Missionaries of La Salette
The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette (M.S. - Missionarium Saletiniensis) are a religious congregation of priests and brothers in the Latin Church one of the 23 sui iuris churches which make up the Catholic Church which is led by the Bishop of Rome. They are named after the apparition of Our Lady of La Salette in France La Salette apparition. There is also a parallel religious community of sisters called the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of La Salette. A lay fraternal group of associates also works in cooperation with the vowed religious. The Missionaries are dedicated to making known the message of Our Lady at La Salette, a call to healing of inner brokenness and personal reconciliation with God especially as found in the first three commandments. The missionaries are popularly known as "the La Salettes."
Statues from the site of the apparition in the tiny mountain village of La Salette, in the commune of Corps France depicti Our Lady addressing two children. The distinctive La Salette crucifix bears a small hammer and pincers on either side of the cross as worn by Our Lady. The hammer traditionally symbolizes the instrument that crucified Christ and the pincers symbolize the instrument that removes the nails. The crucifix was adopted by the La Salettes as their distinctive symbol.
Worldwide, the order numbers over one thousand members located in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. In North America the order's members work in more than a dozen U.S. states and in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The congregation helps maintain devotional religious shrines, such as the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and works in various Catholic parishes throughout the country. The La Salette Shrine in Attleboro is particularly well known for its Center for Christian Living and its "Festival of Lights" during the Christmas season.
In Latin America, Africa and Asia, the community does missionary work in a number of countries, including Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, India, Madagascar, Myanmar and the Philippines. The congregation continues to care for pilgrims at shrines, serves its University system in the Philippines and conducts retreats at its centres and conducts parish missions, serves in home and foreign missions parishes, guides youth ministries, operates counseling centers, and provides personnel for chaplaincies in hospitals and in the military.
The Missionaries of La Salette were founded in 1852 by Philibert de Bruilard, the Bishop of Grenoble, in southeasternFrance, as a testimony to Our Lady's appeal to "make (her message) known to all her people." Immediately thereafter, he assigned some of his priests to care for the numerous pilgrims frequenting the mountain shrine. In 1858 these priests formed a religious community with temporary constitutions, under the immediate charge of the Bishop of Grenoble. In 1876 Mgr. Fava approved their more complete constitution, and in May, 1890, the Institute was approved by Rome, thus becoming a religious community of Pontifical Right.
Finding it hard to recruit from the secular clergy, the congregation founded an Apostolic school or missionary college in 1876. After a six-year classical course, students entered a novitiate where they studied the vows and religious life obligations. Upon profession of their first simple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, they entered the scholasticate in Rome, to complete their philosophical and theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
In 1892, after pursuing possible bases in Canada and Texas, five Missionaries established themselves in Hartford, Connecticut with fifteen students. Bishop McMahon of Hartford, Connecticut, welcomed them into his diocese, and they occupied the bishop's former residence. In 1895 they moved to new quarters in Hartford, Connecticut, at the new parish church of Our Lady of Sorrows. The Missionaries began their ministry on Ascension Day of the same year. In 1894, having established themselves in the Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts, the congregation received the parish of St. Joseph, Fitchburg, Massachusetts. In 1901, at the suggestion of Bishop Beaven of Springfield, the congregations's Superior General sent a few students to Poland to prepare themselves for Polish parishes in the Springfield Diocese.
In 1902 they were received into the Diocese of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada and also into the Archdiocese of New York.At the request of Archbishop Langevin of St. Boniface, Canada, a few members were sent from the mother-house in Hartford to establish themselves in West Canada with headquarters at Forget, Saskatchewan from where they served in four parishes. In 1909 the missionaries deemed their order sufficiently developed, owing to additional foundations in Belgium, Madagascar, Poland, and Brazil, and the superior general petitioned the Holy See to approve their constitutions. The request was granted 29 January 1909. Restrictions against religious orders in France were lifted in 1914, and a number of the congregations's members served in World War I, with fifteen losing their lives.
In North America the order spread their parish work throughout the United States and Canada. The North American mission first established a province based in Hartford in 1934. Three more province establishments followed at Attleboro (1945), St. Louis (1961) and Georgetown, Illinois (1967). In 2000 these four North American provinces were merged to form one new province for the entire continent, headquartered at Hartford, Connecticut. Missionary work to third world nations steadily expanded throughout the 20th century with the latest expansions in India, Myanmar and Indonesia.
As members of a religious congregation the La Salettes embrace the evangelical counsels, taking the three traditional religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Poverty means that all possessions are held in common and that no member may accumulate wealth. Chastity means more than abstaining from sexual activity and its purpose is to make the religious totally available for service; it is also a sign that only God can completely fill the human heart. For a member of a religious congregation, obedience is not slavishly doing what one is told by the superior but being attentive to God’s will by prayerfully listening to the voice of the person in charge. Ultimately, these vows are lived out within a community and bolstered by a relationship with God.
In the initial stages, those interested in joining the congregation have several meetings with a La Salette priest, usually with visits to a community. Young adults aged 18 and over, meet regularly to share their experiences of God and what He may be calling them to become. During this time the members of the congregation share what it is like to be a priest, religious brother. Those who are enquiring about entering the congregation are strongly encouraged to attend Mass as often as possible, to read the Sacred Scriptures especially the Gospel accounts and to regularly spend time in prayer in order to better discern their vocation.
If the candidate wishes to pursue his vocation to join the La Salettes he may enter the novitiate which is the time for preparing to take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The novitiate year is crucial, for it is then “…that the novices better understand their divine vocation, and indeed one which is proper to the institute, experience the manner of living of the institute, and form their mind and heart in its spirit, and so that their intention and suitability are tested.” Thus, the novices are given the opportunity for longer periods of prayer and spiritual reading as well as silence in order to reflect on the vocation God is offering and nature of their response. The spiritual development of the novice is of particular focus, especially through spiritual direction. During the novitiate the history and Constitutions of the Congregation are studied in depth.
A simple profession is made at the end of the novitiate and the person officially becomes a member of the congregation for “By religious profession, members assume the observance of the three evangelical counsels by public vow, are consecrated to God through the ministry of the Church, and are incorporated into the institute with the rights and duties defined by law.”
After the novitiate, the new members of the congregation continue their studies; those called to be brothers pursue a relevant course. Those men called to serve the People of God in the Priesthood take a courses in philosophy and theology after which follows ordination to the diaconate and the priesthood; final vows for those called to Holy Orders come just before the diaconate. For brothers, wows are renewed annually; after three years a member may request final vows. According to Canon law, temporary vows may be renewed for a longer period but not exceeding nine years.
- "Missionaries of La Salette". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- Missionaries of La Salette official website
- The apparition at La Salette
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