Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo

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Bedford's Italian church of St. Francesca Cabrini founded by the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo in 1965

The Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo or Scalabrinian Missionaries (abbr.: C.S.) are a Roman Catholic religious institute of brothers and priests founded by Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, Bishop of Piacenza in Italy, in 1887. Its mission is to "maintain Catholic faith and practice among Italian emigrants in the New World." Today, they and their sister organizations, the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo (founded by Scalabrini on 25 October 1895) and Secular Institute of the Scalabrinian Missionary Women (founded 25 July 1961) minister to migrants, refugees and displaced persons.

History[edit]

The institute was approved in principle by Pope Leo XIII in a papal brief dated 25 November 1887 and its Constitution definitively approved by a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda on 3 October 1908.

The expediency of providing for the spiritual — and also, in some degree, for the temporal — needs of Italian emigrants to the Americas 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 Giovanni Simeoni, then Cardinal Prefect of the Propaganda Fide, 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 primary 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 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 City, 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 on Mulberry Street; lastly, a building on Roosevelt Street, which had been a Protestant place of worship, became the property of the Scalabrini Fathers, who transformed it into the Church of St. Joachim, the first national parish for Italian immigrants in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The Society of St. Raphael, an emigrant aid society, was organized at Ellis Island. The good work thereafter spread rapidly through the continent.

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