him as superior and continued to exercise this charge until 1830, although in 1824 he was consecrated bishop, serving first as coadjutor to Bishop Dubourg, and later as the first ordinary of St. Louis (182743). When Dubourg resigned his see, he was succeeded at New Orleans by another Vincentian, Leo De Neckere (182933). The original foundations at St. Louis and Perryville became an American St. Lazare, parent to many parishes, mission centers, and seminaries. St. Mary's Seminary, begun in 1820, was empowered to grant degrees in 1830. In 1835 the American foundations became a province with the native Pennsylvanian John timon as first visitor (provincial) from 1835 to 1847.

From the beginning Vincentian missionaries had worked out of Perryville and St. Louis, preaching, catechizing, and administering the Sacraments through Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Illinois, and Indiana. Following a canonical visitation of Texas, instituted on the authority of the Holy See and conducted by John Timon and John Mary odin (180170), the latter was named vicar apostolic of Texas in 1842. Odin later became first bishop of Galveston, Texas, and archbishop of New Orleans. For a while Vincentians staffed diocesan seminaries for New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia until the recall of missionaries on loan from Europe obliged them to relinquish these posts. Timon, who, in 1845, introduced into the U.S. the st. vincent de paul society, was named bishop of Buffalo, N.Y. (184767), and induced his confreres to open Our Lady of Angels Seminary at Niagara (1856). The founder, John Joseph Lynch, was subsequently archbishop of Toronto, Canada.

After the provincial headquarters were moved from Perryville to St. Louis in 1847, the office of visitor was held successively by Mariano Maller (184750), Anthony Penco (185155), John Masnou (185556), and Stephen Vincent Ryan (185768). The Vincentians took charge of St. Joseph's parish at Emmitsburg, Md., in 1850, the same year that Mother Elizabeth Seton's Sisters of Charity were united with the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent. Michael domenec, later bishop of Pittsburgh, established St. Vincent's parish at Germantown, Philadelphia, in 1851. Soon after (1853) the rector of St. Charles Seminary, Philadelphia, Thaddeus amat, having become bishop of Monterey, Calif., introduced the Vincentians and the Daughters of Charity to the West Coast. Stephen Ryan guided the community during the difficult days of the Civil War and all 11 Vincentian houses escaped harm. At this time there were 57 priests, 40 brothers, ten scholastics, and seven novices.

During 186768 Ryan transferred the provincial headquarters to Germantown, where St. Vincent's Seminary was opened to care for students and novices from the Perryville seminary, damaged by fire in 1866. When Ryan was consecrated bishop of Buffalo in 1868, he was succeeded as visitor by John Hayden (186872), James Rolando (187278), and Thomas Smith (18791905). In 1868 St. John's parish and college opened at Brooklyn, N.Y. This became the nucleus of St. John's University, which grew from 42 students in 1870 to over 10,000 when it expanded to Jamaica, Long Island, in 1958. At Chicago, Ill., the founding of St. Vincent's parish in 1875 provided for the later development of St. Vincent's College and De Paul University. In 1883, moreover, the college previously established at Niagara attained university rank.

In 1888 the American Vincentian province was divided. The eastern province continued to have headquarters at Germantown, moving subsequently to Philadelphia. Vincentians in the east established centers at Springfield, Mass. (1903); Opelika, Ala. (1910); Bangor, Pa. (1914); Groveport, Ohio (1932); Toronto, Canada (1933); and Spring Lake, Mich. (1952). Similar work was done by the Central Association of the miraculous medal founded by Joseph Skelly in 1915. The Vincentian Thomas judge founded two new religious communities for missionary work in the South. The Vincentians themselves opened parochial centers in Alabama, North Carolina, and Maryland, besides founding new parishes, schools. and seminaries in several of the Northern states.

With its headquarters at St. Louis, the western province (later, the Midwest Province) continued under Thomas Smith as visitor from 1888 to 1905. Administration of the provincewhich comprised two-thirds of the U.S.was facilitated in 1958 by the creating of two vice provinces: one at Los Angeles and the other at New Orleans. In 1975, these two vice-provinces were elevated to the status of full provincesthe Province of the West with its headquarters in Los Angeles, CA and the Southern Province with its headquarters in Dallas, TX. A new provincethe New England Province was also established in 1975, with its headquarters in Manchester, CT.

Bibliography: CM, Official Catholic Directory #1330. r. bayard, Lone-Star Vanguard: The Catholic Reoccupation of Texas, 18381848 (St. Louis 1945). p. coste, The Life and Works of St. Vincent de Paul, tr. j. leonard, 3 v. (Westminster, Md. 1952); La Congrégation de la Mission (Paris 1927). s. delacroix, ed. Histoire universelle des missions catholiques, 4 v. (Paris 195659) v.2. f. j. easterly, Life of Rt. Rev. Joseph Rosati (Washington 1942); "The Vincentian Fathers: A Survey," Thought Patterns 9 (1961) 120157. j. calvet, St. Vincent de Paul, tr. l. c. sheppard (New York 1952).

[n. c. eberhardt/eds.]

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