A brief history of the Congregation from its birth to present.
THE FOUNDATION. In a hostile environment, six young priests set out on a missionary adventure in a small room in the seminary of Vic, Spain, encouraged by a 41-year-old priest. At the head, the missionary Antonio Claret. It was July 16, 1849. Soon they had to overcome enormous difficulties, aggravated by the absence of the Founder in Cuba and the scarce initial growth.
CONSTITUTION OF THE INSTITUTE. After the death of Fr. Stephen Sala, the second General of the Congregation, the election as General of Joseph Xifré meant a formidable boost to the internal structure of the Institute and its institutions, and the first foundations outside Vic: Gracia, Segovia. The presence of Claret, again in Spain, also meant constant support.
EARLY EXPANSION. The death of the Founder on October 24, 1870, and the situation of the Congregation, which took refuge in France, did not prevent the regular life and missionary consistency of the Institute. It had already been founded in Algiers and Chile. Now it was time to continue the expansion in Spain, Equatorial Guinea, Mexico, Italy, etc. The Congregation was divided into Provinces. At his death in 1899, Father Xifré left a hopeful future.
THE CONSOLIDATION. A new century dawned. Without Father Xifré, after more than 40 years as a General, it was necessary to consolidate what had been achieved so far. The first History of the Congregation was written. The Congregation was in full bloom in America. Everything presaged that the Congregation was beginning to see itself as a consistent Organism under the guidance of Father Clemente Serrat.
EXPANSION. Father Serrat died on January 6, 1906. The General Chapter elected Fr. Martín Alsina as the new General Superior of those years. His energy was to recall the times of Father Xifré. The Congregation had to reject many offers of foundation. 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, Father Alsina died. The new General, Nicolás García, would be the one to govern the Congregation practically until the middle of the century. It was time to continue with the expansion in the American republics. The Holy See began to entrust the Claretians with Vicariates and Bishoprics, a sign of the confidence that it inspired in the high Hierarchy of the Church. The foundation in China meant a formidable missionary revulsive in this period. The stage closed with the great news of the beatification of the Father Founder (February 1934).
TIME OF MARTYRDOM. After the beatification of Claret (1934), the persecutions arrived. They had already been known in Mexico, with the death of Blessed Andrés Solá in 1927. Now they affected Spain, the nerve center of the Congregation, with its seminaries full to overflowing. Felipe Maroto, elected General in 1934. 271 Claretian martyrs, most of them young. Those were dark times.
FIRST CENTENARY. The unexpected death of Father Maroto gave way again to the second term of office of Father Nicolás García in July 1937. It was necessary to rise from the great tribulation and pass through the great trial of the Second World War unscathed. It was a time of great names of ecclesial relevance: Arturo Tabera, Arcadio Larraona, Siervo Goyeneche. Birth of important works: the review Vida Religiosa, the Institutum Juridicum. The publication of the great work of Fr. Cristóbal Fernández El Beato Padre Antonio María Claret (1946) marked a milestone in the celebration of the first centenary of the Congregation.
A NEW CENTURY. On July 16, 1949, the first centenary was celebrated throughout the Congregation. At the head of the Institute, the great novelty was a German General, Father Peter Schweiger. The following year saw the canonization of the Founder and the inauguration of the great church in Rome dedicated to the Heart of Mary and the new General Curia (1952). Optimism grows. A great impulse is given to the universalism of the Congregation, symbolized by the foundations in Japan, Canada, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Zaire and the first vocations in India. And the great theologates of Rome and Salamanca were born. It was the great era of the Second Vatican Council and the invitation to renewal. A stage that concluded with the publication of the second great History of the Congregation, by Father Cristobal Fernandez.
THE RENEWAL. Pushed by the Council, the Claretians undertook the great renewal. The person in charge of directing the Congregation at this stage was an Italian-Slovenian, Father Antonio Leghisa. This renewal will be accompanied by a particular missionary expansion and also by a profound crisis. The large provinces took on missions in different areas of the Congregation. Interprovincial Conferences were created. And providential foundations arrived, such as those in India and Nigeria. Little by little, the renewal that began in the post-conciliar period was 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 significant 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 no 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 drastically different approach and procedures. And instead of preparing a Chapter Document, an Exhortation, entitled Querida Congregación, was presented instead. The exhortation contains the Dream that the Congregation commits to fulfill during the sexennium. A new prefecture is created, the Prefecture of Bible Ministry and Communication, and the Prefecture of Spirituality was 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 Filipino martyr whose cause for holiness is underway.