Tabernacle Societies

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The Tabernacle Societies were lay Eucharistic Adorative associations within Roman Catholic parishes, principally in America and Australia, forming part of the ArchiAssociation of the Eucharist under the guidance of the Association of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Ecclesiastical framework and history[edit]

This association was a sisterhood founded at Convent Van Maerlant in Brussels, Belgium between 1844 and 1848 by Anne de Meeûs,[1] the eldest daughter of the Belgian Minister of Finance Count Frederic de Meeûs. The foundation of the sisterhood followed an initial call to restore the parish church at Ohain, Belgium. That church's fittings were totally worn out after fifty years of official neglect following the invasion of Belgium by the French Directory in 1792, followed by an unsympathetic government under Napoleon and King William of the Netherlands. By 1851 it had the approval of the bishops of Belgium. Within a few years a number of its members formed themselves into a putative religious congregation, that of the Dames de l'Adoration perpétuelle (Sisters of Perpetual Adoration), Miss de Meeûs becoming the first mother superior; organisational approval from Rome was blocked for a number of years under constraints imposed by the Risorgimento.

In 1853 the society became an archconfraternity for Belgium, and quickly spread to the nearby countries where it met similar needs and received similar privileges. In 1863 Pius IX granted the mother-society at Brussels the right to affiliate confraternities throughout the world, except in the city of Rome. This last restriction was removed when the mother-house of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration was transferred to Rome, which then became the centre of the association. An archconfraternity with the same name and purpose already existing in Rome, but founded subsequent to that of Brussels, was merged with the latter. The statutes of the archconfraternity were approved by the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, 12 January 1880, and Leo XIII by a Brief of 21 June 1881, approved its transfer to Rome and right to affiliate; and by a Brief of 30 July 1895, granted it the title of Prima Primaria, raising the Mother Superior to the rank of Mother Superior General responsible directly to the Pope alone.

The eleventh Eucharistic Congress was held in Brussels in 1898 in the church in which the society was founded, and on that occasion a glowing tribute was paid to its work. In Belgium alone it had nearly 200,000 members. Special mention should be made of the association as it was maintained in convents of Religious of the Sacred Heart. The United States convents were founded by Rev. Mother Mary Aloysia Hardey, then assistant superior general of the Society, on the occasion of her visit in 1874, in connection with the Sodality of the Children of Mary, and it saw rapid growth in its work for poor churches. Paris is the centre of the Archconfraternity of Perpetual Adoration and work for Tabernacles, founded there in the Church of St. Thomas Aquinas in 1846 and with affiliations in the dioceses of France and Algiers. It was approved by Pius IX in 1856 and made a confraternity in 1858.

However, since 1945 the vocation has greatly diminished and in 1972 the Association was unable to continue the perpetual adoration, renaming itself the Sisters of the Eucharist. As of mid-2007 the foundation was in the final stages of liquidation, there being a mere dozen remaining sisters of an average of around eighty years of age.


The members pledged themselves to spend an hour each month in adoration before the communion host and to pay yearly dues into a fund for the benefit of poor churches. The contributions were used to purchase materials for vestments which are made by women members of the society and given to poor churches, and the restoration of the Catholic Church after the rise of the liberal left-wing in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century and its expansion into the American mainland and Australia are to a great extent attributable to its work.


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Tabernacle Societies". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  • Thys (?), Jean; Les Voies de Dieu, Un Jubilé Eucharistique dans l'Église expiatoire du Três Saint Sacrament de Miracle â Bruxelles 1848-1898; Société de Saint Augustin, Desclée, de Brouwer et Cie, 1898