Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Redemptorists and England

Since St. Alphonsus Liguori founded his Redemptorist order--the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer-- in the eighteenth century, it was awhile before it came to England. In 1843, three Redemptorist priests started serving as missionaries just 14 years after Catholic Emancipation. According to the London province website:

In June of 1843 three Redemptorists, two priests and one brother, arrived in Cornwall from Belgium to found a mission, of the three only one of them could speak English. Despite obvious difficulties the Redemptorists proved themselves to be excellent preachers and it mattered little should they be preaching to Catholics or non-Catholics.

Four years later the Belgian Provincial, Fr de Held came out of office and was appointed to England. Traveling through London he was persuaded to look at property in South London, which had once belonged to Lord Teighnmouth. And so began a long and successful history between London and the Redemptorists.

With the Church [St. Mary's Clapham] built, the Redemptorists set to work, attracting people from far and wide. There were confessions, Masses, sermons and instructions, not to mention the Confraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the St Vincent de Paul Society, a Catholic lending library, and all sorts of extra liturgical devotions such as Benediction, Litany and Rosary, the Way of Cross, devotions to the Infant Jesus, for a Happy Death, the Quarant’ Ore and all kinds of devotional things in honour of Our Lady.

While this work went on in London, other work was underway in spreading the Good News of the Lord. Two new houses were also opened, in Limerick and in Liverpool and much of the work the Redemptorists were founded for was carried out; mission preaching.

There's an American connection to this story, as Isaac Hecker, an American convert and former Transcendatalist, lived with the Redemptorists at St. Mary's Clapham, as he had been studying with the Congregation in Belgium after his conversion in 1844. He was ordained by Cardinal Wiseman in 1849 and then returned to the U.S. as a Redemptorist missionary, before founding the Missionary Society of St. Paul.

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