Living Hope Newsletter – December 2011
CMF Mother House, San Antonio.
In the early 1900s, the first Claretians came to the United States from Spain through Mexico. They started out in San Antonio, Texas, at the invitation of the bishop. The diocese needed the Claretians to take charge of the Cathedral and to hopefully energize the spirit of the faithful in the city. The expected commitment: 1 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 the communities.
They were met with support that grew throughout the diocese, but it was clear there was more work to be done than could possibly be accomplished in just a year! And so they continued. Within two years the Claretians built and took charge of their own Mother House for the United States. By 1912, they had also built their own parish, the now historic Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.
During these years, the Claretians at Immaculate Heart of Mary oversaw numerous other parishes in the area. Beyond that, 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.
The initial band of three Claretians set the foundation for the official U.S. Province of the Claretian Missionaries. Their numbers grew as they swiftly made their way across the country to serve and to deepen the role of the Catholic Church in the United States.
The Claretians’ initial 1-year commitment became a vital period of growth and building of the Church and her people in that area for 75 years. As the diocese states, the Claretians “shaped the Church’s mission through wars, the Great Depression, times of prosperity, and prepared the way for the 21st century.”
"Very early on, the Claretians set out from the San Antonio Mother House to California, Arkansas, Arizona, Oklahoma, throughout Texas—and then all the way up to Chicago—to preach and establish the congregation,” says Fr. Rosendo Urrabazo, the Provincial Superior of the U.S.A. “The Claretians have made enormous historical contributions to the growth of the Catholic Church in these regions,” he says. The Claretians arrived in Chicago, Illinois, in 1925 and built the National Shrine of St. Jude. By 1929 they established the St. Jude League.
The coming New Year marks the 100-year anniversary celebration of the completion of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. In honor of the milestone, the Claretians are undertaking the renovation and preservation of the Mother House to ensure the structure will remain strong and maintain a central part of the Claretians’ ministries in the U.S. well into the next century.
The are grateful to be restoring the original Mother House of our congregation in the United States,” says Fr. Urrabazo. “And the timing is perfect given the anniversary year ahead, with a completion goal set for the end of 2012.”
The restoration project will take place in two phases: first, to restore the exterior of the Mother House building—including repairing the masonry, windows, roof, courtyard, and porches. Phase two will restore the interior of the building, geared toward living quarters where Claretian priests, seminarians, and visiting missionaries will reside.
Te new Mother House will incorporate into its design the spiritual spaces that are integral to the Claretian way of life. The house will contain a library and a chapel, giving all residents and visitors places to read, pray, meditate, and gather for daily Eucharist. Outside, the courtyard will include a contemplative area in the simple garden. These spaces bring together the spiritual aspects of the daily lives of Claretians, which in turn energize all that the Claretians do in active ministry.
"In celebration of this unique Claretian restoration project, there will be a plaque in the courtyard honoring our special contributors,” says Fr. Urrabazo. “We are especially joyful to share and celebrate our history with devotees of St. Jude, with whom we have prayed since our earliest years in the United States, spreading the hope of this special apostle.”