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Members of the Order of the Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was founded at Florence in 1233 by seven councilors of the city, who have since been canonized as the Seven Holy Founders, among whom the first leaders were St. Buonfiglio dei Monaldi and St. Alessio de' Falconieri, who remained a lay brother. The order was approved by the Holy See in 1249 and again in 1304. Its apostolate is among the faithful and non-Christians and includes promoting the devotion to the Blessed Virgin, especially under the title of the Sorrowful Mother. There are several institutes of women religious, pontifical and diocesan, specially devoted to Our Lady of Sorrows. The best known are the contemplative Servite nuns (Second Order) founded by two penitents of St. Philip Benizi (1233-85) about the time of his death; and the nuns of the Third Order, founded by St. Juliana Falconieri in 1306, who care for the sick and the poor and the education of children.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.