Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer

Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer
Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer
Abbreviation C.SS.R.
Motto Copiosa apud eum redemptio (With him is Plentiful Redemption)
Formation 9 November 1732
Type Catholic religious order
Headquarters Rome, Italy
Superior General Michael Brehl
Key people St Alphonsus Liguori — founder

The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Latin: Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris – C.SS.R.[1]) is a Roman Catholic missionary Congregation founded by Saint Alphonsus Liguori at Scala, near Amalfi, Italy for the purpose of labouring among the neglected country people in the neighbourhood of Naples.

Members of the Congregation, priests and brothers, are known as Redemptorists and minister in more than 77 countries around the world.



Redemptorists seek to put into action the command of Christ Jesus to “Love one another as I have loved you.”(John 15:12). They are essentially a missionary society although their ministry is not confined to developing nations. According to their rule they are "to strive to imitate the virtues and examples of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer consecrating themselves especially to the preaching of the word of God to the poor". Their labours consist principally in missions, retreats, and similar exercises.


Traditionally, this has been the mainstay of the Redemptorists as they are well known for conducting parochial missions. The purpose of these parish missions and the homilies preached by the Redemptorists is to “…invite people to a deeper love for God and a fuller practice of the Christian life.”[2] In accordance with the instructions of St. Alphonsus, preaching is to be down-to-earth and understandable to all who are listening.

Shrines, sanctuaries and retreat houses

In order to advance their mission and provide places of pilgrimage, the Redemptorists administer several shrines, which draw hundreds of thousands of people, the most well known being in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Philippines, Rome and Singapore. The Congregation operates many retreat houses where people of all walks of life, Catholic or otherwise, can spend some time in reflection, either individually or in a group.[3]

Redemptorists are caretakers of Byzantine icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus and the instruments of the Passion, which was entrusted to them by Pope Pius IX. It is now enshrined in the Redemptorist Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Rome, and Redemptorists propagate devotion to Mary under this title.


As with most religious congregations, the Redemptorists are also involved in other forms of ministry such as parishes, education, youth and social communication. In recent years the Congregation has increasingly become concerned with matters of social justice; as the Generalate website states “Redemptorists believe that the saving love of God touches the whole person and calls for the transformation of social injustice into respect for the dignity of all men and women”.[4] The Redemptorists of the Cebu province in the Philippines have made a specific commitment in this regard: “Moved by the poverty and dehumanised condition of our people, and encouraged by their faith and desire for justice…We, the Redemptorists of the Province of Cebu, as an apostolic community dedicated through our vows, are called to respond to the urgent needs of our people, especially the most abandoned and the poor…”.[5]


As members of a religious congregation Redemptorists 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. For the Redemptorist, the three vows challenge those values presented as being important by modern day society.[6] Recognising that the living out of the three traditional vows can be truly challenging, each Redemptorist takes a fourth vow, that of perseverance.

Religious formation

After the initial period of contact and discernment, the person seeking to enter the Redemptorists becomes a postulant and goes to live in one of the communities so that both sides might become better acquainted. This lasts between 6 months and one year.

Assuming that all goes well, the postulant then begins the period of novitiate, lasting a year, at the beginning of which is received the religious habit. 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.”[7] 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 Redemptorists 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.”[8] At this point it is normal to begin studying philosophy and theology at university level. During this time there is ample opportunity to experience a variety of ministries in which the Redemptorists are engaged both abroad and in the member’s country of birth.

At the end of this period of formation, which may last no more than six years[9] perpetual profession (final vows) is made and ordination to the diaconate and presbyterate follows for those called to Holy Orders[10]

St Alphonsus Liguori (1696–1787), Founder of the Congregation

Foundation and development

Alphonsus was deeply moved by the plight of the poor living in Naples and the surrounding area and established his community with the aim of providing spiritual nourishment. Amongst his companions was Saint Gerard Majella. In 1748 Alphonsus petitioned the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XIV, to allow him to establish a congregation to minister to the poor in the area around Naples, who were:

“… the most in need of spiritual help, as frequently they have no one to administer to them the Holy Sacrament or the Word of God; their plight is such that many, for lack of (apostolic) labourers, reach death's door without knowing anything at all of the necessary truths of the faith. This is because the number of priests…is few.”[11] Benedict agreed and the congregation was formed in 1749.

Within ten years of the foundation, communities had been established at Nocera, Ciorani, Iliceto, and Caposele. However, due to politics, there was an initial difficulty with the houses in the Papal States being separated from those in the Kingdom of Naples, but this was overcome in 1793 and the Congregation soon opened houses in Sicily and other parts of southern Italy.[12] The Congregation was soon to move beyond the borders of present day Italy. In 1785 two Austrians, Clemens Maria Hofbauer and Thaddeus Hübl joined the Redemptorists. After their final profession and ordination to the presbyterate, they received permission to establish a house in their homeland but, due to the resistance of the Austrian government, no foundation took place. Father Hofbauer went to work for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and was sent to Russia where he briefly ministered in Courland (now in Latvia). In 1786 he rejoined Father Hübl and went to Warsaw in Poland where the papal nuncio gave them responsibility for the parish of Saint Benno; their mission thrived until the community was expelled in 1808.

In 1793, Father Hofbauer turned his sights on establishing communities in Germanic lands. Soon houses were opened in the south at Jestetten, Triberg im Schwarzwald, and Babenhausen. In 1818, a house was established in Switzerland at the abandoned Carthusian monastery in La Valsainte .[13]

19th century

In 1826, at the request of the government of Austria, the Redemptorists established a community in Lisbon, Portugal, with the purpose of ministering to German speaking Catholics. Other houses quickly followed in German-speaking areas: Mautern an der Donau (1827), Innsbruck (1828), Marburg (1833), Eggenburg (1833) and Leoben (1834).

The Congregation also rapidly expanded into Belgium with communities at Tournai (1831), Sint-Truiden (1833), Liège (1833) and Brussels (1849). A community was even established in the somewhat anti-Catholic Netherlands when a house was opened in Wittem in 1836.

The revolutions of 1848 which swept over Europe caused much upheaval, and the Redemptorists were expelled from Switzerland and Austria and were at risk elsewhere. The leader of the Redemptorists was feeble and, in order to provide the Congregation with stable governance, Pope Pius IX placed it under a new superior general who was to reside in Rome.

The Congregation thrived throughout the remainder of the 19th century; in 1852 there were four provinces and by 1890 this had increased to twelve with communities having been established in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, England, Scotland, Spain and Suriname.[14] The 20th century saw the continuation of expansion to where the Congregation created new provinces, vice provinces and missions in every decade and established a network of lay associates and volunteers who work with the Redemptorists to bring the Gospel to the poor.


The most fundamental unit of the Redemptorists is the local community in which members live together, combining their prayers, experiences, successes and failures, as well as any possessions for the service of the Gospel. Each community has a local superior who is chosen to exercise the ministry of leadership and the service of authority for the common good. The superior is assisted by a vicar and a group of advisors.

Local communities are organised into larger groups: provinces, vice-provinces, regions. A province is led by a provincial and his council, composed of elected members. In terms of governance, the members of each province elect representatives who gather in a Provincial Chapter Vice-provinces usually look to a founding province to provide support in terms of personnel and finances until it is able to become self-sufficient. Otherwise, it enjoys the freedom and authority necessary to adjust matters to the particular needs of its mission.[15] Regions and Missions are normally communities established in new missionary areas and they depend on the founding province or vice-province.

The Superior General convokes the General Chapter every six years. The General Chapter is the primary governing and representative body of the Redemptorists, carefully examining the mission of the Congregation in accordance with the spirit of St. Alphonsus and its traditions. The day-to-day international affairs of the Congregation are handled by the General Council, which is composed of a superior general and six consultors. The General Council is both a directive and executive body.[16]

Regions and Provinces

  • South Europe: 6 provinces and 2 regions
  • North Europe: 8 provinces, 2 vice-provinces, 2 regions and 1mission,
  • North America: 5 provinces, 1 vice-province and 4 regions.
  • Latin America: 13 provinces, 11 vice-provinces, 4 regions and 2 missions.
  • Africa: 1 province, 5 vice-provinces, 2 regions and 5 missions.
  • Asia-Oceania: 6 provinces, 5 vice-provinces, 4 regions and 2 missions.[17]

Regional development


In 1899 the Belgian Fathers were requested by their government to take charge of a number of missions in the Congo State, at that time a Belgian colony: Kinkanda, Kionzo, Kimpese, Matadi, Sonagongo and Lake Tumba.

In South Africa Redemptorists administer parishes in Cape Town, Rustenburg and Howick. There is also a convent of Redemptoristines sisters in Merrivale, KwaZulu-Natal. For the Redemptorists of Southern Africa “…Justice and Peace is part and parcel of everything we are and do. In the South African context…we are called by the poor to a simple life-style and we cannot avoid the struggle of the outcasts and oppressed of the townships and the desperate plight of the poor.”[18]

In 1987 the Denver Province established a mission in Nigeria which was so fruitful that it soon became a vice-province. The members of the vice-province have made concerted efforts to involve the laity in their work, once again focussing on the poorest of the poor.[19] The Redemptorists also minister in Angola (1967); Burkina Faso; Ghana; Ivory Coast (1993); Madagascar (1967); Niger; Zimbabwe (established by the British Redemptorists in 1960 and revitalised in 1989)[20]

In 1990 the Indian Redemptorists began a mission in Kenya where there are several perpetually professed members.

In May 2011 a number of allegations of child sexual abuse by a member of the order in South Africa were revealed on the RTÉ programme Prime Time Investigates.[21][22] It was also alleged that the order was involved in protecting and covering up for the abuser.

Alan Shatter the Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence has stated that

I have been in touch with the Garda Commissioner about this matter who, of course, shares my concern at the revelations in the programme. The Superintendent in charge of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit is being appointed to examine the programme. In particular, he will examine whether any criminal behaviour was disclosed which can be pursued in this jurisdiction. [23]

Australia and New Zealand

A number of requests for Australian foundations had been made to the Redemptorists and in 1881, the English Province answered the call.

A small team was formed to be the first Australian community and in January, 1882, these pioneers were given a farewell dinner before they set sail. There was a surprise when a distinguished visitor, Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, arrived with good wishes. Heartened by his blessing, the next day the group boarded the liner Sorata bound for Australia, bringing with them an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, blessed by Pope Leo XIII. Eight weeks later, on their arrival in Sydney, the then Archbishop Roger Bede Vaughan, who welcomed them generously.[24]

The first house established was in Singleton, New South Wales but during the summer heat missions were conducted in the cooler climate of New Zealand’s dioceses. As Singleton was an unsuitable base, the community oversaw the building of a new monastery at Mount St Alphonsus, Waratah, New South Wales. It was opened on the founder’s feast, 1887, just five years after the Redemptorists’ arrival. In the first year at Waratah the community conducted 45 missions through New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. A new house in Ballarat followed in 1888 and work began on a new monastery in the suburb of Wendouree. It was officially opened in September 1893.

With the south now being cared for by the Ballarat community, those in Waratah looked north to Queensland and the first missions were preached there in 1889. Missions began in Brisbane and its surrounds, with their success convincing the Archbishop to extend the programme to the far flung country parishes.

In 1927, the Province of Australasia, which included Australia and New Zealand, was created. New Zealand became an independent province in 1970 and from New Zealand, the Redemptorists went to Samoa in 1972.[25]

The years after World War II were a time of rapid expansion. As well as ongoing participation in the development of the vice-provinces in the Philippines and in Singapore and Malaysia, further houses were opened in New Town in Tasmania and Townsville and Miami in Queensland. There were also communities established in New South Wales: Campbell’s Hill, Concord, Fairfield West, Penrith and Yagoona. In Victoria, there were communities at Balwyn Box Hill, Brighton, Wongarra and Yarraville.

Missionary activity continues to flourish across Australia. Through parish missions, preaching, retreats, adult education, teaching in universities, social justice work, counselling, accompaniment of indigenous communities, chaplaincies, devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, working with people on the margins of society and promoting the family through the Majellan magazine, Redemptorists have sought to highlight that people matter greatly to God.[26] For the Australian Redemptorists, the issue of social justice “…matters to the Redemptorists for it is at the core of our mission in the world.”[27]


The Upper German or Bavarian province, which was under the ban of the Kulturkampf, has recovered some of its lost ground. Since its readmittance, it has added another very important foundation. But the historic convent of Altötting has passed into other hands. In 1894 this province opened in Brazil a mission of two houses forming a vice-province.

Canada and Caribbean

In 1874 the Redemptorists were called to St. Patrick's Church, Quebec, Canada, the only church in that city for English-speaking Catholics. In 1878 they became the custodians of the shrine of Ste-Anne de Beaupré, near Quebec and then of St. Anne's, Montreal, a large parish in a very poor district of the city. Two other foundations were quickly established in Canada: Saint Patrick's, Toronto and Saint Peter's, New Brunswick in 1881 and 1884 respectively.

Canada was made a vice-province in 1894, where four more houses were opened. This province, initially depending on the Belgian province, numbers six houses. In the West Indies, which were also made a vice-province in 1904, there are now six houses. There is also a house at Mayagüez in Puerto Rico. Before the occupation of the island by the United States the Spanish Redemptorists had settled at San Juan. A parish comprising some 30,000 souls is confided to their care. Despite all their labours for the benefit of the natives their progress is very slow. On 26 July 1911, the Belgian houses of Canada were erected into a new province.

United Kingdom and Irish provinces

Rev.Vladimir Pecherin (1807–1885), one of the first Redemptorists to work in Ireland

Redemptorists arrived from Belgium in 1843, and the new province owed its great progress to the Rev. Robert Aston Coffin, one of the band of converts associated with Blessed John Henry Newman, Cardinal Manning, and William Faber in the Oxford Movement. Father Coffin was engaged in missions until he was appointed first provincial in 1865. During his administration new houses were founded in various parts of the United Kingdom, the house at Perth being the first Scottish monastery opened since the Reformation. By 1910, the province had eight houses: Clapham, Bishop-Eton, Monkwearmouth, Bishop's Stortford, Kingswood, Edmonton and a total membership of one hundred and twenty-three.

Today the Redemptorists of Britain are engaged in a variety of ministries: the mission amongst the poor of Zimbabwe, renewal centres at Kinnoull and Hawkstone Hall where people can spend time in prayer and reflection and parishes in Edinburgh, Birmingham, Liverpool, London and Sunderland. Their goal is “to defend our joy in Jesus Christ and to bring to others Plentiful Redemption”[28]

In 1898 the houses in Ireland were constituted a separate province with the provincial house at Limerick. On 25 March 1901, the foundation of the a juvenate house at Limerick was laid. The province of Ireland then comprised four houses: Limerick, Dundalk, Belfast, and Esker. Today, the provincial house is located in Dublin with other communities being found in Belfast (Clonard Monastery and the parish of Saint Gerard, Cork, Dundalk, Athenry in Galway, Limerick and four houses are established. The Irish Redemporists are involved in parish ministry, youth work, Redemptorist publications and retreats. They also help staff the missions in Cebu in the Philippines[29]

United States

St John Neumann (1811–1860), the first U.S. bishop to be canonised

In 1828 Mgr Résé, Vicar-General of Cincinnati, visited Europe in search of priests. While at Vienna he secured three priests and three lay brothers; they arrived in New York on 20 June 1832 and began working amongst the people of northern Michigan. In 1839 they were called to Pittsburgh to assume charge of the German congregation and from this time the care of German congregations became a prominent element of the Redemptorists in North America.

The US province was erected in 1850 and one of the first tasks was the establishment of a seminary and the selection of a suitable place for a novitiate. Cumberland in Maryland, was chosen for the seminary and Baltimore for the novitiate. In 1868 the students were transferred to the new house of studies at Ilchester, Maryland and in 1907 the faculty and the students moved to Esopus, New York on the Hudson River where a more spacious building had been erected.

In 1882, the Congregation sent priests to the Archdiocese of Washington and eventually established five parishes. In1861 they opened a community in Chicago, Illinois. Soon after, due to the many successful missions they had given in the Archdiocese of St. Louis a house was opened at St. Louis. In 1871 an important mission house was opened at Roxbury, Boston and was dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. When, in 1883, a new parish was formed, the Fathers of the mission church took charge. (In 2009, its later basilica, of the same name, hosted the nationally televised funeral of Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, attended by President Barack Obama, three former U.S. presidents and first ladies, among other dignitaries.)

From 1883 onward, the Redemptorists spread throughout most of North America and are present in a variety of states such as California in the west, Michigan and Illinois in the midwest, Washington DC and Baltimore in the northeast and Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas in the south.

North American Redemptorists are divided into four provinces (Baltimore, Denver, Edmonton-Toronto and Mexico) and one vice-province (Richmond).[30] and are involved in giving parish missions, social justice, retreats, youth ministry, ministry to adults with special needs, bioethics, publication of religious materials and chaplaincy work[31] as well as outreach to the Hispanic community, ministry amongst the poor, and helping to staff missions in the Caribbean[32]


The first Redemptorist community in India was established in Bangalore in 1940. The Indian Mission that began with only three community members grew remarkably well.

India became a Vice-Province in the year 1945 and a Province in 1972. As of 2011 there were some 260 Redemptorists in India, belonging to two Provinces, one Region and one Mission. The Region of Alwaye was established in 1992 and became a Province (Province of Liguori) in 2008. The Region of Mumbai was established in 1999 and was raised to the status of a Vice-Province in 2011. The Mission of Kenya began in 1990 and there are several perpetually professed Kenyan members.

The Philippines

The first Redemptorists, all Irish born, arrived in Opon, Cebu, on 30 June 1906, setting up missions in Compostela, San Francisco and on the Camotes Islands.

From 1914 to 1928 there was great expansion and further communities were established the most prominent being: Luzon (where the Redemptorists preached the first mission completely in Tagalog), Lipa, Iloilo, Tacloban and Cagayan de Oro on Mindanao. Today, the Redemptorists main headquarters are located in the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, in Baclaran.

The Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) had a profound impact on the Redemptorist Congregation and the Filipino members in particular and this resulted in them pledging themselves more strongly to the poor and disadvantaged in imitation of St. Alphonsus. When the political and social upheavals came in the 1960s and 1970s the Filipino Redemptorists stood in solidarity with those seeking justice and equality for they were to “...embrace the mission to proclaim by word and action, the Gospel of justice so that the poor’s aspirations can be fully realised in Christ, the source of liberation.”[33]

Indeed, since Vatican II, social justice has become a major focus of the Redemptorists, who see this as being faithful to the charism of their founder. The Generalate website provides some examples of how the Congregation attempts to do this today.

Famous Redemptorists

See also

  • The Alphonsian Academy – established by the Congregation.
  • Radio Maryja, is a radio station owned by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and run by Redemptorists.
  • The teen magazine, Face Up


  1. ^ Annuario Pontificio per l'anno 2010. Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2010. p. 1441. 
  2. ^ Redemptorist Generalate website: What we do
  3. ^ Redemptorist Generalate website: What we do
  4. ^ Redemptorist Generalate website: What we do
  5. ^ Redemptorist Cebu Province website: Vision
  6. ^ Redemptorists London / Life
  7. ^ Code of Canon Law 646
  8. ^ Code of Canon Law 654
  9. ^ Code of Canon Law 655
  10. ^ Redemptorists London / Formation
  11. ^ Letter of Alphonsus to Benedict XIV
  12. ^ New Advent Catholic 1913 Encyclopedia: Redemptorists
  13. ^ New Advent Catholic 1913 Encyclopedia: Redemptorists
  14. ^ New Advent Catholic 1913 Encyclopedia: Redemptorists
  15. ^ Redemptorists General Facts: Structure
  16. ^ Redemptorists General Facts: Structure
  17. ^ Redemptorist Generalate website: The Units of the Congregation 2009
  18. ^ South African Redemptorists : Reds in SA
  19. ^ Vice Province of Nigeria website
  20. ^ Redemptorist Newsletter 16 May 2010
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^;Edmund;Vaughan
  25. ^ Australian Redemptorist Website: Our History
  26. ^ Australian Redemptorist Website: Our History
  27. ^ Australian Redemptorists:Justice
  28. ^ British Redemptorists: Ministry
  29. ^ Irish Redemptorist Website
  30. ^ North American Redemptorist website:Vocations
  31. ^ Canadian Redemptorists Website
  32. ^ Baltimore Redemptorists: What we do
  33. ^ Redemptorists Cebu Province: Presence
  34. ^ Generalate website: Collaboration

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed (1913). "Redemptorists". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 

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