Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Congregation of Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 10
Congregation of Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo


Founded by John Baptist Scalabrini, Bishop of Piacenza, Italy (d. 1 June, 1905); approved in principle by Leo XIII in a Brief dated 25 November, 1887; constitution definitively approved by a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, 3 October, 1908. The expediency of providing for the spiritual - and also, in some degree, for the temporal - needs of Italian emigrants to America was forcibly brought home to Bishop Scalabrini by the pathetic spectacle of a number of such emigrants waiting in the great railway station of Milan. Acting upon this inspiration, and encouraged by Cardinal Simeoni, then Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda, the bishop acquired at Piacenza a residence which he converted into "The Christopher Columbus Apostolic Institution", forming there a community of priests which was to be the nucleus of a new congregation.

This congregation, which was henceforth to be known as the "Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo", was to be governed by a superior-general, dependent upon the Congregation of Propaganda; its aim was to maintain Catholic faith and practice among Italian emigrants in the New World, and "to ensure as far as possible their moral, civil, and economical welfare"; it was to provide priests for the emigrants, as well as committees of persons who should give the good advice and practical direction needed by poor Italians newly arrived in foreign ports; to establish churches, schools, and missionary homes in the various Italian colonies in North and South America, and to train youths for the priesthood. The members of the congregation promise obedience to their superiors in the congregation and the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

Seven priests and three lay brothers of Bishop Scalabrini's institute left Italy, on 12 July, 1888, of whom two priests and one lay brother were bound for New York, five priests and two lay brothers for various parts of Brazil. On this occasion, Cesare Cantú, the famous Italian historian, addressed to the Bishop of Piacenza some memorable words of congratulation, asking leave to add to the bishop's blessing on the departing missionaries, "the prayers of an old man who admires a courage and an abnegation so full of humility". A welcome had already been assured these first missionaries of the congregation by a commendatory letter (1 June, 1888) of Leo XIII addressed to the American bishops.

Immediately after their arrival in New York the new missionaries were enabled to secure a favorable site in Centre Street, where there was a colony of Italians, and in a short time a chapel was opened; soon after this the church of the Resurrection was opened in Mulberry Street; lastly, a building in Roosevelt Street, which had been a Protestant place of worship, became the property of the mission fathers who transformed it into the church of St. Joachim, the first specially Italian church in the Diocese of New York. The Society of St. Raphael (see Emigrant Aid Societies) was organized at Ellis Island. The good work thereafter spread rapidly through the continent. The United States and Canada now (1910) contain 21 parish churches, besides several chapels, served by the congregation; in Brazil the fathers have charge of 13 parish churches, mostly with schools attached, and 2 important orphanages. The two provinces (Eastern and Western) of the congregation in the United States number 45 priests and 3 lay brothers, while the single province of Brazil numbers 35 priests and 5 lay brothers.

VICTOR CANGIANO