Missionaries in the Footsteps of St Paul: Religious Institutes Inspired by St Paul
Religious Institutes Inspired by Saint Paul
"Dear Brothers and Sisters, "duc in altum"! Let us set sail in the vast sea of the world and, following Jesus' invitation, let us cast our nets without fear, confident in his constant aid. St Paul reminds us that to preach the Gospel is no reason to boast (cf. 1 Cor 9: 16), but rather a duty and a joy. Dear brother Bishops, following Paul's example, many each one feel like "a prisoner of Christ for the Gentiles" (Eph 3: 1), knowing that you can count on the strength that comes to us from him in difficulties and trials. (. . .)
And you, dear men and women religious, whose vocation is marked by a strong missionary connotation, bring the proclamation of the Gospel to everyone, especially those who are far away, through consistent witness to Christ and radical following of his Gospel."
The diversity of charisma
Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) The inclusion of St Paul's name in the title of an Institute is relatively recent. In the past, numerous monasteries bore the name of the Apostle of the Gentiles, but only after the centralisation of Institutes in modern times, did certain founders, with deep personal devotion for the saint or a precise apostolic programme, choose him as the patron saint of their Institute and their activity.
Saint Antonio Maria Zaccaria (1502-1539), founder of the Clerics Regular of St Paul (Barnabites) and the Angelical Sisters of St Paul, founded the first religious family placed under the protection of St Paul, animated by a generous programme of reform on the eve of the Council of Trent.
Over a century later, in 1696, the Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartres a fruit of the spirituality of St Vincent de Paul owe their name to the local Bishop Paul Godet de Marais. As time passed reference to St Paul showed itself to be fecund and appropriate for communities of women religious with a marked missionary identity. The Sisters of Charity of St Paul in Birmingham, England, are a branch derived from Chartres (1847). The same is true of the Sisters of St Paul of Angoulême, founded in 1825 and then merged in 1854 with the Society of the Sacred Heart.
From the 18th century onwards the title usually denotes a precise apostolic programme modelled on the charisma of St Paul. Whereas the Blind Sisters of St Paul (1852) took a motto drawn from the Letter to the Ephesians ("Now we are the Light of the Lord", Eph 5,8), Isaac Hecker, in 1858, saw missionary activity principally in the ecumenical sense. Canon Joseph Schorderet, in 1873, chose St Paul as the patron saint of his Work to diffuse good literature, explicitly supported by Pius IX.
Two other founders in the early 20th century underlined the connection between St Paul and the means of social communications: Greek Melchite Bishop Germanos Mouakkad (Missionaries of St Paul) in 1903 and Rev Giacomo Alberione (Society of St Paul and the Daughters of St Paul) in 1914-15. The Society of St Paul (1920), founded by Cardinal Andrea Carlo Ferrari, works partly in the same field and partly pursuing a programme of social assistance and development.
In the social field at the end of the 17th century, Jakob Friedrich Bussereau succeeded in uniting a group of priests and women religious in a religious fraternity to care for persons suffering from mental deficiency. A few years later, a Maltese priest, Fr Giuseppe De Piro (1877-1933), transmitted his strong attachment to St Paul as an ideal, to the 'Little Missionary Society'.
To mark this special year of St Paul, Fides presents this Dossier on Religious Families which draw inspiration from St Paul the Apostle, highlighting the challenges past and present, the state of mission and initiatives connected with the Year of the St Paul. We thank various religious superiors and directors for their help and contributions.
These religious Institutes honour St Paul with special liturgical devotions, both on his feast days celebrating the important events of the Apostle's life and in daily prayer. Some founders left writings on spirituality, catechesis or commentaries on the person and the letters of St Paul, which are contained in the Constitutions or in prayer books: this is the case of Sant'Antonio Maria Zaccaria, Marie Anne de Tilly, Giacomo Alberione, Germanos Mouakkad, Giuseppe De Piro and Isaac Hecker.
The two Institutes founded by Alberione (Società San Paolo and Figlie di San Paolo) follow a particularly rich cycle of devotions. In 1918 the small community dedicated the whole of the month of June to St Paul with the daily recitation of the "Coroncina a San Paolo", a series of invocations focussed on conversion, the evangelical counsels and the apostolate. In 1958 Rev Alberione called a "Jubilee of St Paul" for the St Paul family to mark the 19th centenary of the Letter to the Romans. Alberione is the author of special prayers to St Paul, who is a protector of good literature.
Other Institutes also recite prayers for this specific charisma. The apostle is invoked for missionary zeal, teaching, vocations and conversions.
Chronology of foundation
- Barnabiti (founded: when 1533), (where, Italy)
- Suore Angeliche di San Paolo (1535), Italy
- Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartres (1696), France
- Sisters of St Paul of Angoulême (1825), France
- St Paul's Sisters of Charity (1847), England
- Blind Sisters of St Paul (1852), France
- Paulist Fathers (1858), United States
- Oeuvre de Saint Paul (1873), Switzerland
- Society of St Paul (1871), China
- Missionaries of St Paul (1903), Lebanon
- St Paul's Mission Society (1910), Malta
- Brüder und Schwestern von heiligen Paulus (approved 1913), Germany
- Società San Paolo (1914), Italy
- Figlie di San Paolo (1915), Italy
- Compagnia di San Paolo (1920), Italy
The very first religious family inspired by St Paul was founded in 1530 in Milan by Sant'Antonio Maria Zaccaria (1502-1539). Rated today for his work of reform together with Saint Gaetano de Thiene and St Ignatius of Loyola, Zaccaria developed deep Eucharistic spirituality and particular devotion to St Paul the Apostle, in the years of preparation for the priesthood. Having obtained a degree in medicine, he began to care for the poor sick people and only later at the age of 26 chose the priestly life.
He entered the Oratorio Eterna Sapienza in Milan, and, after sharing his ideas of reform with some Milanese aristocrats, formed a first group called "I Figliuoli di Paolo Apostolo". "You can be certain he wrote you will build, upon the foundation of Paul, not hay or wood, but gold and specious stones, and over you and yours heaven and its treasures will be opened".
In 1533 Pope Clement VII approved the male branch; then, with the Bull of Paul III dated 24 July 1535, it took the name of Clerics Regular of St Paul decapitated. A Brief of the same year approved the female branch, Angeliche di San Paolo Converso (the name was officially approved in 1549 by Paul III) co-founded by Countess Guastalla Ludovica Torelli, who provided funds and participated in the Congregation's charitable work. Mention must be made of Sister Angelica Paola Antonia Negri, who acted as a guide for her sisters and also for the Barnabiti and Coniugati di San Paolo following the sudden early death of the Founder. The Clerics established their community in the church of San Barnaba in Milan taking the popular name we know today Barnabites.
"We run like mad for God and neighbour "
The programme of Sant'Antonio Maria Zaccaria foresaw radical reform of the Church in Lombardy, afflicted by problems which in that epoch were widespread: dioceses without a bishops, clergy with inadequate theological formation, a decrease in religious practice, monasteries and convents in decline. In a letter in 1531 the Saint wrote to his friends: "We run like mad for God and neighbour".
The Society started pastoral activity among the working classes and in monasteries. In 1537 it launched its first mission outside the Duchy of Milan, in Venice, but here the Barnabiti, Angeliche and Coniugati (as the lay members were initially called) were badly received by the authorities which reported them to the Inquisition. Cleared of the charges, the "Figli di San Paolo" were nevertheless reprimanded by the Sant'Uffizio, and told to abide by the canons of religious life issued by the Council of Trent. In this vision must be set the re-organisation of the Angeliche, who changed in 1552 to an enclosed Order.
In the early 17th century, the Barnabites gradually entered the field of education work which was to remain a mark of their apostolate they undertook the first missionary endeavours, in China and Burma, while in Europe new foundations appeared in France, Austria and Bohemia.
The 17th century is still referred to as the Congregation's "golden century" , when it reached the main Italian Courts thanks to the science demonstrated by many of its members and to the protection of Pope Benedict XIV.
In 1810 the suppression of religious orders decreed by Napoleon led to a drastic decline in the Zaccariana Family, a decline which was to continue until the end of the century. The Barnabites, at first dispersed, managed to re-establish a community in Rome in 1814, whereas the community in Milan was not re-established until 1825. In the meantime the female branch suffered an even worse trauma with the death, in 1846, of the last Angelica, Mother Maria Teresa Trotti Bentivoglio. In 1879 Barnabite Father Pio Mauri took in hand the old documents of the Congregation which had been in the custody of Mother Bentivoglio and fostered the re-establishment of a small community of Angeliche in Cremona. In the same years the male branch concentrated its efforts on education for boys, opening oratories which later served as models for Don Bosco.
In 1903 the congregation opened to the missions with the arrival of the first Barnabites in Brazil. This mission expanded for the whole century in every continent and today the Congregation is present in 15 countries: Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Philippines, India, Albania, Belgium, Spain, Poland, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, United States of America, Mexico (most recent foundation in 2003). The Angeliche followed the missionary evolution of the male branch thanks, above all, to the charismatic leadership of Venerable Mother Flora Bracaval (1861-1935), first Superior General of the newly established Congregation. Under her direction the Angeliche were allowed to leave the cloister and return to the original charisma chosen by Saint Antonio Maria Zaccaria.
Today the entire Zaccariana Famiglia, born in the Lombard climate of the Tridentine pre-reform, is projected towards the new challenges of evangelisation and inculturation in the style of St Paul. The lay members are an important part of this programme being involved in all the activities animated by the two religious Institutes, whereas the youth section, Movimento Giovanile Zaccariano, spiritually directed by the Angeliche, leads young people to live a Christian life through the charisma of St Paul.
Interview with Fr Giovanni Maria Villa, Prepositor General of the Clerics Regular of St Paul
"Our Founder, Saint Antonio Maria Zaccaria, in the 16th century, involved all the categories of the Church: priests with the Clerics Regular of Saint Paul women religious with the Angeliche of St Paul and the laity once called 'Maritati di San Paolo', today, Lay people of St Paul. His goal was a programme of reform which, besides the connotation of this term connected with the vicissitudes of the epoch, he saw as interior renewal for all walks of life in the light of the Word of God".
Q. Why refer to St Paul the Apostle?
Villa: "Our charisma is to convert people and help them live as Christians, this explains why our founder drew inspiration from St Paul whom he considered his own guide and protector. In the 16th and 17th century among the Barnabites there were several great scholars of St Paul, a tradition which continues today. At first the Barnabites worked essentially in the different dioceses under the local Bishop. They did not run schools or charitable centres themselves. Instead they collaborated with spiritual direction and pastoral activities. This is true also today. Our congregation has never been very numerous, if we consider the period of maximum development, the 18th century, its members were no more than 800 and today we are about 400. However during the centuries our commitment extended to specific sectors such as teaching and, from the mid 18th century onwards, evangelisation ad gentes, starting with Burma".
Q. How do you live the missionary charisma today?
Villa: "The missionary charisma of Saint Paul became more accentuated at the beginning of the 20th century in Brazil and then after World War II in north America, Africa and the Philippines. In our missions we focus on the formation of missionary communities and the consolidation of what has been achieved before our arrival. In the Philippines and Latin America we have a good number of vocations and 60 temporary professed members ".
Q. What are your initiatives and your goals for the Year of St Paul?
Villa: "For this Year of St Paul, in October we had a three day programme involving Barnabiti, Angeliche and lay members, to reflect on our charisma and our history and to celebrate this event all together at St Paul's Basilica in Rome. Of course during the year other initiates will be organised locally. We hope this return to St Paul will be an opportunity to vivify ourselves and help renew the Christian communities entrusted to our care".
Interview with Mother Elaine Alnaissi ASP, Superior General of the Angeliche di San Paolo
"Our Congregation, founded in 1535 in Milan, represented something quite new at the time. The Angeliche were the first order of non enclosed nuns with an active apostolate, and an essential ideal of education and reform. The first sisters were often sent to revive convents in decline and to rekindle Christian fervour which had been lost".
Q. What were the difficulties encountered by the new Institute?
Alnaissi: "Our charisma of education in the faith met with widespread ignorance. The Angeliche, worked with the Barnabites, organising popular missions in parishes to remind the people of the basic principles of the faith. In 1552 came the cloister, which the Council of Trent ten years later was to make compulsory for all female congregations. From then, until the Napoleonic suppression, in 1810, the Angeliche were one the Church's many contemplative realities. In 1846 the last Angelica died, then with the new foundation in 1879 thanks to Barnabite Fr Pio Mauri there began a new season and growing commitment in social assistance".
Q. Returning to the roots?
Alnaissi: "In a sense yes, seeing that Saint Antonio Maria Zaccaria wanted us also in active apostolate. The opportunity came during the Great War in our convents at Arienzo, in Campania, where the sisters, with the support of the local bishop and the permission of the Holy See, took over the direction of homes for war orphans and dedicated themselves to catechism. In 1926 a Papal Decree re-established our original charisma, giving a new physiognomy to the Institute ordering the fusion of formally autonomous convents and the birth of General Chapter. Not long afterwards we began our missionary commitment, today still in expansion".
Q. Missionaries where and with what programme?
Alnaissi: "In 1922 at Arienzo the first aspirants arrived from Brazil where the Barnabites had been working for some years. Brazil today forms a Province: we have 10 houses and 43 women religious out of a total 65 of non Italians. Other countries followed Brazil: Belgium (1935), Congo (1963), Spain and the United States of America (1965), Kossovo (1976), Philippines (1986), Chile (1993), Poland (2005), Indonesia (2006) and Rwanda, where we run an orphanage for 140 children. In our missions we focus on Christian education and instruction, adapting our activity to the local school system. Wherever we go we either build our own schools of all grades (kindergarten to high school) or work in existing schools with a good number of our sisters as well as helping with pastoral activities in parishes. In Italy, we have 12 houses and a total 79 sisters involved in education. The Istituto San Paolo in Rome has 600 pupils".
Q. What do you expect from the Year of St Paul?
Alnaissi: "In depth study of the figure of St Paul and his Letters, will give new impulse to the whole of our family St Paul's priests, religious and lay people.
A decree issued by Napoleon in 1811 juridically recognised the sisters as "Hospitaller of St Paul, known also as the Soeurs de St Maurice de Chartres". A group of young women dedicated to caring for children, the poor and the sick, had been formed over a century earlier in 1696, at Levesville-La-Chenard, by Fr Louis Chauvet and a young noble woman Marie Anne de Tilly.
At the end of the 17th century in France there were several communities of women who served in the spirit of St Vincent de Paul. Unlike other Institutes, these Sisters or Daughters of Charity made no religious vows and they received no income, but they were allowed to live their vocation outside the cloister. At that time France, like other countries in Europe, was a territory to be evangelised especially in the rural areas where the clergy was scarce. There was no real parish life, at the expense of adequate Christian formation.
When Fr Chauvet arrived in a Levesville from Provence (1694) and saw the state of abandon of the parishes he decided to stay and organise pastoral activity. In 1696 the small community of girls who worked with him, still had no clear idea of its future. Under his spiritual direction, the four girls taught catechism to the children and visited sick members of the parish. At first the arrival of Marie Anne de Tilly met with some opposition among the local aristocrats, because it was inconceivable for a young noble woman to join a group of young peasant girls. However her presence, although brief, (she died in 1703 at the age of 38) fostered deeper awareness among the young girls, ever more numerous. In 1708 Fr Chauvet spoke to the local Bishop Paul Godet de Marais about the group. The Bishop gave them the name of Sisters of St Paul and assigned them a house in the St Maurice suburb of Chartres, from where they were soon to spread to other dioceses. At the same time he entrusted them to the spiritual care of Fr Claude Maréchaux, a doctor in theology from the Sorbonne University.
After moving to St Maurice, the Sisters of St Paul extended their activity, starting many small rural schools, where girls were taught not only basic catechism and instruction but also a craft in keeping with their condition. The schools were free and to collect funds the Sisters knitted woollen berets and stockings. The woollen garments were of such excellent quality that in the early days they ran into difficulty when legal action was taken against them by the confederation of wool mills of Chartres, which held a monopoly in the textile sector.
In 1727 Count de Maurepas, secretary of state, asked the Bishop of Chartres if it would be possible to send some of the Sisters to work in the hospital in Cayenne, Guyana. Four Sisters (Marie Méry, Madeleine Bilharam, Marie Malaire and Françoise Taranne) were chosen from many volunteers. This was only the first of a long series of missions all over the world. In the 19th century, when the new French foundations had laid the basis for other fruitful branches in the rest of Europe (especially in Germany through the directress of Strasbourg and in England, in Birmingham, directly from Chartres), the missions reached the Far East: Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, China, Vietnam, Japan. Between 1850 and 1950 some 941 missionaries departed for the Far East, the West Indies and Guyana.
The French Revolution meant dispersion, even for an Institute not formally religious, but simply a "charitable association". The Superior General, Mother Josseaume, and others who refused to take the oath of loyalty, were arrested. Thanks to a napoleonic decree the Institute later obtained its freedom and juridical recognition: "The aim of the Sisters of St Paul it said is to serve and to assist the suffering in hospitals and other similar places, to instruct children in France and in the Colonies". In 1834, when Mother Josseaume died, the Institute had 445 sisters of whom 45 were missionaries in Cayenne, Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Missionary development coincided with the members' aspiration to take real religious vows instead of simple promises. At their request, in 1853 the Bishop of Chartres, as the community's ecclesiastical Superior, issued an order specifying these resolutions and set the time of novitiate at no less than two years. On 17 June 1931 the Institute was approved by Pope Pius XI. The Constitutions were approved at the same time 'ad experimentum'; previously the Daughters of St Paul had recorded their promises in a Book which, in time, had become a sort of community memorial; the only guiding text was the one written by Canon Charles de Truchy in the first half of the 18th century to preserve the simplicity of the original nucleus and avoid excessive fragmentation. The Constitutions were approved definitively by Pius XII on 13 June 1949, and later updated in the spirit of the Council with a new rule, the Book of Life, approved definitively by the Holy See in 1988. "Following the example of St Paul we read in article 2 the Sisters make themselves 'all to all'. Faithful to their humble beginnings, they strive to live a life of the poverty and simplicity of the Gospel".
Today the Sisters of St Paul of Chartres are a large family of some 4,000 sisters in 36 different countries all over the world (the most recent mission was opened in Kazakstan in 2008). Their apostolate has not changed: instruction of children and orphans, education of young women, caring for the sick and the elderly, pastoral service in most remote and most needy communities.
Interview with Mother Myriam Kitcharoen, Superior General of the Sisters of St. Paul de Chartres
"Our Chapter Meeting in 2007, inspired by the teaching of Isaiah, urged us to enlarge our tent and extend our missions, our service to the Word of God. This requires solid interior formation to open the heart to mission, to the many needs of the world today. Imitating St Paul we let ourselves be guided and taught by the Holy Spirit, putting our future in the hands of God and building communities which make visible an authentic new Pentecost".
Q. What legacy have you received from Fr Chauvet and Marie Anne de Tilly?
Kitcharoen: "The Holy Spirit entrusted Fr Louis Chauvet with the charisma on which to found our Community. It derives essentially from the Gospel passage: Whenever you did this for one of these little ones, you did it for me (Mt 25,40). And Marie Anne de Tilly said: 'I left the world and offered myself to God for the good of the Church and to serve my neighbour.' This is the essence of our charisma: to uplift the human person and spirit, with preference for the poor and places neglected by others."
Q. Where do the Sisters of St Paul de Chartres work today?
Kitcharoen: "Following the example of St Paul we care for the poor and the sick wherever they are: in towns, in rural areas, in hospitals, dispensaries or in their own homes. We instruct young women, making no distinction between rich and poor, following them at every level of study until university, to ensure that they find a place in society and can help their families. Everywhere we proclaim with zeal the Kingdom of God in word and with the witness of our life".
Q. How do you respond to the missionary call?
Kitcharoen: "We give great importance to formation. Today formation is urgently necessary, not only linguistic and cultural training, but proper formation to respond to the call to proclaim the Gospel. To be missionaries we must listen to the Word of God, walk with the Church and be aware of the social and cultural context in which we work. To do this try to develop in ourselves and our communities the international and universal dimension, respecting the different cultures living side by side in the Congregation".
Q. How are you living this Year of St Paul?
Kitcharoen: "We are reflecting deeply on the Apostle's teaching, studying especially his Letters. We have a series of conferences for us and for our respective communities, inserted in activities planned by the local Churches. As a Congregation we have organised a pilgrimage to Turkey where St Paul lived and to Rome, visiting the different places which recall his preaching. We intend to become more familiar with the spirituality of St Paul, to imitate his apostolic zeal and enrich our own missionary vocation, reaching out to countries yet to be evangelised".
The story of the conversion of St Paul in the Acts of the Apostles ("For three days he was without his sight and took neither food nor drink", Acts 9,9) is the origin of the charisma of the Blind Sisters of St Paul founded in Paris in 1852 to be, "Light in the Lord" (Eph 5,8).
This Congregation is connected with an intuition of mademoiselle Anne Bergunion, born in Paris in 1804. She had a sewing workshop and had accepted a few blind girls turned away from the National Institute for Young Blind People. The idea of starting a religious community came to her when she read the phrase: "with one of two persons, a week of work and three rooms one could found a congregation". Mgr Henry Juge, a priest of the diocese of Versailles, immediately supported the endeavour and accompanied it for forty years until his death (1893).
Both founders distinguished themselves for their dedication and their love for the girls. The foundress proposed: "My God I wish to be the slave of the blind for ever". Her spiritual director said: "If after my death they were to open my heart, in it they would find a blind girl ". To help them work, Canon Juge opened a Braille printing works in 1864.
This was an absolute novelty for the times, both in the social panorama there was no form of structured assistance and in the ecclesial field there had never been a congregation for people with this sort of disability. The foundation was achieved thanks to support from Pius IX, who exclaimed when he heard of the initiative: "There is really a woman who thought of this? This is an admirable undertaking, which was lacking in the Church!". This phrase still opens the Institute's Constitution today.
After giving the community rules and constitutions, Anne Bergunion (now Mère Saint Paul) made her first religious vows in the presence of Mgr. de La Bouillerie, on 22 May 1855. Mother Saint Paul had called the blind sisters "choir sisters" and those who could see "lay sisters ", but Canon Juge wished for there to be no difference between the roles. The intuition proved to be fundamental for community life, inspired by absolute equality. In every day life the blind sisters are assisted by the other members of the Institute. The only one of its kind in the world, the Congregation welcomes young blind aspirants who wish to consecrate their life to God and the Church, to serve others, teaching little girls suffering from blindness. On 21 April 1856, the Holy See granted the Institute a Decree of Praise.
Interview with Madre Hélène Coulong, Superior General of the Blind Sisters of St Paul
"Our charisma is to help blind women lead a religious life, and facilitate the training of blind children in useful occupations. It was Mgr Juge who insisted on equality which still rules our community life. Our patron saint is Saint Paul who tells how he remained blind for three days at the moment of his conversion (Acts 9,9). The motto which describes our charisma is taken from the Letter to the Ephesians: "Now you are Light in the Lord (Eph 5,8)".
Q. Please tell us about your community life and apostolic activities?
Coulong: "Given the premesses which inspired Mère Saint Paul and Mgr. Henry Juge for our community, very early on the first Sisters began to teach blind girls. This helped us to survive in a period of marked secularism, when the blind were not allowed in classes with the other pupils. Today the Sisters work as volunteers on a project undergoing radical changes which includes: IDES, the Foyer de Vie and SIAM78".
Q. Can you tell us a little more?
Coulong: "IDES, is the Institute of Sensorial Education for children aged 3 to young people of 20. The children have sight defects of varying gravity, as well as other associated illnesses or conditions. The Foyer de Vie takes girls from the age of 20 until the end of their life. This has transformed our medical service and increased the number of persons assisted, of both sexes, from 32 to 100. SIAM78 is a service, in expansion, of integration in the scholastic field. The children are accompanied in state schools and the parents are also assisted and helped".
Q. From the beginning, besides programmes of education, your congregation has worked in the field of the media . . .
Coulong: "One of the reasons why ours is an 'internationalised' Institute is precisely because of our Braille printing works. Although other media today have developed considerably, the Livre du Temps présent for the Divine Office, Mass leaflets for Sundays and important feast days and a few Marian publications in Braille are still circulated. Since the 1960s-1970s our Congregation has only one house in Paris (earlier there was an experience in Belgium) but this does not prevent us from being present at the international level through our participation in many programmes. In the ambit of IDES we work in Europe and above all in Africa and Asia".
Q. What have you planned for the Year of St Paul?
Coulong: "We have planned a series of monthly meetings to become more familiar with our Patron Saint. Every day we recite a prayer to St Paul, inspired by one of the Congregation's oldest texts ".
In a singular manner the Year of St Paul coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Missionary Society of St Paul, founded in the United States by the Servant of God, Isaac Hecker on 7 July 1858.
Isaac Hecker was born in New York on 18 December 1819, of German immigrant parents. In 1822 he developed small pox in an epidemic in the city in which thousands had died, but from his bed he reassured his mother Caroline: "No, I will not die. God has a job for me in this world and I will live in order to do it ".
Caroline was a Methodist and she handed on to her children the dream, incarnated in American society, of a new Promised Land, from which the Gospel would spread throughout the rest of the continent. His father John Jonas, worked in the engineering industry and later became proprietor of a brass forging factory in Manhattan. Those were the years of the industrial revolution marked by mass immigration and continual request for workers and at the same time an extraordinary economic growth which promised social improvement and prosperity.
When he finished school, Isaac followed his brothers John and George who had opened a bakery and who, later, with the Hecker Flour Company, made enormous profits he was the delivery boy. Passing through the poorest streets to deliver the bread, he came into contact with people forced to live in squalid conditions, at the mercy of crime and brutalised by corrupt policemen. Young Isaac felt increasingly the duty to do something and he joined Loco-Focos, liberal wing Democratic Party in New York. In 1837, with his brothers, he took an active part in a political campaign distributing leaflets until three in the morning, "an hour which did not bother us because we were bakers" he recalls.
In 1841 he approached a Orestes Brownson, a philosopher from Boston who had conquered public opinion with his book New Views of Christianity, Society and the Church. In the years that follow he studied philosophy, Greek and Latin and his priestly vocation began to mature, while Brownson encouraged him to enter the Catholic Church. After profound doctrinal preparation on 2 August 1844 he was baptised by coadjutor Bishop of New York John McCloskey, and recorded in his diary: "The Catholic Church is my star, she will lead my life, my destiny and my plans". Mgr McCloskey was the spiritual director of the new convert and he encouraged him to cultivate rigorous spirituality: daily Mass, silence, meditation and penitential practices. In the meantime a meeting with two other young converts, Clarence Walworth and James McMaster, who had decided to enter the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, led him to join them and in July 1845 Isaac told his Bishop that he had decided to leave for Belgium to do his novitiate. Four years later on 23 October 1849, he was ordained a priest.
On returning to America in 1851, Fr Hecker launched a series of missions with a group of confreres in New Orleans and in Alabama, attracting the attention not only of Catholic bishops and faithful, but also that of Protestants: 70 conversions followed his visits to parishes. These experiences were later told in a book, Questions of the Soul, scaled down by protestant commentators and welcomed by Catholics as an "epochal book". A second volume, Aspirations of Nature, recapitulated his quest for truth in the light of the Catholic faith. In 1856 with a series of meetings with protestant Christians at Norfolk, he amazed and captivated the public for his ability to present Catholic doctrine with gentleness and pathos.
However the missionary enterprise of the young Redemptorist priest and his ideas of creating an American Redemptorist House with no ethnic orientation (the two in existence in Philadelphia and New Orleans, were mainly for Germans and Irishmen) caused impatience among his Superiors, who disapproved of the excessive independence of the American province. While in Rome, Fr Hecker was expelled from the Congregation.
On returning to America, in 1858, Fr Isaac was sure that the best way to continue the work started and foster conversions was to found a new clerical Institute. With the approval of Pius IX, the small group of men who had gathered around him obtained permission from the Bishop of New York to establish themselves in a parish on 59th Street. The group took the name "Missionary Priests of St. Paul the Apostle" (in the form of a Society of Apostolic Life), popularly called the Paulist Fathers. After missionary experience in parishes between 1867 and 1869, Fr Hecker devoted himself to the apostolate for non Catholics meeting some 30,000 people (two thirds Protestants) in Boston, Chicago and in Missouri. In 1865, he began to publish a monthly magazine, The Catholic World (still in circulation) and the following year the Catholic Publishing Society (today Paulist Press), mainly to reach non Catholics.
In 1869-70 Fr Hecker took part in the 1st Vatican Council as the theologian of Bishop James Gibbons of North Carolina. On his return he developed leukaemia and was forced to give up his activity as Director of the Society, priest, author and lecturer. In 18 years of continual wearing down, with faith he faces illness and dies on 22 December 1888, at the Paulist House on 59th Street, surrounded by the affection of his confreres.
Interview with Fr John Duffy, President of the Missionary Society of St Paul the Apostle
"In 1858 five priests, all converts to Catholicism, received approval from Pope Pius IX to form a religious community for evangelisation in North America. From these humble beginnings the mission of the Paulists developed and today the members of the Society serve in 22 foundations in 16 cities of North America, Rome and Jerusalem. The vision of our Founder Fr Isaac Hecker, rooted in the power of the Holy Spirit, inspired generations of Paulists to 'meet the need of the Church in the modern age'. Fr Hecker was declared Servant of God by Cardinal Edward Egan precisely this year".
Q. Please tell us about your charisma
Duffy: "Our charisma touches three areas: evangelisation, reconciliation and dialogue, ecumenical and interreligious. We also have pastoral responsibility of young adults and animation on university campuses. So our activity is a balance between a parish and a secular institution ".
Q. How do you bear witness to Saint Paul?
Duffy: "We strive to bear witness to St Paul in the present day culture. We are active in the media with specific apostolate: Paulists Press, Paulist Film Productions, radio programmes (Busted Halo Radio Show on Catholic Channel and Sirius Satellite Radio). We evangelise in North America with a series of offices and with a programme for reconciliation with non-Catholics "Landings", and also with interreligious dialogue. The Society has 150 priests, 110 of these still in active apostolate. We are present in U.S.A., Canada, Italy and Israel. A few Paulists exercise the traditional ministry in parishes, others are present in the offices of the United States Catholic Bishops' Conference, others have directive roles on Catholic campuses. We pride ourselves on serving with creativity in various pastoral areas associated with the media: publishing, films, internet sites, radio programmes and even theatre".
Q. In this Year of St Paul your missionary society celebrates the 150th centenary of its foundation, a happy coincidence . . .
Duffy: "It is a great joy for us that the Year of St Paul coincides with our 150th anniversary. As for initiatives, we will make a pilgrimage to Rome in November, and we made one already in March. We have just closed a year of celebrations, spiritual retreats, pilgrimages, liturgies, and religious feast days. Four months ago 350 people participated in a three day 150th Anniversary Convocation. At the local level each foundation celebrated a anniversary liturgy followed by meetings and festivities. The Year of St Paul will be a year of blessings and a unique opportunity to shed light on our ministry and give new impulse to our communities: priests, lay members, lay collaborators, benefactors and friends".
The Oeuvre de St-Paul, for some time in the plans of the Swiss born Canon Joseph Schorderet, was founded on 12 December 1873 in Fribourg, and made a Religious Congregation in 1931.
Born in 1840 and ordained a priest at the age of 26, Schorderet had acquired a growing interest for social issues and especially, after he was appointed canon of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Fribourg, for the press. Earlier while Vicar of Neuchâtel he had written for the Monat Rosen, a publication of a group of Swiss students, and on 1 November 1871 he started La liberté, still today the only Catholic daily in French-speaking Switzerland.
The foundation of an Opera for press dedicated to St Paul, launched a new trend which was soon to mark a series of new religious Institutes called after the Apostle (The Paulists of Lebanon, the Paolini and the Paoline of Rev Alberione, the Compagnia di San Paolo in Milan, all with the specific apostolate of the press and other media. In 1977 Schorderet said in a conference: " Graphic arts, industrial progress, rapidity of communication, instantaneous telegraphic information, means invested for the publishing of advertisements: all this must serve for the cause of God and his Church, through the Oeuvre de St Paul, for the restoration of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ in society". As patron saint of the community he chose Saint Paul, convinced he would have used the new means (telegraph and press) to multiply his letters and spread the Gospel: "The time has come he used to say to appeal to virile souls aware of the power of the press, to unite them in an association or confraternity with the sole purpose of the apostolate of the press".
At first the Canon imagined an Oeuvre made up of priests, brothers, women religious and lay people, but when it was started the community consisted of only women religious, who were later joined by lay people. In 1874, after workers' strike, his paper was about to close down but he found some young men willing to work in the printers taking religious vows. The first private vows were taken that same year.
Encouraged by Pius IX, very aware of the utility of an initiative to promote good press, the Institute developed fast. Five years later the original number of 6 women religious had grown to 80 and in less than a decade the Oeuvre had reached France: Paris (Rue Cassette) and Bar le Duc, where it had taken over a large printers run by the Celestini, known for publishing Petits Bollandistes and Annales of Baronio, and renamed it Imprimerie Saint-Paul. The House at Fribourg in the meantime specialised in newspaper printing: La liberté, Ami du Peuple, Bulletin pédagogique, Revue de la Suisse catholique, Bulletin de l'Association de Pie IX, Freiburger Nachrichten, etc.
For various reasons it was impossible to meet a request for a foundation in Rome, and an adventure in Holland in Maastricht also failed, whereas the French printers at Issy-les-Moulineaux (1928) became famous for printing African classics.
The first foundation in mission countries dates to 1949, in Yaoundé (Cameroon) with the opening of a press, which printed and circulated the newspaper N'Leb-Bekristen ("Guide of the Christian "), a magazine Kisito e Ensemble and, a little later on, a bookshop. Other similar foundations followed: Dakar (Senegal) in 1955, Tananarive (Madagascar) in 1957 (later moved to Fianarantsoa in 1963) and, between 1958 and 1974, Brazzaville (Congo), Fort-de-France (Martinica), Bujumbura (Burundi) and Saigon (Vietnam). Beside this from 1965 to 1970 a group of the Institute's sisters worked at the Centre of Professional Training for apprentices in Beirut (Lebanon).
Today the Sisters of St Paul are 117, from 13 different countries. Five novices, nine postulants and about twenty aspirants are in formation, in Madagascar and in Vietnam. The historic houses at rue Cassette and Bar le Duc area closed sad to say, but the foundations in missionary territories in Africa continue. In Antsirabé (Madagascar) the Sisters opened a book shop in 1991, followed two years later by a Novitiate, which has an Animation Centre for the local children. In Vietnam a library-bookshop was opened in Hanoi in 2007.
Interview Mother Michèle Gisiger, Superior General of the Sisters of the Oeuvre of St Paul
"Our Founder, Canon Joseph Schorderet, decided to harness the means of social communications to spread the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. In the times in which he lived this involved mainly the press, 'elevated to the dignity of an apostolate. We were to render the press an apostle of the truth".
Q. How do you live that intuition of the late 19th century, today?
Gisiger: "The Oeuvre of St Paul was born of the immense need to reveal the Truth, to make known a Church which renders perpetual and universalises the Incarnation and the Redemption. According to the intuition of the Founder, the offering of our life to God in prayer, sacrifice, love and apostolic work, helps put the press and other means of communications at the service of the truth and the faith. He handed on to us that cry from the heart of the Apostle Paul: 'I am living in faith, faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me'.(Gal 2,20). These words express particularly well communion with Christ, communion which is the source of apostolic energy still for us today. Our mottoes confirm this 'Life to me, of course, is Christ (Phil 1,21); 'Recapitulate all things in Christ' (Eph 1,10) and also our Constitutions: "To take the faith to the world (. . . ) reveal to all men and women the fathomless riches of Christ and to lead all to Him and in Him restore the entire universe". Our only special devotion is communion with Christ in His offering to the Father for the salvation of the world, in the Eucharist, celebrated and adored ".
Q. In what way is St Paul a model for your mission ad gentes?
Gisiger: "The purpose of our Oeuvre said Joseph Schorderet is to do part of what St Paul would be doing if he were alive today. The Congregation was present for over a century in Paris and for thirty years in Brazzaville (Congo), Dakar (Senegal) and Bujumbura (Burundi). Today, besides the Mother House in Fribourg, we operate in 8 countries in Africa and Asia with the apostolate of the press, animation of cultural centres, collaboration in publishing activities of the local Churches. All this despite our limits and humility, considering also the scarcity of sisters and funds".
Q. What fruits do you hope to see from the Year of St Paul?
Gisiger: "Together with the whole Church we pray that learning from Saint Paul, all the baptised and every consecrated person may give Christ the first place in their heart. That their brotherhood may be their first proclamation of the Gospel and contribute to unite all men and women in Christ".
The Society of St Paul was founded in China in the diocese of Zheng Ding in 1891, its members were secular priests. Today it has about twenty members mainly in the same area where it was founded. Zhi Jia Zhuang (diocese of Zheng Ding), is in He Bei, province, considered the stronghold of Chinese Catholicism.
The Missionaries of St Paul were founded in Harissa (Lebanon) in 1903 by the Bishop of Baalbeck, Germanos Mouakkad. This secular Institute follows Greek-Melkite patriarchal law and its members live together without taking religious vows, working in the special mission to spread the Word of God through preaching, press and practising the evangelical virtues of obedience, poverty, living a community life of celibacy and prayer.
The founder Germanos Mouakkad, was born in Damascus (Syria) in 1852, of Greek Melkite Catholic parents. At the age of sixteen, without telling his parents, he went to Lebanon to be admitted as a novice to the Monastery of the Holy Saviour, where at the time there lived a man of great holiness, Patriarch Clement Bahhouth. From him the young man learned the foundations of a life of rigid asceticism. Six years later he was ordained a deacon and then a priest by Patriarch Gregorius II Josef (1875). At the same time he was appointed Professor of philosophy at the major seminary of his Order and then parish priest in Alexandria and in Cairo.
From 1880 to 1890 he was patriarchal vicar in Jerusalem. One of his major feats was the acquisition of the sixth Station of the Cross, the only holy place belonging to the Greek-Melkite Catholic community in the city.
Sent to Baalbeck as Bishop, after a few years he renounced the charge because of widespread religious ignorance and dedicated himself exclusively to the founding of the new Institute, encouraged by Patriarch Gregorius II Josef. In 1896 he travelled to Rome to show his plan to Pope Leo XIII and there he had the idea of consecrating the foundation to St Paul.
The Missionaries are called to evangelise in rural areas with preaching and press and to foster reconciliation between Catholic and Orthodox Melkite Christians. Bishop Mouakkad established the Mother House in Harissa and in 1903 one priest, one deacon and one layman came to live with him as a community. In 1905 they were joined by Fr Giuseppe Sayegh, who in 1912 succeeded him as director of the Institute. Bishop Mouakkad left numerous spiritual writings of preaching, meditation and liturgical explanations, and 14 articles Founding Statutes of the Missionaries of St Paul, which the first companions later used to write the Constitutions.
From 1922 to 1950 Fr Antonio Habib (who joined in 1908) gave impulse to missionary activity and opened a scholasticate (1931) and a minor seminary (1938). Although the Institute, is under the jurisdiction of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Patriarch, it is open to aspirants of other rites.
At the service of the Word and unity
From the beginning the Paulist Fathers preached the Word of God to people of all social classes (by 1945 they had organised 1,500 retreats). In 1910 a press was started to spread liturgical books, writings on spirituality, school books novels and magazines for the Arab world. Among the latter, the review Al-Maçarrat, still today a voice of the apostolate for good press.
With a mandate from what was then the Pontifical Secretariat for non Christians, the Paulists promote dialogue with Muslims in Arab countries. They are involved in various ecumenical initiatives, especially in the ambit of the St Paul Institute of Philosophy and Theology. The Institute is frequented by candidates to the priesthood, religious and laymen. The courses, in French and Arabic, are open to the Western culture a constant in the intellectual legacy of the founder. The Institute also has a Middle East Centre of Theology which organises an annual research and study Symposium, the interventions of which are regularly published.
The members have special devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, chosen by Bishop Mouakkad as Protectress of the Society of St Paul. St Paul is invoked as a model of apostolic life with the twelve Apostles and St Teresa of the Child Jesus, patron saint of the missions and missionaries.
Interview with Fr Elias Aghia SMSP, Superior General of the Missionaries of St Paul
"Through the Word and press the Missionaries pursue three goals: to confirm the faith and develop spiritual life among Christians, especially in the poorer communities; promote, with common research and good relations, unity among Christians; promote fraternal dialogue between Christians and Muslims".
Q. How do you make the Word and press the centre of your mission?
Aghia: "We spread the Word of God with catechesis, preaching, teaching, spiritual direction and youth movements. Following the example of our Patron, Saint Paul, and our Founder, we soon realised the importance of the written word as a means of apostolate. So the Institute started its own printing press St Paul Press and St Paul Bookshop, which continue to circulate Arab Christian literature for every type of reader".
Q. Can you give us some figures?
Aghia: "Since 1910 we have printed Al-Maçarrat, a Christian magazine in Arabic. Our publishers and press circulate many more publications. The catalogue consists of about 500 titles of books on a variety of subjects: theology, history, philosophy, liturgy, spirituality, illustrated books for children and much more per bambini. Every year we circulate about 200,000 copies mostly in Arab countries".
Q. Which countries?
Aghia: "Our field of activity is the Near East: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq and Egypt. Through our press we are present in other Arab countries and in parishes of Melkite emigrants. Our mission demands first of all dedication to preaching, pastoral care, catechesis and youth movements. Our publishing resources help us root and multiply our activities. And so, besides the Centre for the circulation of religious books, we have local magazines, libraries, dispensaries etc. When priests are scarce Paulist Fathers also serve in nearby parishes".
Q. How do you dialogue with the Muslim world?
Aghia: "Mainly through our Institute of Philosophy and Theology. In 1995 we built a Centre for Research on Christian-Muslim dialogue (CERDIC) which guarantees continual fraternal relations with Muslims and also publishes books to foster friendship between members of the two great religions".
Q. What is your programme for the Year of St Paul?
Aghia: "A series of conferences on St Paul, eucharistic celebrations, retreats, guided pilgrimages, concerts. We will also inaugurate a special St Paul's Door decorated with episodes of the Saint's life and of course special publications".
Young Father Giuseppe De Piro, was obsessed with the idea of "giving to others what St Paul gave to us". He was born in 1877 on the island of Malta, a country evangelised by Paul in person after being shipwrecked on the island. The son of a wealthy noble family, De Piro entered the seminary in 1898, shortly after starting University studies, and was ordained four years later in St John's Basilica in Rome.
With Paul as a his missionary ideal, after some experience as a young priest at Qrendi and director of an orphanage at Hamrun, the young Maltese priest decided to start a "little society" for mission ad gentes (30 June 1910). The Missionary Society of St Paul, in a century of existence, reached six countries (Australia, United States Canada, Perù, Pakistan and the Philippines) and today has 100 members.
"God demonstrated great love for the Maltese people De Piro would say when he allowed St Paul to be the first missionary to come to our island and free it from obscurantism and paganism and giving us the light of the Christian faith". "The heart of St Paul he wrote is the heart of Christ. Paul was always ready to do God's will. (. . . ) He always saw himself as a messenger, the bearer of God's message to mankind".
Without a doubt, the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, corner stone for the new missionary themes which matured in the 1900s, had a great influence on him. One task dear to him was to increase mission awareness in the Church in Malta. Much effort was made to promote the missions and start specific pastoral care. One privileged tool was press: "Print he said is one of the best ways to promote the missionary spirit, to form minds and hearts of young people, to sow and reap vocations and to collect material support".
This was the purpose of St. Paul's Almanac for Missionary Institutes, a bulletin for which he wrote most of the articles. The goal was to increase interest for missionary activity with detailed information about the newly founded Society and about other missionary institutes. "If we cannot collaborate directly because we are not called he wrote in the Almanac if we cannot give of our riches because we have none, we can do something, we can pray for the missions".
Much energy was devoted to vocation pastoral. The Society itself was a response to the demand for missionary vocations for the Church in Malta and De Piro followed the candidates for the Institute personally. Great importance was given to inculturation and native vocations. In 1933 he was about to reach Ethiopia, the Society's first missionary (he had set out six years earlier), but on 17 September while celebrating Mass he died of a heart attack at the age of 56.
Experience in the south of the world
The new Congregation lived years of uncertainty and difficulty until 1948, when for the first time the members elected a Superior General, until then appointed from outside. Shortly afterwards began the adventure of caring for Maltese emigrants in Australia and later, after the United States and Canada, the mission was extended to Peru, Pakistan and the Philippines.
In Peru the decision to open a House in the Andes revealed a desire to be close to the poor. The "pueblos jovenes", new villages founded by highland peasants with the hope of a better life, were actually groups of families with no social connection, without work or access to government assistance. Here Maltese missionaries animate small Christian communities and serve the people in different ways. The church was often also a school, a medical clinic, a centre of adult instruction, where people could learn domestic economy and a craft.
The mission in Pakistan is a testimony of dialogue and collaboration with the Muslim world. Despite red tape, the parishes, schools and healthcare centres are open to all and the missionaries are surrounded by the esteem of the civil authorities and the people. A chapel was built with funds offered by a Muslim businessman. In the Philippines, besides service of the poor, the Society is working on a project of formation for seminarians involving the large universities in Manila. The Philippines can serve as a base for future programmes of evangelisation in Asia.
The recent General Chapter indicated clearly the path to follow: "As Missionaries of St Paul it was said we are sent by God, with love, to participate in his dream for humanity to renew everything in Christ. Listening and contemplating we discover this continually through the Word of God, through the people of God, through our brothers and in the world. With all that is good in us, with all our limits, we respond with gratitude, participating with the Spirit of God in the liberation and the reconciliation of humanity".
Interview with Fr Bernard Mangion, Superior General of the Missionary Society of St Paul
"The Missionary Society of St Paul was founded in Malta by the servant of God, Mgr Giuseppe De Piro, who used to say: 'We give to others what St Paul gave to us', referring to the fact that God used St Paul to carry the faith to Malta. The first two members united in June 1910. The first missionary sent by Mgr. De Piro was Fr Giuseppe Caruana, who lived forty years in Abissinia without ever returning to his own country. His apostolate was deeply appreciated by the local Church and the civil authorities. After World War II numerous Maltese emigrated to other countries, especially to Australia and in 1949 the Archbishop of Malta asked the Society to send confreres to provide pastoral care for Maltese emigrants in that country. Sixty years later our service has not grown old at all. Later on, other members were sent to give the same service in Canada and the United States. This continues today but on a smaller scale".
Q. How do you undertake mission ad gentes?
Mangion: "Following in the footsteps of St Paul, mission ad gentes is our charisma. In 1968 the Society opened a mission in Peru, where today we are present in 6 parishes and a House of Formation in Lima. In 1982 and 1998 two more new missions were opened in Pakistan and in the Philippines. In every mission we put evangelisation first, followed by programmes of spiritual and material assistance to the poor with a series of initiatives: social centres, medical care, education. We give special attention to children and young people. In Pakistan we have a primary and a secondary school and we are present with various other activities, whereas in the Philippines we have a chapel on the campus of Manila University".
Q. What place has St Paul in your spirituality?
Mangion: "A very central place, obviously. Saint Paul, a true disciple of Jesus, a zealous missionary master, is our model. Every year on 25 January we celebrate the feast of his conversion with great solemnity".
Q. How are you living the Year of St Paul?
Mangion: "We have a series of initiative planned. A film on St Paul, a new church dedicated to the Conversion of St Paul to be built in Lahore, Pakistan. We have published a small book on the life of St Paul in Urdu and many other initiatives in parishes and missions, to stress the importance of Paul for the Church today and also to give new impulse to our apostolate and the diffusion of the Gospel. Each member of the Society is encouraged to pray and to meditate on the Apostle's teaching and to become ever more similar to him, an example of a true missionary. My hope is that the Year of St Paul will give new impulse to our religious life and prepare us to meet the challenges of evangelisation, mission ad gentes, especially".
Jacob Friedrich Bussereau was born on 2 February 1863 in Hambach (Palatinato, Germany), into a family of mother, father and thirteen children. After his ordination to the priesthood on 22 August 1886, Rev Jacob was appointed chaplain at Herxheim, a community where religious life flourished. Here he met Anna Marie Dudenhöfer who was later to found with him the Convent of St Paul and the Congregation of the Sisters of St Paul. On 14 January 1896 he obtained from the Bishop of Speyer approval for his plan to open a Home where sick and disabled people would receive better care. For this purpose he purchased a house at Herxheim, which still today is the Mother House of the Sisters of St Paul. In 1897 and 1899 other houses were opened at Neuötting and at Bad Bergzabern. In 1913 approval was obtained for the foundation of two Congregations, one of the Brothers of St Paul and other of the Sisters of St Paul. Bussereau died in 1919 and was buried at Herxheim. In 1920 the male branch united spiritually with the Order of Friars Minor, Conventual, the female Order did the same the following year.
After various events and changes of destination, due to upheaval during the years of the first and second World Wars, in 1945 the Sisters gained once again possession of their Home and work to restore and enlarge it began. A second phase of renovation begun in 1978 was completed in 1998, with the opening of a Home for the Disabled, with 38 all-day patients and 76 half-day patients. Homes in Neuötting and Altötting in the diocese of Passau, offer a similar service.
The Brothers of St Paul developed rapidly in the early years of the 20th century. At first the Mother House was at Herxheim, then it was moved to Queichheim. The first religious vesting took place in 1919. Life was difficult for the Institute during the two World Wars (the brothers were sent to the front) and under the Nazi regime most of the houses were closed. Today only four elderly Brothers are still living, in the care of the Sisters of St Paul.
In agreement with a decision taken by the general chapter on 1 November 2000 a Jacob Friedrich Bussereau Foundation was established. Since 1 July 2002, it is the Foundation which runs the Congregation's institutions at Herxheim, Altötting, Neuötting and Bad Bergzabern. "Despite changes and innovation due to the modern times, the intentions and charisma of our founder still live in the institutions of our Foundation", we read in the guiding principles of the new foundation, "our motto 'omnibus omnia' (1 Cor 9,22) is still valid for us today. The Jacob Friedrich Bussereau Foundation is actively committed to supporting disabled and elderly people and as an institution of the Church we combine competence and quality with the human factor and the power of the Christian faith".
Beatified by John Paul II in 2003, Rev Giacomo Alberione (1884-1971), a priest from Piedmont, is an outstanding figure in the ecclesial renewal which culminated with Vatican II.
During the night of 31 December 1900 while taking part in Eucharistic Adoration in Alba Cathedral, the sixteen year old seminarian heard God calling him "to do something for the Lord and for the men and women of the new century", to become an apostle using the new methods of progress.
Thirteen years later Rev Alberione was appointed editor of the diocesan newspaper Gazzetta d'Alba, an event which he felt was the right opportunity to start Paoline foundations. Alba at the time had a population of 14,000, and was one of the most lively dioceses in Piedmont, thanks to the charismatic guidance of Mgr Giuseppe Francesco Re. Assisted by competent collaborators, the Bishop had promoted in the diocese and at the seminary, liturgical and eucharistic life, formation of the clergy, diffusion of the Gospel, renewal of pastoral care, purity of doctrine against modernist infiltration, catechesis and good literature. Besides the diocesan newspaper there were many other publications, popular books, bulletins of 115 parishes, not to mention three Catholic printers in the town.
When he was appointed editor, Rev Alberione already had considerable experience as diocesan librarian and a member of the Good Literature Association and was well aware of the potential of the Catholic press. "Art and press, the word, living and written, are also apostolates", he noted in 1908. As editor of the Gazzetta d'Alba and coordinator of the diocesan press, he had the opportunity to found two religious families, one for men and the other for women (plus a group of lay people, Cooperators, approved in 1917), animated by the same charisma and with the mission to promote good press.
The reference to St Paul could derive from the experience of a Pro-Press Prayer Crusade, launched by Cardinal Luigi di Canossa, Bishop of Verona and placed under the protection of the Apostle. But Alberione had a deep personal devotion fostered "by the reading and meditation on the Letter to the Romans. From then on, he was to say later the Apostle's personality, holiness, heart and intimacy with Jesus, his work in dogmatics and morals, the mark left on the organisation of the Church, his zeal for all peoples, were matters for meditation".
However, when Rev. Alberione proposed his plan for the approval of Bishop Re, on 14 July 1914, he spoke of only one School of Typography, called Piccolo Operaio. Verbal permission granted, machinery purchased, activity began (20 August 1914) and the first publications came out, "all you need for good catechism" said an advertisement in the Gazzetta.
La Società San Paolo, the Daughters of St Paul and the other Paolini Institutes
On 8 December 1917 five young men made their religious profession with private vows. This small nucleus of consecrated men, developed eventually into the Pia Società San Paolo, which received diocesan approval on 12 March 1927 and pontifical approval on 27 June 1949 from Pius XII. Today the Paolini are present in 33 countries on all five continents and number more than one thousand, priests, brothers, lay members and juniores (about 100). One fact clearly illustrates the publishing activity of the Paolini: 86 magazines published all over the world, ranging from Famiglia Cristiana to pastoral handbooks, a varied offer, for all kinds of readers.
At the same time the female branch, the Daughters of St Paul, (Paoline) started with very few means on 15 June 1915, steadily developed. The first Superior General, Mistress Tecla Merlo (considered co-foundress of the Institute), recalled: "The Daughters of St Paul were founded to dedicate their life to good literature: and they had not even a printers works". At the beginning Sr Tecla and her companions sewed shirts for soldiers, their apostolate of the press began only in 1918, at Susa, Turin. On 22 July 1922, in Alba, nine young women took private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and consecrated themselves to God and to this special mission. The Congregation of the Pia Società Figlie di San Paolo was established. In 1926 the arrival in Rome marked the opening of the first bookshops and diffusion of books in homes. In the years that followed, other houses were opened. In 1932 there were 30 homes in Italy and 3 abroad (Brazil, Argentina, United States) and from decade to decade the Congregation reached every continent. Today there are 2,450 Daughters of St Paul (including 60 novices) spread in 52 countries with a total number of 248 Houses. This year, 2008 two new communities were opened, one in Juba (Sudan) and the other in Ho Chi Min (Vietnam). Beside print media they also produce audio-cassettes and products for radio, Internet, home video, flanking and diversifying the Paolini's media offer.
Besides the Paolini and the Paoline Rev Alberione founded three other religious congregations of women: in 1924 the Pie Discepole del Divin Maestro, for the apostolate of perpetual adoration of the Eucharist, and priestly and liturgical service; in 1938 le Suore di Gesù Buon Pastore (Pastorelle), to help parish priests with evangelisation, catechesis and development of Christian communities (present today in 18 different countries); in 1959 the Istituto Regina degli Apostoli per le vocazioni (Apostoline), active in vocation apostolate among young people.
In 1960 four secular Institutes connected with the Società San Paolo were started, three for lay people of different walks of life (Istituto San Gabriele Arcangelo for men, Istituto Maria Santissima Annunziata for women, Istituto Santa Famiglia for families) and a fourth for diocesan priests (Istituto Gesù Sacerdote). The picture of the foundations of Rev Alberione is complete with the Unione dei Cooperatori Paolini, for lay people who share paolina spirituality and activity.
All these foundations form the Famiglia Paolina: "They are all closely related Rev Alberione wrote because they were born in the Tabernacle. One spirit: live in Jesus Christ and serve the Church. Some represent all the others interceding in front of the tabernacle, others spread as from on high the doctrine of Jesus Christ, others approach individual souls".
Initiatives for the Year of St Paul
The Famiglia Paolina opened the Jubilee year dedicated to St Paul on the 30 June 2008, for the Famiglia Paolina the liturgical feast day of St Paul, with a meeting guided by Archbishop Rino Fisichella at the shrine of Our Lady Queen of the Apostles, situated at the centre of a large compound built by Blessed don Alberione, not far from the Basilica of St Paul, with a number of buildings including the General House and several communities of the Società San Paolo and the Figlie di San Paolo. Don Alberione and Sr Tecla Merlo are buried in the crypt below the shrine. The following day, 1 July, the Famiglia Paolina made a pilgrimage to the Basilica of St Paul. The programme for the Year includes about a hundred different initiatives: spiritual exercises, conferences, courses, pilgrimages, art exhibitions, concerts and cultural events in general. In some countries, such as Korea and Japan, the Famiglia Paolina is collaborating directly with the local Church for the preparation and animation of the events. The Congregation's web sites, www.paulus.net and www.paoline.org supply a continually updated list of events. At the editorial level a special logo accompanies usual publications and a new monthly magazine, Paulus, launched for this Year of St Paul. In the home video sector, Editoriale Paoline produced a documentary on St Paul.
Interview with Rev Silvio Sassi, Superior General of the Società San Paolo
"Our founder achieved progressively ten foundations between 1914 and 1971. Five congregations, four secular Institutes and one lay movement, known as Cooperators. The charisma are diverse: commitment in the media (Paolini and Paoline) animation in parishes (Pastorelle), adoration and priestly and liturgical service (Pie Discepole), apostolate for vocations (Apostoline), witness in the world (connected Institutes). Ours is then a Famiglia with many voices from the point of view of apostolic activity, but one point of view for spirituality, that is the paolino charisma. Don Giacomo Alberione learned from San Paolo how to develop many complementary charisma purposely invented for the times".
Q. The roots of the Società San Paolo go back to the apostolate of good literature, common to many European countries in the early 20th century. What was the novelty introduced by Don Alberione?
Sassi: "As the Società San Paolo our specific has been new since it first appeared in 1914. Don Alberione was the author of a small pastoral revolution, realising that rather than waiting for the people to come back to Church, it was better to go to them, in the factories, the fields, schools and use the press not only for information but also for a form of pastoral care complementary to that of the parish. His was a sort of missionary faith which created a new form of evangelisation. With the evolution of the media panorama, Don Alberione turned to cinema, radio, television, comics and today we continue his intuition learning and harnessing the new multimedia languages. This is also part of our imitation of Paul's charisma. Saint Paul used Jewish and Greek rhetoric to present an inculturated formulation of Christianity. Today we are convinced that it is possible to encounter God and have an experience of Christ in mediated communication, reading a novel, listening to a song, surfing on the Internet. Our vocation is to operate in the missionary field.
Q. How do experiences differ in the various missionary situations of the world?
Sassi: "The first rule we follow is to adapt to the media standard of the country in which we operate. We cannot present sophisticated editorial lines in culturally backward countries. A second rule is to take into account the type of communication most used in the country. Of course we do not hesitate to add new items to the media 'diet', but on the whole it is risky to propose something which is not what the ordinary people usually consume. A third rule is to have common values and coordinates which the local communities will then develop. For example, with regard to print media, today we follow three main themes: the Bible, the family and communication. Each national Paolina community decides how these themes are developed".
Q. What is the significance of celebrating a Year of St Paul?
Sassi: "It means reflecting deeply on a fundamental element of the Family's unity. What makes us brothers and sisters is study, prayer and imitation of Saint Paul. This Year offers us the opportunity and the encouragement to do just this".
Interview with Sr Anna Maria Parenzan, Vicar General of the Daughters of St Paul
"We welcomed the Year of St Paul with great joy because Don Alberione always urged us to consider St Paul as our real founder, the Father of our Institution. Even before the solemn announcement made by Benedict XVI, as a Congregation we had already planned to reflect deeply on St Paul. Our last general chapter held in August 2007, urged us to rediscover in the Apostle the leit motive of our path, the person we are called to imitate, and to develop our paolina identity more deeply. We are profoundly convinced that this year will be a great opportunity for us to vivify our vocation and communicate Christ, in the footsteps of the great Apostle of the nations".
Q. Do you follow an itinerary?
Parenzan: "Yes, our Superior General Sr. M. Antonieta Bruscato invited us to savour together the riches of our 'paolinità'; to study and reflect on Paul's Letters with greater fidelity; to open our hearts to all peoples and cultures, giving our Centres an ecumenical image, as the Pope has asked for : 'may the year of St Paul help to renew our missionary enthusiasm and intensify relations with our brothers in the East and with other Christians who venerate the Apostle of the nations '; to give more attention to vocation pastoral, sharing the riches of the paolino charisma with the laity, young and adult; to grow in our sense of being a Family, the Famiglia Paolina, a Family which rejoices together, grows together, shares the beauty of the gift together.
Q. What difficulties do you encounter in the missions?
Parenzan: "In the 52 countries where we are present we try, like Paul, to be 'all to all' to carry the Gospel to all men and women. Our commitment is to go 'further', to reach out to those realities which have most need of a Christian presence. In some places our presence is very small (in vast Russia, for example, we have only 6 sisters) but we wish to be a presence of Light, irradiating and communicating the Word who saves. Our newest community opened in Sudan, in Juba, puts us into contact with people devastated by war, where poverty is the norm. Our challenge is to help reconstruct not only a materially destroyed country, but to reach out to the minds of the people, to offer them the 'bread of the Word', to form a mentality founded on values, human and Christian.
Q. What is the role of the media?
Parenzan: "There can be no evangelisation without communication. Communication is an essential component of the paolino charisma and a constitutive part of our mission. The proclamation of the 'good news' finds new scope using multimedia, the Internet, inter-activity and virtuality. Concern for our interlocutors, and those we call 'receivers' of our apostolate, renders us especially ready to assume new forms, languages, technology of communications, overcoming fear of anything new. We feel the necessity to revive in ourselves St Paul's passion for communicating to all Jesus, the Master, the Way, the Truth and the Life, in the communications culture of our day, and also to identify new apostolic paths. The challenge is demanding: how to animate culture today and how to inculturate the Word in the era of communication? This is our concern and at the same time our mission, in the footsteps of St Paul, a great communicator and, as Ketteler would say, a journalist ante litteram".
The Compagnia di San Paolo was born in 1920 in Milan, under the impulse of Blessed Cardinal Andrea Carlo Ferrari and his secretary, Rev Giovanni Rossi.
Andrea Ferrari was born in 1850 at Lalatta di Palanzano, diocese of Parma, in a family environment, modest but rich in faith. After receiving priestly ordination at the age of 23 years, and experience as a parish minister and teaching, he became rector of Parma diocesan seminary (1877). During the pontificate of Leo XIII he was appointed Bishop of Guastalla (1890), Como (1891) and lastly Milan (1894), assuming in this way, the title of cardinal. To his first Christian name the bishop added that of Charles in honour of Saint Charles Borromeo. He died on 2 February 1921 after spending his energies for social activities and the animation of the Ambrosian Church.
The first nucleus of the Compagnia was formed of laymen coming from Catholic Action and priests (one of them Rev Giovanni Rossi) wholly dedicated to the apostolate. The aim was to organised social assistance and lead people to the faith (another group led by Fr Gemelli operated instead in the cultural field and eventually led to the Università Cattolica). In the early years the Compagnia moved within Catholic Action, but already in 1924, having assumed its own identity, it acquired the status of a religious Congregation directly dependent on the Holy See.
Within a decade, the Compagnia di San Paolo welcomed many new members and developed fast. Rev Giovanni Rossi, who became the Superior General of the Compagnia, launched programmes for the working classes: professional training schools, a youth culture centre, a library, a cinema, an inexpensive eating place, a People's Office and a home for unmarried mothers. However this activity gave rise to some criticism developed in the wake of the mandate of Cardinal Ferrari: "get out of the sacristies and into the piazze". The Compagnia di San Paolo started its experience of organising pilgrimages and commitment in publishing and newspaper printing.
Besides diffusion in other Italian dioceses (Rome, Venice and Genoa) the Institute soon assumed an " international dimension", expanding to Jerusalem (in contact with the Palestinians), to Paris, to South America (Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, with Houses in Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Rosario, Montevideo, Santiago) and the United States (Washington and New York). To foster membership and support for the paolini ideals, the Cardinal Ferrari Association was started to cooperate with the development of the Cardinal's social initiatives.
In 1934 Rev Giovanni Rossi, who had left the charge as Superior General in 1929, abandoned Cardinal Ferrari's initial project of social apostolate to concentrate on evangelisation and missions. In 1939 the "split" was definitive with the foundation, in Assisi, of the Pro Civitate Cristiana.
In the meantime in Paris, the important apostolate of the Maison de la Jeunesse was forced to close after the advance of Fascism in Italy and the financial crisis of 1929-30. The Society's programme for working classes was immediately brushed aside by the social policies of the regime. During the Second World War commitment concentrated on the victims of persecution, first the victims of racial laws, using the Milan offices to hide partisans and Jews and after 25 April, Salo republicans.
In 1945 at Civitavecchia (Rome) Rev Antonio Rivolta founded the Repubblica dei Ragazzi, a sort of boys-town to save orphans from criminal gangs. With the end of the war and the reunification of families a series of psychological, affective and social problems emerged and Rev Paolo Liggeri, who had returned from Dachau concentration camp, opened in Milan the Institute La Casa, the first Family Counselling Centre in Italy, an unprecedented social structure in those times.
On 30 June 1950 the Compagnia di San Paolo obtained from Pope Pius XII recognition as a Secular Institute, and remained such, until the years of the Second Vatican Council. The consequent re-modernising of the Institute opened to doors to married people. "The Compagnia di S. Paolo according to article 2 of the present day Constitutions proposes to humanly uplift social and individual life and activity by animating them with the spirit of the Gospel. Its members, concerned for the needs and instances of their fellowmen, work both as individuals and as a community, in a spirit of newness and service, following the example of St Paul who made himself 'all to all'". In Italy the Paolini are about a hundred (mostly women), plus about thirty families of associated members. Vocations flourish in South America, in Chile and Argentina.
Interview with Rev Luigi Paroni, director of Villa Clerici and the activities of the Casa di Redenzione Sociale of the Compagnia di San Paolo in Milan
"The Compagnia di San Paolo was born of the social teaching of Cardinal Ferrari, who allowed himself to be led by the needs of the people to which he responded with practical considerations. Following the teaching of St Paul 'For the love of Christ impels us' (2 Cor 5,14) it was necessary to tackle the processes of industrialisation and urbanisation and assist the working classes, taking children off the streets, providing a series of social services. After the death of the Cardinal in 1921, it was his successor Achille Ratti who blessed the foundation stone of the Casa di via Mercalli, a centre which besides other services had even an 'employment agency'".
Rev Luigi Paroni, for 18 years parish priest at the church of San Benedetto in Rome, entrusted in 1925 to the Compagnia di San Paolo, is today responsible for Villa Clerici and the Casa di Redenzione Sociale in Milan.
Q. From Milan, the Compagnia reached Rome under the patronage of Pius XI. How did this happen?
Paroni: "Elected Pope, in 1925 Pope Ratti arranged for a small community of Paolini under the guidance of Rev Ercole Gallone to take up residence in via del Gazometro in Rome. It was a new city district, an industrial pole with at the centre the Armed Forces Food Depot, the general storehouses of the capital's barracks. Rev Ercole had come to Rome with a group of pilgrims for the Holy Year 1925, so without the minimum suspicion of the plans which Pius XI had for him. However the Pope, familiar with the good work of the Paolini in Milan, wished for their presence to guarantee contact with the working world and to tackle problems brought by industrialisation and urbanisation. So Rev Ercole accepted the invitation and took up residence in the little church of San Benedetto, where he remained for about seven years. After him came Rev Guerrini (1932-37), a friend of Paolo VI, and then Rev Gregorini (1937-84), who was also Camerlingo of the diocese of Rome".
Q. Your experiences today?
Paroni: "We continue the experience in Milan of the Casa di Redenzione Sociale, and the Repubblica dei Ragazzi a Civitavecchia and the 'La Casa' Institute which deals with family concerns. The work of Cardinal Ferrari continues to help the 'beloved' poor. In New York the Paolini have hostels for students and homeless people, in Chile and Argentina we are present in numerous places. Our great hope for the future is placed in the associated members who, with consecrated lay persons, are a well formed and well prepared group, from which even priestly vocations may come".
Q. How are you living the Year of St Paul?
Paroni: "We organised a Week of events to increase public awareness with regard to our activity. Besides social works, the Compagnia is especially active in publishing, education and contemporary church art and pilgrimage organising and guiding".
This item 8623 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org