Society of the Helpers of the Holy Souls
The Society of Helpers, formerly known as the Society of the Helpers of the Holy Souls, is a Roman Catholic religious congregation of women founded in Paris, France in 1856, with the objective of assisting the souls in Purgatory through their service to the needy of the world. The Sisters use the postnominal initials of "A.P." (French: Auxiliatrices des âmes du purgatoire) in Europe, or, alternately, "H.H.S" in English-speaking countries.
The Society was founded by Blessed Eugenia Smet, A.P. She was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Lille, distinguishing herself by intellectual acquirements and striking traits of devotion to the souls in Purgatory. She went to Paris on January 19, 1856 (the society dates its foundation from this day); three days later, Smet obtained the permission of the local Archbishop to establish her congregation in Paris. On December 27, 1857, the foundress, with five of her first companions, pronounced her first religious vows. A Jesuit was appointed chaplain, and the Rule of St. Ignatius was adopted.
Choosing never to adopt a traditional religious habit, the Helpers have worked with the poor and the marginal of their societies since their founding. They work in a variety of ministries, based in Ignatian spirituality, with the goal of working for peace and justice in a lifestyle based in contemplation. Today (2015) they number some 500 Sisters worldwide.
The Society in America
In May, 1892, seven “Helpers” sailed to New York City, and were heartily welcomed by the local Archbishop. In 1905, some Sisters went to San Francisco, where they settled in a house there. The leadership team of the U.S. Province is located in Chicago.
- The foundress, Eugénie Smet, was beatified in Rome on May 26, 1957 by Pope Pius XII. Her feast is kept on February 7, which is the anniversary of her death.
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