Friday 31 July 2015

The Year of Consecrated Life: The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer

St. Alphonsus Liguori
Image from Wikimedia Commons

August 1st is the feast day of St. Alphonsus Liguori, who founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer - the Redemptorist Fathers.

St. Alphonsus founded the Congregation in Italy in 1732. A well educated priest and later Bishop of Sant'Agata de' Goti, he was canonized in 1839 and made a Doctor of the Church 1871 for his contributions to moral theology. His original intent for the Order was to minister to the poor around his home city of Naples.

The Congregation spread to Germany and other areas of Europe, then eventually to the United States, and from there to Canada - first to Quebec City in 1874, to Ste. Anne-de-Beaupre in 1878, and then to Toronto in 1881 at the invitation of Archbishop Lynch to take over St. Patrick's Parish, where they continue to remain in residence.

Letter from Pius IX on the subject of St. Alphonsus Liguori, discussing his defence of the faith and support of papal teachings, and attaching to his feast day a plenary indulgence for all who confess and visit a Redemptorist Church.
July 7, 1871
L PS54-01

As Fr. Karl Schindler, CSsR explains in his book To Serve God's People: A Hundred Years of the Redemptorists at St. Patrick', the Cradle of the Toronto Province 1881 - 1981, "The first Redemptorists to come to Toronto were Fathers Eugene Grimm, John Hayden, Augustine McInerny, and Brothers George and Alexander... They arrived in Toronto, January 15th, 1881. The following day, January 16th, His Grace signed the contract whereby the Redemptorist Fathers took possession of St. Patrick's Church. On February 12, Father F. Krein arrived from Quebec City to begin work for the German-speaking Catholics of Toronto."

By the late 1890s there were over 2600 members of the St. Patrick's congregation. In 1903 the Congregation started work on a new Church beside their monastery on McCaul St. The new St. Patrick's was dedicated on November 1st, 1908, and the old church became Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a parish for the Italian population in the area.

Today there are over 5000 Redemptorist Fathers internationally, with members of the congregation working in cities across Canada. Their numbers have included four saints, four blesseds, and six martyrs. They continue to uphold St. Alphonsus' vision of "[bringing] the message of the gospel to the most poor and abandoned" as pastors of many churches. They are also active in the areas of bioethics, social justice, and music.

For more information about the Canadian Redemptorists, visit their website. Don't forget to check out their archives page for excellent photographs. 

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