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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Who is a Claretian?

DEFINITION

“A Son of Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretian) is a man on fire with love, who spreads its flames wherever he goes. He desires mightily and strives by all means possible to set everyone on fire with God’s love. Nothing daunts him: he delights in privations, welcomes work, embraces sacrifices, smiles at slander, rejoices in the cross torments and sorrows he suffers, and glories in the cross of Jesus Christ. His only concern is how he may follow Christ and imitate him in praying, working, enduring and striving constantly and solely for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humankind.”

Our identity

“We, the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Claretian Missionaries), have also received a calling like that of the Apostles and have been granted the gift to follow Christ in a communion of life to go out into the whole world to proclaim the good news to every creature. Therefore the following of Christ as set forth in the Gospel is our supreme rule.” (Constitutions No.4)

Our Mission

A Claretian is to undertake any apostolic activity that is timely, urgent and effective. Our mission is to be prophetic servants of the Word God through a life of holiness, inculturated presence and creative response to the needs of God’s people especially the marginalized, for their integral growth and development, by living and working in communion and in collaboration with all people of good will.

The Foundation of the Congregation

Around the year 1812 in a village in Catalonia, Spain, a small boy used to spend sleepless nights thinking of a truth which was very hard for him to digest: “those who die in mortal sin are forever condemned!” He used to ask himself: "Are they forever condemned, to a whole eternity, forever? What can I do to save these unfortunate ones from being condemned forever?"
Years later, a room in the diocesan seminary of Vic, Spain became the meeting place for 6 priests, on July 16, 1849. Their leader was a priest of very short stature – Mosen Antony Claret. His intent with those 5 like-minded priests was the founding a missionary society to actualize his childhood dream: to save the unfortunate ones… And Mosen Claret exclaimed prophetically like a great visionary, "Today we commence a great work." This foundation took place on the feast of the Holy Cross and the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Claret did not act on the spur of the moment.

He had been thinking for a long time about preparing priests to proclaim the Gospel and then bringing together those who felt animated by “a spirit like his”, in order to do with others what he could not do by himself. His experience as an itinerant missionary in Catalonia and the Canary Islands convinced him that people needed to be evangelized and there were not enough priests who were sufficiently prepared or zealous enough for this mission. But, as Claret acknowledged, it was not his own idea but a divine inspiration that caused him to start what seemed such a shaky enterprise. “How great can it be since we are so young and so few?” asked Fr. Manuel Vilaró, one of the priests gathered at the Seminary in Vic.

Had it not been for God the conditions surrounding the Congregation’s birth would have caused it to fail. Only 20 days after its founding, Fr. Claret received news of his appointment as Archbishop of Cuba, which he accepted despite his reluctance. The Congregation was left in God’s hands and under the guidance of one of the co-founders, Fr. Esteban Sala, who died in 1858.
Another of the co-founders, José Xifré, took over the directorship. Archbishop Claret, called back from Cuba to Madrid to be Confessor to Queen Isabella II, contrived to remain very close to the new Superior General and to all the missionaries. He attended the General Chapters. He edited the Constitutions, which the Holy See approved on 11 February 1870, a few months before his death. He provided guidance for the Institute, as well as contributing financial help for its needs. He also wrote his Autobiography for the good of the Congregation and at the order of the Superior General, who had once been his spiritual director. The Congregation then suffered a new and difficult situation. With the coming of the Revolution of 1868, the Congregation was suppressed by the state and all the Missionaries had to seek refuge in France. Archbishop Claret also had to go there into exile where he died a holy death in 1870. This was also the time when the Congregation had its first martyr, Fr. Francisco Crusats. But the Founder had the great satisfaction of seeing new foundations spring up throughout Spain, as well as in Africa (Argel) and Latin America (Chile).

Growth

The generalate of Fr. José Xifré lasted 40 years, from 1858 to 1899. When he began his term of office, the Congregation had 1 house and 10 members. When he died, it had 61 houses and around 1,300 members. Once the monarchy was restored in Spain in 1875, the Congregation was able to recover the houses from which it had been driven by the Revolution and began a period of expansion, not only in Spain, but also in Africa and America. Special mention needs to be made of the missions of Equatorial Guinea, Cuba and Mexico. The Missionaries developed impressive apostolic, cultural and social work, often accompanied by extreme hardships for the Missionaries, costing some of them their lives. For example, of the 11 Missionaries that made up the first expedition to Cuba all but 2 died a few days after arriving on the island. As membership in the Congregation grew, formation centers were needed and as the Congregation spread, juridical reorganization was required to assure good governance.

The First Half of the Twentieth Century

The process of growth and establishment was constant. The Congregation kept expanding into other countries and developing its ministry of preaching the Gospel, both in traditional ways (popular missions and spiritual exercises) and in new ones for the Congregation (parishes and teaching). Journals were founded and publishing houses opened, all consistent with the Claretian influence on the apostolate of the written word.
But trials and suffering were also part of these years. During the Mexican Revolution (1927) Fr. Andrés Solá died a martyr; and in the Spanish Civil War (1936) 271 Missionary priests, brothers and students received the palm of martyrdom, among them the 51 Blessed Martyrs of Barbastro. In 1949 all the missionaries were expelled from China.The Congregation’s Second Century Begins
In 1949 the Congregation celebrated its first hundred years with 2,638 professed members and 160 novices. It was now international, present in 25 countries, and that same year a German, Fr. Peter Schweiger was elected Superior General.
The canonization of the founder Anthony Mary Claret on 7 May 1950 was a peak moment for the Congregation. Not only was this the acknowledgment of his personal holiness, but also the Church’s ringing endorsement of the work of the Congregation.
The celebration of the Second Vatican Council had great impact on the renewal of the Congregation, on a deeper understanding of Claretian identity in the Church and on new missionary efforts. The renewal process continues, reaffirmed year after year, and accompanied by the Congregation’s expansion in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. Not only have new foundations been set up in various countries, but also new frontiers in ministry have been opened and new apostolic activities undertaken: centers for Bible study, renewed forms of popular missions, services specifically directed to religious themselves, concrete commitments on behalf of peace, justice and the safeguarding of creation, presence among the poor, the marginalized and immigrants, promotion of the social communications media and of inter-religious dialogue.

In 1999 the Congregation celebrated its 150th anniversary. As proof of its fidelity to its mission, an occasion both of anguish and glory, was the martyrdom of our Filipino brother Fr. Rhoel Gallardo in May 2000 as well as persecution, kidnappings and