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Our congregation begins in 1855 in Santiago de Cuba; in order to understand the spiritual legacy of our founders St. Anthony Mary Claret and Venerable Antonia Paris, let us present them to you.


Called by God

Maria Antonia was born on June 28, 1813, in a small town called Valmoll, near the northeastern Mediterranean coast of Spain. Her mother fled from Tarragona to Valmoll, to escape the French invasion under the direction of Napoleon. Her father was a farmer and died three months before she was born. Her mother sought to provide her two daughters (Teresa and Antonia) a good education in a Christian family setting.

At an early age, she felt drawn to prayer. She was 13 or 14 years old when a Franciscan mission was preached at her parish. It had such an impact on her that she decided to dedicate her life to God.

In generous openness to God's plan for her, Maria Antonia felt that God was calling her to consecrate her whole life to his service. On October 23, 1841, she entered as a Postulant in the Company of Mary, a community dedicated to prayer and education. At this time the Church of Spain was under persecution by the government. In an attempt to diminish the strength of Religious Orders, the government had issued an ordinance prohibiting the admission of Novices. For this reason, she had to remain as a Postulant for nine years. Finally, on April 21st of 1850, she was able to begin her Novitiate. Yet, God seemed to have other plans for her.

Foundress of a New Order

Since 1842, while Antonia was still a Postulant, the Lord began showing her a totally new horizon. She had constantly prayed for the situation of persecution the Church was experiencing in Spain. To her surprise, God led her to understand that the ultimate cause of all these troubles did not lie in the governments, but in the Church's lack of faithfulness to the Gospel. God wanted the Church and religious orders within it to return to the lifestyle of the apostles. Governments opposed the Church because they coveted the power and possessions the Church had accumulated over centuries.

After being confronted with this challenge, filled with the desire to live the Gospel with total faithfulness, she asked God: "how will I do this?" The Lord responded: "A new order I want, not new in its doctrine, but in its practice." Faced with such difficult enterprise, Antonia came to understand that God did not want her to go about it alone. Anthony Mary Claret, a well known missionary priest in northern Spain, was going to be the one to help her.

They met in 1850, and after listening to her, Claret agreed to support her in this project, which he saw as coming from God. He had just recently founded an order of missionary priests: the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, known today as the Claretian Missionary Fathers and Brothers.

Months later, after a painful discernment, she decided to leave the Company of Mary. She was in the midst of great confusion because Claret had been appointed Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba and had left already for the new world. From Cuba, he invited her to start the new order there. On February 22, 1852, she left for Cuba with other young women that decided to join her in the adventure of crossing the Atlantic to begin the new order. Claret's missionary insight, coupled with Maria Antonia's desire for a life of radical faithfulness to the Gospel, converged into a new form of religious life in the Church.

The new Order at the service of renewal

Both founders saw the need for renewal at all levels of the Church, and they began to design a plan of renewal "to help the Church restore its beauty." The new order was to be an essential element in this work of renewal, with its testimony and work of evangelization. Antonia went as far as sending Pope Pius IX a draft of her vision of renewal for the Church, which for her was rooted in a life of simplicity, joyful poverty, community, prayer, and proclamation of the Gospel by all baptized, but especially by those consecrated to the service of God. One hundred years later, the Second Vatican Council has spoken in similar terms about the renewal of the Church.

On August 25, 1855 the new order -Religious of Mary Immaculate Claretian Missionary Sisters- was officially founded in Santiago de Cuba, as the first religious community founded on the island. There was a great need to educate and promote women, so the new community opened schools for girls in Cuba, especially for the socially and economically disadvantaged. Soon new communities sprang up in Spain and other parts of Cuba. The missionary vision of both founders had to adjust to the conditions of the times, where apostolate for women was almost restricted to the field of education. As society and the Church allowed women to practice other forms of evangelization, their dreams for the Congregation have become a reality.

Antonia spent the last years of her life in Spain keeping alive the foundational spirit of poverty and unity in the new order. She died on January 17, 1885. The Church solemnly proclaimed her heroic virtues on December 23, 1993. Her remains rest in the chapel crypt of our house in Reus, Spain, where she died.

The life and message of Maria Antonia Paris continue to be a gift for the Church today. Her insight into the needs of her time and her evangelical and courageous response are sources of inspiration for every one of us, as we continue Christ's work responding to the challenges of our time.



St. Anthony Mary Claret was born in Catalonia, the northeastern corner of Spain, in a town called Sallent on December 23, 1807. He was the fifth son of Juan Claret and Josefa Clará's eleven children. His father owned a small textile factory, but is not rich. Anthony grew up in a Christian environment, and at a very early age had a strong sense of the eternal life that Christ wanted all men and women to enjoy. He wanted to spare sinners eternal unhappiness, and felt moved to work for their salvation. When he was about eleven years old, a bishop visited his school and asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Without hesitation he responded: "A priest."


As soon as Anthony was old enough, he began working as an apprentice weaver. When he turned 17, his father sent him to Barcelona to study the latest techniques in textile manufacturing and to work in the large textile mills. He did so well in the textile design school that he began receiving offers from large textile companies. Even though he had the talent to succeed, he turned down the offer and returned home after experiencing the emptiness of worldly achievements.


The words of the Gospel kept resounding in his heart: "what good is it for man to win the world if he loses his soul?" He began to study Latin to prepare to enter the Seminary. He wanted to be a Carthusian Monk. His father was ready to accept the will of God, but preferred to see him become a diocesan priest. Anthony decided to enter the local diocesan seminary in the city of Vic.

He was 21 years old. After a year of studies, he decided to pursue his monastic vocation and left for a nearby monastery. On the way there, he was caught in a big storm. He realized that his health was not the best, and retracted from his decision to go to the monastery.

He was ordained a priest at 27 years of age and was assigned to his hometown parish. The town soon became too small for his missionary zeal, and the political situation -hostile to the Church- limited his apostolic activity. He decided to go to Rome to offer himself to serve in foreign missions. Things did not work out as expected, and he decided to join the Jesuits to pursue his missionary dream. While in the Jesuit Novitiate, he developed a strange illness, which led his superiors to think that God may have other plans for him. Once again, he had to return home to keep searching for God's will in his life.

Missionary priest in Catalonia and Canary Islands

Back in a parish of Catalonia, Claret begins preaching popular missions all over. He traveled on foot, attracting large crowds with his sermons. Some days he preached up to seven sermons in a day and spent 10 hours listening to confessions. He dedicated to Mary all his apostolic efforts. He felt forged as an apostle and sent to preach by Mary.

The secret of his missionary success was LOVE. In his words: "Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity- the fire of love of God and neighbor- it will work wonders." (Autobiography #438-439).

His popularity spread; people sought him for spiritual and physical healing. By the end of 1842, the Pope gave him the title of "apostolic missionary." Aware of the power of the press, in 1847, he organized with other priests a Religious Press. Claret began writing books and pamphlets, making the message of God accessible to all social groups. The increasing political restlessness in Spain continued to endanger his life and curtail his apostolic activities. So, he accepted an offer to preach in the Canary Islands, where he spent 14 months. In spite of his great success there too, he decided to return to Spain to carry out one of his dreams: the organization of an order of missionaries to share in his work.

Founder and Archbishop of Cuba

On July 16, 1849, he gathered a group of priests who shared his dream. This is the beginning of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, today also known as Claretian Fathers and Brothers. Days later, he received a new assignment: he was named Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba. He was forced to leave the newly founded community to respond to the call of God in the New World.

After two months of travel, he reached the Island of Cuba and began his episcopal ministry by dedicating it to Mary. He visited the church where the image of Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba was venerated. Soon he realized the urgent need for human and Christian formation, specially among the poor. He called Antonia Paris to begin there the religious community they had agreed to found back in Spain. He was concerned for all aspects of human development and applied his great creativity to improve the conditions of the people under his pastoral care. Among his great initiatives were: trade or vocational schools for disadvantaged children and credit unions for the use of the poor.

He wrote books about rural spirituality and agricultural methods, which he himself tested first. He visited jails and hospitals, defended the oppressed and denounced racism. The expected reaction came soon. He began to experience persecution, and finally when preaching in the city of Holguín, a man stabbed him on the cheek in an attempt to kill him. For Claret this was a great cause of joy. He writes in his Autobiography: "I can´t describe the pleasure, delight, and joy I felt in my soul on realizing that I had reached the long desired goal of shedding my blood for the love of Jesus and Mary and of sealing the truths of the gospel with the very blood of my veins." (Aut. # 577). During his 6 years in Cuba he visited the extensive Archdiocese three by town. In the first years, records show, he confirmed 100,000 people and performed 9,000 sacramental marriages.

Confessor to the Queen of Spain

Claret was called back to Spain in 1857 to serve as confessor to the Queen of Spain, Isabella II. He had a natural dislike for aristocratic life. He loved poverty and the simplest lifestyle. He accepted in obedience, but requested to be allowed to continue some missionary work. Whenever he had to travel with the Queen, he used the opportunity to preach in different towns throughout Spain. In a time where the Queens and Kings chose the bishops for vacant dioceses, Claret played an important role in the selection of holy and dedicated bishops for Spain and its colonies. The eleven years he spent as confessor to the Queen of Spain were particularly painful, because the enemies of the Church directed toward him all kinds of slanders and personal ridicule. In 1868 a new revolution dethroned the Queen and sent her with her family into exile. Claret's life was also in danger, so he accompanied her to France. This gave him the opportunity to preach the Gospel in Paris. He stayed with them for a while, then went to Rome where he was received by Pope Pius IX in a private audience.

First Vatican Council

On December 8, 1869, seven hundred bishops from all over the world gathered in Rome for the First Vatican Council. Claret was one of the Council Fathers. His presence became noticeable when the subject of papal infallibility was discussed, which Claret defended vehemently. This teaching became a dogma of faith for all Catholics at this Council. The Italian revolution interrupted the process of the Council, which is never concluded. Claret's health is deteriorated, so he returned to France accompanied by the Superior General of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, his congregation.

Last Days in Exile

In France, Claret joined his missionaries who are also in exile. Soon he found out, that there was a warrant for his arrest. He decided to go into hiding in a Cistercian Monastery in the French southern town of Fontfroide. There he died on October 24, 1870 at the age of 62. As his last request, he dictated to his missionaries the words that are to appear on his tombstone: "I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile."

His remains are venerated in Vic. Claret was beatified in 1934 and in 1950 canonized by Pope Pius XII.