In the early 1900s, the first Claretians came to the United States from Spain through Mexico. They came to San Antonio, TX, at the invitation of the bishop. The diocese urgently needed the Claretians to take charge of the Cathedral and to energize the spirit of the faithful in the city. The expected commitment as stated by the bishop was one year.
A team of three Claretian priests came to San Antonio in 1902 to fulfill the bishop’s request. Though small in number, they were clear in their focus, courage, and desire to fulfill the mission well. The Claretians dedicated themselves to the parish and their new challenges. They broadened the Cathedral’s pastoral mission, preached the Word tirelessly, and lived what they preached through educational and social justice outreach work in communities throughout the state.
It was clear there was more work to be done than could possibly be accomplished by so few. Within two years the Claretians built their own Mother House for the United States, and began to add more Claretians to the effort. By 1912, they had also built their own parish, the now historic Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.
During these years, the Claretians took charge of numerous other parishes in the area. Outside the city of San Antonio, the Claretians erected some 40 additional mission churches and chapels, caring for Catholics and those in need throughout the region—and eventually spread out to the far corners of the country and beyond.
The Claretians’ initial commitment for 1 year turned into their vital building of the Church and her people in the San Antonio area for 75 years. As the diocese states today in their panel on the Claretians in the Cathedral’s small museum, the Claretians “shaped the Church’s mission through wars, the Great Depression, times of prosperity, and prepared the way for the 21st century.”
Those initial three Claretians also set the foundation for the official U.S. Province of the Claretian Missionaries. Our numbers grew as our predecessors swiftly made their way across the country to serve and to deepen the role of the Catholic Church in the United States.
From Texas, the Claretians were called to minister in California, Arizona, and then to Illinois with an eye always to the needs of Mexican immigrants. As more local Americans joined the Claretians, the pastoral work expanded to include Catholic publishing, campus ministry, and many other works of evangelization in states across the country.
The Claretians came to Chicago in 1925, built a new church to establish Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and the National Shrine of St. Jude, and began the St. Jude League in 1929 to foster devotion to this Apostle who is the Patron Saint of Hope. The St. Jude League provides the path for petitions of need and gratitude to be delivered directly to the altar of St. Jude at the National Shrine. As in all the decades past, we place the people’s intentions at the altar weekly, and offer the requests in our Masses and our prayers.
Claretians have been serving in Canada since 1955. For more information about the history of Claretians in Canada, visit their website.