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The Claretians, a community of Roman Catholic priests and brothers, were founded by Saint Anthony Claret in 1849. Their ministries are highly diverse and vary depending on the needs of the area. They focus on seeing life through the eyes of the poor and respond to the biggest need at the time. They have a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Their formal title is the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but they are popularly known as "the Claretians".
The Congregation of the "Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary" was founded by Antonio María Claret y Clará (Anthony Claret) on July 16, 1849 at the seminary in Vic, in the province of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
Claret had been thinking for a long time about preparing priests to proclaim the Gospel and bring together a group of priests who shared his vision to accomplish work he could not do alone. Through his evangelizing missionary work in Catalonia and the Canary Islands he was convinced that people needed to be evangelized and there were not enough priests who were sufficiently prepared or zealous enough for this mission.
Only 20 days after the CMF's founding, Claret received news of his appointment as Archbishop of Cuba, which he accepted despite his reluctance. The Congregation was left under the guidance of one of the co-founders, Esteban Sala, who died in 1858. Another co-founder, José Xifré, took over the directorship.
Archbishop Claret, called back from Cuba to Madrid, Spain to be Confessor to Queen Isabella II, and contrived to remain very close to the new Superior General and to all the missionaries. He attended the General Chapters. He gave spiritual and financial guidance to the religious institute. He also wrote his autobiography for the good of the Congregation and at the order of the Superior General, who had previously been his spiritual director.
With the coming of the Revolution of 1868, the Congregation was suppressed by the state and all the Missionaries had to seek refuge in France. Archbishop Claret also went into exile there. He played a major role editing the Constitutions, which the Holy See approved on February 11, 1870, only a few months before his death in France. At this time the institute had its first holy martyr, Francisco Crusats. Archbishop Claret, the founder, had the great satisfaction of seeing new foundations established throughout Spain, as well as in Africa (Argel), and in Latin America in México, Chile, and also, in the Philippines .
The Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Rome (aka: The Claretians), had come to Southern California by way of Mexico in the early 1900s, working in Los Angeles inner city missions. Since 1908 the Claretins have operated the historic La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles in Pueblo de Los Angeles near Downtown Los Angeles, as well as Mission San Gabriel, one of the original Spanish missions in California.
From 1952 to 1977 The Claretians also served from the Theological Seminary of Claretville and Immaculate Heart Claretian novitiate, on the former King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas, located in the Santa Monica Mountains of rural western Los Angeles County. The Thomas Aquinas College was also here from 1971 until moving to a permanent campus in Santa Paula, California in 1975. The land and structures are now part of Malibu Creek State Park.
One noted member of the Claretian community in the Los Angeles area was Aloysius Ellacuria, C.M.F., born in Spain, who arrived there in 1930. He spent nearly fifty years in various position of the congregation in the American Southwest, but mostly Los Angeles. He became known as a man of deep faith, who touched thousands in his ministry and is considered by many as a mystic. The cause for his canonization is under consideration by the congregation, after hundreds of requests for this prompted the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles to refer the matter to them
The Claretian’s work is as diverse as its priests. They live together in community and serving in a variety of ministries devoted to social concerns and issues of justice, peace, and the environment. Within each community the Claretians share daily prayer, meals, and meal preparation. Claretians work in parishes, foreign missions, periodical publishing, outreaches to young people, summer camps and inner city college outreaches. They attend to the needs of immigrants, youth and families. They also lead trips for the future leaders of tomorrow with leadership training and spiritual renewal. There are more than 3,000 Claretian priests and brothers ministering in over 60 countries on five continents.
In the Eastern Province of the U.S. they work primarily with recent immigrants, in publishing through Claretian Publications, and in fostering devotion to St. Jude through the National Shrine of St. Jude. They publish the magazine U.S. Catholic.
The national shrine of St. Jude was founded by Father James Tort, C.M.F., pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Many of Tort’s parishioners were laborers in the nearby steel mills, which were drastically cutting back their work forces early in 1929. This cutback was the precursor of the Stock Market crash.
Tort was saddened to see that about 90% of his parishioners were without jobs and in difficult financial situations. To make the situation worse, unemployment compensation and Social Security benefits did not yet exist. The Claretian pastor saw breadlines being formed in the community and evidence of children being undernourished, and his heart went out to his neighbors, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. He had started construction of a church, but with money extremely scarce he felt the building project would have to be abandoned.
Tort was devoted to Saint Jude Thaddeus, who was relatively obscure to the general Catholic population at that time. During the Middle Ages St. Jude was venerated by many people, but due in part of to his name being mistaken for that of the traitor Judas Iscariot, devotions to him were minimal. Night after night, however, Tort persevered in his prayers to Saint Jude, asking his intercession and promising to erect a shrine in the saint's honor if the church could be finished. In an effort to lift the spirits of his parishioners, Tort began regular devotions to Saint Jude. The first novena honoring the saint was held on February 17, 1929.
During Lent in 1929, Tort noticed many of his parishioners praying before the statue of Saint Jude. When the statues in the church were covered with purple drape during Passion Week, the devotions were so great that he moved the statue to a place above an altar on the right side of the church. The congregation at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church showed such great response to the devotion to Saint Jude that an overflow crowd attended services on the final night of a solemn novena that ended on the saint's feast day, October 28, 1929, one day before the stock market crashed. More than 1,000 people stood outside the church to hear the service.
Money came to the church from many places around the US. They never had a surplus of money, but they had enough to get by and the modest shrine to Saint Jude was finally established. Word of the devotions to Saint Jude gradually spread from that tiny corner of Chicago to other parts of the country. During the Depression of the 1930s and during World War II, thousands of men, women, and children attended novenas at the shrine and devotion to the patron saint of desperate causes spread throughout the country.
Because the majority of Saint Jude patrons cannot personally attend novena services (which begin on a Saturday afternoon and end nine days later on a Sunday night), the office of the National Shrine in Chicago distributes novena literature throughout the country to devotees who want to pray the novena by reading the prayers at home or elsewhere.
To this day, the letters that pour into the National Shrine provide inspiring testimony to the desire of the faithful to unite themselves with God through prayers to Saint Jude.
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