Our History

A Society of Apostolic Life, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood (C.PP.S.) were founded by St. Gaspar del Bufalo in 1815 in the Papal States. The purpose of the institute was the renewal of the clergy and laity through the preaching of popular missions and retreats. Del Bufalo had been inspired to a devotion to the Precious Blood by Francesco Albertini, who had established an Archconfraternity of the Precious Blood in the church of St. Nicola in Carcere in Rome in 1808.

St. Felix Abbey, GianoEuropean origins. After the Napoleonic seizure of the Papal States, Albertini and del Bufalo were sent into exile, where the first thought of establishing a society to perpetuate devotion to the Precious Blood originated. Del Bufalo found his society of missionary priests at Giano in Umbria on August 15, 1815. According to his conception, the society was to include priests and brothers, and was to be dedicated to the task of giving parish missions and to fostering devotion to the Precious Blood. The members were not obligated by religious vows but by a bond of charity. They were to adhere to a common life and to be an example to the diocesan clergy. Their garb was the ordinary Roman cassock and cincture, with the distinguishing feature of a large crucifix and gold chain.

Pius VII had encouraged the establishment of the institute, and assigned the missionaries the task of converting the brigands in the southern parts of the Papal States. In this work the missionaries were quite successful. Despite various objections to the institute, del Bufalo was able to establish it by the time of his death in 1837, when it numbered around 200 members. The rule for the missionaries was approved in 1841.

The turmoil involved in the unification of Italy hampered development of the institute in the 1860's and 1870's. That members were found to the institute only by the bond of charity made it also unstable, as members could enter and leave as they wished. The limited nature of its work-missions, novenas, and retreats-also tended to restrict its usefulness to the larger Church. It often lacked the leadership needed for the times. Nevertheless, several of its members were selected as bishops of Italian dioceses, and notable among the moderators general were Biagio Valentini (1837-1847), Ven. Giovanni Merlini (1847-1873), and Enrico Rizzoli (1873-1890). Several communities of nuns were founded, and subsequently spread throughout Europe and America

Fr. Francis BrunnerDevelopment in North America. The acceptance of a Swiss priest, Francis Brunner, into the institute marked the beginning of a new era. As the first non-Italian member, he was sent to establish a foundation in Switzerland at Castle Loewenberg in Canton Graubünden. The turmoil in Central Europe at the time prevented establishing permanent foundations until one was begun at Trois Epis in Alsace. In 1843, Brunner set out with a small group of priests and seminarians for the diocese of Cincinnati, which at that time encompassed the entire state of Ohio, to answer an appeal of Bp. John Purcell for help in ministering to German immigrants. Brunner established himself in northern Ohio at Peru, near Norwalk. From there, some ten houses were established, principally in Seneca, Putnam, and Mercer Counties. Ties were relinquished with German-speaking Europe, except for a house in Schellenberg, Liechtenstein, which served as a place of entry for candidates for the American missions.

In the last four decades of the nineteenth century, the missionaries spread beyond the confines of Ohio, moving as far west as Missouri. An ill-fated plan to open a vicariate in northern California failed in the 1870's. In the 1880's a mission school for Native Americans was taken over from the diocese of Fort Wayne in Indiana; St. Joseph's College was founded there in Rensselaer, Indiana, in 1889.

The twentieth century saw the missionaries expanding as far west as California, and into Florida and Texas in the south. In 1946 a revised rule was approved by the Congregation for Religious for the entire institute. The burgeoning numbers in the American Province led to the division of the U.S. into three provinces in 1965. Meantime, the Italian Province had sent priests to minister among Italian immigrants in the U.S. and Canada. This foundation became the Atlantic Province in 1987, with headquarters in Canada.

Among the notable members of the CPPS in America have been Bp. Joseph Dwenger, one of the major architects of the Catholic parochial school system, and pioneering biblical exegete Edward *Siegman. The CPPS in North America in 2000 numbered 314 members.

Worldwide developments. Other foundations grew out of the institute in Italy as well. A foundation in Cáceres in Spain in 1898 led to the formation of the Iberian Province, embracing Spain and Portugal, in 1987. A province embracing the German-speaking countries began in 1922. Work in Latin America began in Brazil in 1929, followed by Chile in 1947, Peru in 1962, and Guatemala in 1982. A foundation began in Poland in 1982. Work in Africa began in Tanzania in 1966, and in Asia in India in 1988. In 2000, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood numbered about 530 members, serving in eighteen countries around the world.

Charism, Mission, and Spirituality. St. Gaspar founded a missionary society dedicated to the renewal of the Church through preaching and retreats. This defined the work in Italy, and has always been part of the work in other parts of the institute. The revised 1969 Constitution defined the work of the institute as renewal of the Church through the ministry of the Word. As the CPPS has spread through the world, it has seen its work of renewal as meeting the needs of local churches in their moment of need: be that ministry to immigrant groups, setting up schools, building up the diocesan church where structures were not yet in place, to meeting the needs of special groups. Helping the Church in need, especially through the ministry of the Word, has become its hallmark. Devotion to the *Precious Blood, a lively part of Catholic spirituality in the nineteenth century, provided its spiritual focus up to the time of Vatican II. Since that time, there has been a biblical renewal of that spirituality, focusing around biblical images and themes such as covenant, cross, chalice, and most recently, reconciliation.

Themes of building up community, working with the suffering, the centrality of the Eucharist, and the ministry of personal and social reconciliation are central to how the Missionaries of the Precious Blood are living out this spirituality in the twenty-first century.

Bibliography: A.J. POLLACK, Historical Sketches of the C.PP.S. (Carthagena, OH 1984); R.J. SCHREITER, In Water and in Blood (New York 1988); V. SARDI, Herald of the Precious Blood: Gaspar del Bufalo, adapt. E.G. KAISER (Carthagena, OH 1954). [R.J. SCHREITER]