THE ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE MOST HOLY REDEEMER
Moved by compassion for the poor, especially those living in the country districts, who at that time formed a considerable section of the population, St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, in the year 1732, at Scala in the Kingdom of Naples, founded the Congregation of Missionaries of the Most Holy Saviour. Afterwards (1749), it came to be called the Congregation of Missionaries of the Most Holy Redeemer. These missionaries, after the example of the Redeemer himself, were to preach the Gospel to the poor: "He sent me to preach the Gospel to the poor" (Luke 4,18).
Alphonsus, with his companions, among whom St. Gerard Majella was outstanding, strove to come to the relief of the spiritual needs, at that time, of the poor of the country districts. These he sought to assist, especially by means of missions, spiritual exercises and renewals, after the manner of St. Paul (Acts 15,36).
But he felt an ardent desire, too, to preach the Gospel to non-Christians in Africa and Asia, as he often wrote in his letters, and to Christians separated from the Catholic Church, as for example, the Nestorians living in Mesopotamia. He took pains to enkindle this apostolic zeal in his sons, proposing in the Constitutions a special vow obliging them to preach the Gospel to non-believers (1743). This vow however was suppressed in Rome by those who revised them.
Alphonsus could never be shaken in the belief that his Congregation, under the protection of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, would labour vigorously together with the Church in the task of winning the world for Christ. Hence, with all his might he exerted himself to secure the spread of the Congregation. He sought to give it interior strength by means of a vow of perseverance (1740) and simple vows. He strove to have it officially recognized by the supreme authority of the Church. In this last he finally succeeded when the Supreme Pontiff, Benedict XIV, on the 25th of February, 1749, solemnly approved both the Institute and its constitutions andrRules.
From that time onwards the confreres took simple vows recognized by pontifical authority. With the apostolic constitution "Conditae a Christo" of Pope Leo XIII (8 Dec. 1900), these simple vows obtained the character of public religious vows.
Due in a special way to the untiring zeal of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer († 1820), "a man with a wonderful strength of faith and possessed of the virtue of invincible constancy," our Congregation spread beyond the Alps where it found new fields for its apostolic zeal. There also, with the assent of St. Alphonsus, who was informed of the matter, it adopted new missionary methods.
By degrees, the Congregation began to expand through the regions of Europe and from there, due to the enterprise of Father Amand Joseph Passerat († 1858), it crossed the ocean and extended through the Americas where it found an energetic apostle in St. John Nepomucene Neumann. It spread through other regions as well, till at last its boundaries extended to the limits of the world itself.
In this way the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer gradually entered different fields of apostolic activity, devoting itself to missionary work among the faithful, among non-Christians and those separated from the Catholic Church.
Urged on by the same missionary spirit, it fosters, too, the scientific study of pastoral practice, thus following in the steps of St. Alphonsus who, in 1871, was declared a Doctor of the Church and, in 1950, the Patron of all Confessors and Moralists. It aims also to propose a way, suited to the changing conditions of our times, that gives sure guidance in responding to the Gospel and acquiring Christian perfection.
All the members, therefore, striving to carry on the missionary work of the Most Holy Redeemer and the apostles, put forth their most earnest efforts to preserve the spirit of their holy founder, Alphonsus. They ever identify themselves with the energetic missionary activity of the Church, especially in everything that has reference to the poor, and devote all their powers to relieving the needs of the world today.
PROVINCE OF BANGALORE
A day to remember in the history of the Province of Bangalore is January 5th 1939. On that day the three founders of the Province landed by boat in Colombo, Sri Lanka. They were Frs. Matthew Hickey, Gerard Mc Donnell and Leo O’Halloran from the Dublin (Irish) Province. They were to begin the work and open a new chapter in the history of the Redemptorists in Asia.
In August 1938, Fr. Hugo Kerr, Provincial Superior of the Dublin Province called on Monsignor Regno O.S.B., Bishop of Kandy and received a warm welcome for the Redemptorists into his Diocese, giving a formal permission for a foundation. Fr. Kerr proceeded to Bangalore, India where Monsignor Despatures, Bishop of Mysore made him equally welcome and gave permission for the foundation. By now a number of missions were preached in India by different Redemptorist confreres from Ireland and Australia.
The new arrivals went into action preaching missions and retreats all over Sri Lanka and in parts of India where English was widely spoken, deepening the faith of the people. Towards the end of 1939, Frs. Joseph C. Morgan and Joseph O’Regan joined the mission and started to study Tamil and in due time began preaching in regional languages.
Together with the work of preaching Missions and Retreats, the fathers began to look for vocations, with the result that on June 27th 1943 the novitiate was opened in Bangalore. The first novices were Joseph Anthonysamy and Bro. Alphonsus, with two others who later left the novitiate. With the Profession of the first Novices, the Studentate (Seminary) formally began on the 2nd of February 1945. In August 1946, number of clerical students from Ireland joined the seminary. Among many who studied in our Studentate three of them reached the perfection of priesthood by being consecrated Bishops, namely Stephen Naidoo (Archbishop of Capetown), I. Amantillo (Bishop of Tandag, Philippines) and Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil (Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamally).
On the 1st of October 1945, the Indian Redemptorist Mission was constituted as a Vice-Province with Rev. Fr. Matthew Hickey as the first Vice-Provincial. New foundations were established in Bangalore, Dagshai, Ambala, Bombay, Bolarum, Colombo, Sadupadesa, Lucknow, Tenali, Kolkata, Madurai, Goa and Trivandrum. On the 15th August 1972, the Vice-Province became the Province of Bangalore. Fr. Bernard Pereira became the first Provincial. On September 14th 1974 the Region of Colombo, was set up with Fr. F.N.D Karunaratne as the Regional Superior.
The Province took a momentous initiative in 1990 by establishing a Redemptorist presence in Kenya, Africa. Now the mission has 7 indigenous priests along with the members of the Province serving in the mission.
The Region of Alwaye, depending on the Latin Province of Bangalore, was approved by the General Council by its Rescript dated 28th December, 1991. The official inauguration of the Region of Alwaye took place on 19th February, 1992 at Chowara. This Region was attached to the Syro-Malabar Church and its members were given the faculty of bi-ritualism by the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches. On the 3rd July, 1995, the autonomous Vice-Province of Alwaye was erected by a special decree. It later became the Province of Liguori on 27th June, 2008 with its headquarters at Liguori Bhavan, Mattoor.
The Region of Mumbai was established in the year 1999 and it is in the process of becoming a Vice-Province this year.