By: Francisco Carballo, CM
[This is one of the 100 articles found in the publication, Diccionario de Expiritualidad Vicenciana, published by Editorial CEME in 1995. This article has been translated and made available in the on-line Vincentian Encyclopedia with the permission of Editorial CEME].
The Constitutions and the foundational Bull of the Congregation of the Mission expressly mention the Confraternities of Charity as an association that should be established in the parishes where a mission is preached. Afterward the Congregation accepted and, in some cases, created other types of associations.
All of these new associations were established in the XIX and XX centuries, especially during the time when the Confraternities of Charity were being reorganized. In general, these associations were pious in nature. After the Second Vatican Council these associations reformulated their statutes. Those that have as their aim some social, charitable or apostolic activity have attempted to keep their activity in line with that purpose and thus coordinate their activity. In April 1988 the first Congress of lay Vincentians in Spain took place and the purpose of that gathering was to coordinate the activity of the Vincentian Family. The two associations that are presently promoted by the Missionaries and the Daughters of Charity are the AIC and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society (see, Ozanam* and Confraternity of Charity*).
The historical associations that we are going to refer to here have had an uneven extension. They all respond to specific situations and their future is unpredictable.
The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament - This association came into existence in 1854 as a result of the inspiration of María Pellerin. Since 1865 it has been the superior general of the Congregation who can establish this group in some specific place. Its purpose: to assist those who are dying. The fact that the members of this association were devoted to the Blessed Trinity, a devotion recommended by Vincent de Paul, prompted the Congregation of the Mission to accept the role of advisor. This association was not established in Spain.
The Confraternity of the Holy Agony - This association was established in Valfleury, France (1861) by Father Nicole, CM. Its purpose is to honor Our Lord in the Garden of Olives, to obtain peace in the Church, to preserve the faith in Catholic countries, to pray for an end to calamities, to encourage the conversion* of sinners and to assist those who are dying. For many years this confraternity highlighted the more common devotions of piety that were practiced at the end of the XIX century. They took as their own the red scapular, the scapular of the Lord’s passion that was inspired by a Daughter of Charity, Sister Apolonia Andriveau (1846).
The Association of the Sons and Daughters of Mary: Saint Catherine communicated to Father Aladel her experience of the apparitions from the Blessed Mother (1830) that occurred in the chapel on the Rue du Bac (Paris) and in which she requested the creation of an association for the children of Mary. In 1837, Father Aladel gathered together some young people in the city of Paris. In 1847 Pope Pius IX approved the association and placed it under the direction of the superior general of the Congregation of the Mission. This association could be established in the schools and the centers that were administered by the Daughters of Charity. Since 1931, through a concession of Pope Pius XI, parish groups of young men and women can now become members of this association. This association has spread throughout the world, especially in dioceses where the Missionaries of the Congregation minister. In 1850 canonical approval was obtained to establish groups that would minister on behalf of young men. The spread of this new branch among young males has had more limited success.
The Association of the Children of Mary sought to unite Marian devotion with Vincentian spirituality on behalf of the poor and in the pursuit of justice*. In 1901, a Daughter of Charity, Sister Milcent, promoted a women’s labor union, L’Abbaye, and the first militants were all Daughters of Mary.
In 1920 there began a movement among the Daughters of Mary to promote outdoor activities and sports … this movement was called Rayone Sportif Feminin. This movement was then transformed into an apostolic activity that was focused on missionary activity and concern for the poor.
Just as the Daughters of Mary adapted their activities in France so also this same adaptation occurred in other countries. In Spain, the association known as the Sons and Daughters of Mary became known as the Vincentian Marian Youth Association. According to its Statutes this association, in accord with canon 304, is guided by the rule of the Sons and Daughters of Mary. This association is present in all the Dioceses of Spain. The leadership of the association is concerned about the formation of its members, as well as its social and missionary outreach. This association has also been established in Latin America and Africa and functions in close collaboration with the Daughters of Charity and the Missionaries of the Congregation of the Mission.
Miraculous Medal Association – Its purpose is to promote Marian devotion and to provide assistance to poor persons. The Association began in Poland and from there has spread throughout the world. In 1909 Pope Pius X approved the Association. Since 1990 it has had new Statutes which facilitate the medal being imposed on persons by lay ministers.
This association experienced tremendous growth in the United States. Through the efforts of its promoters, the use of the medal and the family devotion that it promotes through visits with the image of the Blessed Mother have become very present in the midst of that society. This association has provided resources to various Vincentian institutions including parishes where the Missionaries minister.
In Spain this Association has been established in the 59 Dioceses and a monthly bulletin is published and sent to more than 58,000 subscribers. In 1981 there were 304 groups and 305,683 families that had received a visit from the members who carried with them an image of the Blessed Mother that was subsequently enshrined in the home. Even at a time when the activity of this Association appears to be in decline, nevertheless the members continue to promote Marian devotion*, home visits and, thanks to the Daughters of Charity, prompt attention to those who are in need.
Priest’s Association: The Tuesday Conferences - Vincent de Paul brought together priests from throughout Paris in order to bring about a moral reform among the clergy and in order to involve them in the ministry of the popular missions*. Those meetings that were established in 1633 were called the Tuesday Conferences. At various times and in various places that manner of bringing priests together has been imitated. In 1854 Pope Pius IX granted indulgences to priests who participated in such gatherings.
Missionary Brotherhood of Saint Vincent de Paul – In 1942 the Missionary Brotherhood of Saint Vincent de Paul was created in Spain and took on a missionary character. The members participated in numerous missions in Spain, as well as in Latin America. In the last two decades their activity has been greatly reduced and it could be said that this association no longer exists.
Priestly Reparation - In 1908 at the reaquest of Father Mott, CM, Pope Pius X approved the Statutes of this Association. The Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission is also the director-general of this association, the purpose of which is to make reparation for sin*, to pray for the conversion* of sinners and the perseverance of priests.
While Father Mott was interested in this specific type of association, Father Pouget and Father Portal and others focused on ecumenism and a broader theological openness. They were also concerned about the process of evangelization in other countries, for example, in China where they expressed their concern for a greater inculturation on the part of the church*. We highlight here the person of Father V. Lebbe. The relationships between the missionaries and the diocesan clergy during the first three decades of the twentieth century gave witness to the spiritual development of the missionaries during that period when they were entrusted with the formation of the clergy in numerous countries.
Missionary Associations – The Missionaries of Saint Vincent de Paul, as well as the Daughters of Charity, supported the Pontifical Missions. As the evangelization activity of the Congregation was extended to other areas, lay associations were encouraged to collaborate with the missions through their financial assistance, as well as through their prayers. This was concretized through numerous publications: Bto. Perboyre in France, Reina de las Misiones in Spain and other publications that were focused on this theme of the missions.
In various countries lay associations and groups were established, groups that supported the missions. At times this same interest attempted to become compatable with other purposes of the various Vincentian Associations.
Vatican II insisted on the renewal of ecclesiastical institutions. With regard to the associations that we have mentioned above, some have engaged in this process of adaptation and it is hoped that those that have not will soon engage in that process. These organizations were established during a specific era and in the midst of various concrete situations and therefore, they are subject to the changes that every organization must confront.
Bibliography and References:
All references to the writings of Vincent de Paul are taken from: VINCENT DE PAUL, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, translators: Helen Marie Law, DC (Vol. 1), Marie Poole, DC (Vol. 1-14), James King, CM (Vol. 1-2), Francis Germovnik, CM (Vol. 1-8, 13a-13b [Latin]), Esther Cavanagh, DC (Vol. 2), Ann Mary Dougherty, DC (Vol. 12); Evelyne Franc, DC (Vol. 13a-13b), Thomas Davitt, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]), Glennon E. Figge, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]), John G. Nugent, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]), Andrew Spellman, CM (Vol. 13a-13b [Latin]); edited: Jacqueline Kilar, DC (Vol. 1-2), Marie Poole, DC (Vol. 2-14), Julia Denton, DC [editor-in-chief] (Vol. 3-10, 13a-13b), Paule Freeburg, DC (Vol. 3), Mirian Hamway, DC (Vol. 3), Elinor Hartman, DC (Vol. 4-10, 13a-13b), Ellen Van Zandt, DC (Vol. 9-13b), Ann Mary Dougherty (Vol. 11, 12 and 14).
F. DELGADO, Las Hijas e Hijos de María, (The Sons and Daughters of Mary) Madrid, La Milagrosa 1966.
J. FERNÁNDEZ, Asociaciones eclesiásticas instituidas y dirigidas por la Congregación de la Misión, (Essclesiastical Institutions Established and Directed by the Congregation of the Mission) Madrid, La Milagrosa 1962.-
ID., Hermandad Misionera de San Vicente de Paúl, (The Missionary Brotherhood of Saint Vincent), Madrid, La Milagrosa 1953. \
M. LARIGALDE, Antaine Nicole prétre de la CM, Fondateur de l'archiconfrérie de la Sainte Agonie de N.S.J.C., Paris, Lethielleux 1909.
VARIOS , Renacimiento del laicado vicenciano, (Rebirth of the Vincentian Laity), Madrid, La Milagrosa 1988.
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM