A brief history of the Congregation from its birth to present.
THE FOUNDATION. In a hostile environment, six young priests begin a missionary adventure in a small room in the seminary in Vic, Spain, encouraged by a 41-year-old priest, the missionary Anthony Claret. It was July 16, 1849. Soon they had to overcome enormous difficulties, aggravated by the absence of the Founder who was in Cuba and their slow initial growth.
CONSTITUTION OF THE INSTITUTE. Upon the death of Fr. Stephen Sala, the second Superior General of the Congregation, the election of Fr. Josep Xifré as Superior General, meant a formidable impetus of the internal structure of the Institute and its institutions, and of the first foundations outside of Vic: Gracia and Segovia. Claret’s presence, again in Spain, also meant constant support.
EARLY EXPANSION The death of the Founder on October 24, 1870 and the situation of the Congregation, seeking refuge in France, did not prevent the regular missionary life and consistency of the Institute. It had already founded houses in Algiers and Chile. Now it was time to continue expanding in Spain, Equatorial Guinea, Mexico, Italy, etc. The Congregation was divided into Provinces. At his death in 1899, Fr. Xifré left a hopeful future.
THE CONSOLIDATION. A new century was born. Without Fr. Xifré, after more than 40 years as the Superior General, what had been achieved so far had to be consolidated. The Early History of the Congregation is written. America is in turmoil. Everything suggests that the Congregation begins to see itself as a consistent Organism under the guidance of Fr. Clement Serrat.
EXPANSION. Fr. Serrat dies on January 6, 1906. The General Chapter elects the successor of those years, Fr. Martín Alsina. His energy was going to call to mind the times of Fr. Xifré. There are many offers for foundations that the Congregation has to reject. The fact of its growth in Europe (Portugal, United Kingdom, Germany, France) gives an idea of the validity of the missionary proposal of the Congregation.
NEW EXPANSION. On March 2, 1922, Fr. Alsina died. The new Fr. General, Nicolás García, would be the one that would govern the Congregation practically until the middle of the century. It was time to continue the expansion in the Republics of America. The Holy See began to entrust Vicariates and Dioceses to the Claretians, a sign of the confidence that they inspired in the top hierarchy of the Church. The foundation in China was a formidable missionary stimulus during this time. The stage closed with the great news of the beatification of the Fr. Founder (February 1934).
PERIOD OF THE MARTYRS. After the beatification of Claret (1934), the persecutions arrived. They had already begun in Mexico, with the death of Blessed Andrés Solá in 1927. Now they affected Spain, the focal point of the Congregation, with its overflowing seminaries. The one who had to suffer the very serious situation in the supreme government was Fr. Felipe Maroto, elected Superior General in 1934. 271 Claretian martyrs, most of them young. They were dark times.
THE FIRST 100 YEARS. The unexpected death of Fr. Maroto gave way again to the second generalship of Fr. Nicolás García in July 1937. We had to arise from the great tribulation and go through the great test of World War II unscathed. It was an era of names of great ecclesial relevance: Arturo Tabera, Arcadio Larraona and Siervo Goyeneche. Major works were born: the magazine Vida Religiosa [Religious Life] and the Institutum Juridicum. The publication of the great work of Fr. Cristóbal Fernández, El Beato Padre Antonio María Claret [The Blessed Father Anthony Mary Claret] (1946) marked a milestone in the celebration of the first 100 years of the Congregation.
A NEW CENTURY. On July 16, 1949, the first 100 years were celebrated throughout the Congregation. At the head of the Institute, something very new occurs; a German Claretian, Fr. Peter Schweiger is elected Superior General. The following year we see the canonization of our Fr. Founder and the inauguration of the great church in Rome dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the new General Curia (1952). Optimism grows. A great boost is given to the universality of the Congregation, symbolized by foundations in Japan, Canada, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Zaire and the first vocations in India. And the great theologians of Rome and Salamanca arise. It is the great time of the Second Vatican Council and the invitation to renewal. A stage that concludes with the publication of the second great Historia de la Congregación [History of the Congregation], by Fr. Cristóbal Fernández.
THE RENEWAL. Moved by the Council, the Claretians undertake the great renewal. The person in charge of leading the Congregation at this stage is an Italian-Slovenian, Fr. Antonio Leghisa. This renewal will be accompanied by a particular missionary expansion and also by a profound crisis. The great Provinces assume missions in different areas of the Congregation. Interprovincial Conferences are created. And providential foundations such as those in India and Nigeria arrive. Gradually, the renewal initiated after the Council is consolidated.
THE MISSION TODAY (MCT). The year 1979 brought important changes. Among others, the person of a new Superior General, the Argentine Fr. Gustavo Alonso. The Chapter Document of 1979, known as the MCT (The Mission of the Claretian Today) had a great impact on the entire Congregation. Fundamentally, the missionary style was reviewed in the light of what was most urgent, timely and effective. But, above all, it influenced what came to be called the revision of positions. The new Constitutions and the new Directory were published. At the same time, new paths continued to open: South Korea, Australia, Poland, etc. And the Claretian Family Encounters multiplied.
THE CLARETIAN TODAY. This period continued with important changes. Fr. Gustavo Alonso was re-elected Superior General. The Congregation grew, not so much in personnel but in presences: Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Sri Lanka. Encounters, Conferences, Workshops, Weeks were multiplying more and more due to the increasing complexity of the Congregation in languages, cultures, and religious dialogue.
IDENTITY AND MISSION. Again, a Spanish Superior General, Fr. Aquilino Bocos. As soon as his term began, a new impetus came on October 25, 1992, the date of the beatification of the 51 Claretian Martyrs of Barbastro. There was not growth in numbers, but in missionary projection. The new blessed accompanied new foundations such as Russia and Taiwan. And new projects emerged such as Word-Mission and the commentary to the Constitutions Our Project of Missionary Life. The publications of Fr. Founder also multiplied: Epistolario Pasivo [Passive Epistolary] and Escritos Pastorales [Pastoral Writings]. Restructuring of Organisms begins.
IN PROPHETIC MISSION. The Congregation celebrated its 150th anniversary of its Foundation. There was a growing realization in some of the Christian majority areas of the Congregation for the need to unite some Organisms that were experiencing a personnel shortage along with an aging membership. At the same time, the Congregation grew rapidly in other Christian minority areas in need of formation and economic assistance, such as in India, Nigeria, Congo, Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.
THAT THEY MAY HAVE LIFE. The new Superior General is a Spanish missionary serving in Japan, Fr. Josep M. Abella. New Organisms were growing, dividing and becoming independent. Others whose trend was diminishing were uniting with one another. The long restless passage of Pope Saint John Paul II came to an end in April 2005. In the Congregation, the economy was taking center stage due to the need for a greater sharing of resources among the different Organisms. And the bicentennial of the birth of the Founder arrived in 2007 with the publication of a new revised version of Claret’s autobiography (2008) and numerous other commemorative events.
MEN ON FIRE. New congregational projects emerge, such as The Forge in Everyday Life, to facilitate access to our own charismatic sources. The Claretian presence in the UN gives a new universal tone and social commitment to the Congregation. The movie is released A Forbidden God, the story of the martyrdom of the Blessed Martyrs of Barbastro. New beatifications of martyrs from the Spanish Civil War are celebrated. The much-anticipated biography of Fr. Xifré is published in three volumes, the work of Fr. Jaume Sidera.
MISSIONARII SUMUS. Fr. Mathew Vattamattam, from India, is appointed the new Superior General. One of the legacies received is to reorganize the Congregation in Europe. At the same time, new Organisms emerge, such as the Independent Delegations Fr. Xifré and Mãe d’África in Africa and the Province of Fatima in Europe and new foundations are begun, such as Borneo and New Zealand. Pope Francis continues to contribute Claretian Bishops to the Church, including a new Cardinal, the former Superior General Fr. Aquilino Bocos. And finally, the historical period closes with a new congregational project: the Claretian Year.
2021 – Present
ROOTED IN CHRIST, AUDACIOUS IN MISSION. The XXVI General Chapter celebrated in Nemi was the first paperless General Chapter. The Congregation opted to make use of the available technology to live up to the demands of Laudato Si’. The General Chapter also used a totally different approach and procedures. And instead of preparing a Chapter Document, an Exhortation, entitled Querida Congregación, was presented instead. The congregation contains the Dream that the Congregation commits to fulfill durin the sexennium. A new prefecture is created, the Prefecture of Bible Ministry and Communication, and the Prefecture of Spirituality has been changed to Spirituality and Community Life. The Philippine Province that comprises the missions in Myanmar, Vietnam, Australia and the Philippines renamed itself to Fr. Rhoel Gallardo Province, after the name of the Filipino martyr whose cause for holiness is underway.