We Are Missionaries
We, the Missionaries of the Holy Family, are a religious community. We consecrate ourselves to God through the public vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. We believe that God has chosen us to follow Jesus Christ, and we want to participate in his mandate for the salvation of the world. Guided by the Holy Spirit we strive to fulfil our charisma of mission, of pastoral of vocations, and of pastoral for families. The incarnation of the Word of God and the hidden life of the Holy Family in Nazareth are an inexhaustible font for our spirituality.
The religious community of the Missionaries of the Holy Family was founded by the French priest John Berthier. He felt urged, to give new missionaries to the Church. The word of the Bible: „The crop is heavy, but labourers scarce you must therefore beg the owner to send labourers to harvest the crop “ (Mt 9,38), moved Fr. P. Berthier deeply. At his time many people had not yet heard of Jesus Christ. He wanted to present many missionaries to the Church. For this reason he founded our Congregation in 1895.
The Constitutions of the Missionaries of the Holy Family oblige all members on a threefold charisma. All members are missionaries and have to turn „to all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God may call“(Acts 2,39). Missionaries for people that are far away have a vast missionary field. According to the faith people far away can be those who live in other continents as well as those that live nearby but distant from God. Every individual province in the Congregation has to decide on a concrete missionary task for the members.
The second charisma of the Congregation is the pastoral of vocation for the Church. This is an urgent task as there is a lack of spiritual vocations almost everywhere. In some parts of the world the lack of vocations is becoming dramatic. However, the Missionaries of the Holy Family are not only looking for new candidates for the service in the Church. The Constitutions say to the members that they have to pay special human and pastoral attention to those already working in the Church.
Another charisma of the Congregation is the work in the pastoral of families. With this task the Missionaries of the Holy Family follow not only the Constitutions but also the urgent appeal by Pope John Paul II to our community in a letter of 1995.
In the mission of our time, in the pastoral of vocations, and in the pastoral of families we find orientation with the holy persons of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This leads us to the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus. The Father sent his Son into the world to bring all people of good will into the one great family of the heavenly Father. The meditation on the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the long hidden life of him in Nazareth are a source of strength for us, the Missionaries of the Holy Family.
When Father Jean Berthier died in 1908, thirteen years after he had opened the first apostolic school for belated vocations in Grave (Holland), the MSF-Congregation counted 25 fathers, 54 seminarians, 13 novices and 70 students. They lived in the mother house and in a second house in Grave. From the very beginning the first government of the congregation, established while the Founder was still alive, looked for possibilities to open new apostolic schools, especially in countries where many belated vocations could be expected.
The political situation and the anticlerical laws in France and Germany made it very difficult to open religious institutions in these countries. For this reason the first apostolic schools outside Grave were opened in Switzerland, Belgium and Holland. Gradually the experience and the self-confidence of the superiors at Grave grew, so that in 1910 they accepted the official request of the Holy Father to start a mission overseas. At the end of that year the first seven missionaries left for the Amazon region in Northern Brazil. In the following years new missionaries were regularly sent to this region, which was notorious for very bad health conditions.
The First World War (1914-1918) had painful consequences for the young MSF-Congregation. Almost all students, brothers and fathers of French and German origin were mobilized. A considerable number of them died. The Congregation also suffered much material damage. Shortly after the end of the war, in 1919, a very energetic German father, Anton Trampe, was chosen Superior General and he led the congregation up to 1947.
In the period between the two world wars the congregation grew strongly in number, particularly in Germany, Holland and Poland. Many apostolic schools were opened, especially in Germany, where, after the anticlerical period, Catholics obtained greater liberty. At the same time the congregation did not only grow in Europe. The mission in Northern Brazil was expanded to other regions of the country, especially to the South, where almost all inhabitants were descendants of German, Italian or Polish immigrants. The first fathers had come to Brazil to help dioceses which were short of priests. Their activities remained limited to pastoral work in parishes. But by and by about 30 houses of formation were opened, which, above all in Southern Brazil, were successful. Some other countries in Latin America, Argentina and Chile, received MSF-missionaries , too, to alleviate the shortage of priests. In addition the General Government of the Congregation sent a number of fathers to the United States to help in dioceses with big groups of German immigrants. Shortly before the mobilization of soldiers for World War II the General Government decided to send about seventy German seminarians to Latin America to study philosophy and theology there. This big group of seminarians, who were ordained during the Second World War, increased the number of MSF-missionaries in South America significantly.
A Prayer for Families
Holy Family of Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Community of love, we recommend our families to you.
Open their hearts for the faith, for the word of God and for the testimony of their Christian life, that the way may be paved for spiritual vocations.
Strengthen the parents to show to their children the way of lasting values through love, prudence and prayer.
Give them a clear understanding and a strong will, to grow in “wisdom and grace” and to follow the divine call.
Holy Family of Nazareth, help us to foster continual prayer according to your example and lo search for the will of the heavenly Father in all happenings and to plan our lives in worthy simplicity and with a pure heart.
Assist us to accompany with respect and sensibility those among us that are called to follow our Lord Jesus Christ intimately, who loved us and who sacrificed himself for us.
John Paul II
The Missionaries of the Holy Family (MSF) is a worldwide Roman Catholic men’s Congregation of over 900 priests and brothers with a special focus on supporting men discern their call to the priesthood or the brotherhood. Once a vocation as a new priest or brother is realized, there is a focus on caring for the needs of the Christian Family.
The worldwide leadership for the Missionaries of the Holy is the Generalate and it is located in Rome. There are 15 Provinces and numerous missions. The Missionaries of the Holy Family serve in 22 countries.
1. North America
3. Brazil, North
4. Brazil, South
5. Brazil, East 6. Chili
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