What is a Redemptorist?
The Redemptorists are a religious order of men founded in 1732 by Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Their special mission is to spread the Gospel to the poor and most abandoned. They began this work by going among the poor and forgotten shepherds living in the hill country surrounding Naples in southern Italy.
At first, there was just a handful of men working with Alphonsus Liguori. In the Congregation's centennial year of 1832, six Redemptorists (three priests and three Brothers) journeyed to America. Presently there are approximately 7,000 Redemptorists working for souls in most parts of the world. More than 1,000 Redemptorists work in the United States alone.
Those four letters, "C.Ss.R.," behind the name of a Redemptorist stand for Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris. The official Latin title given to this religious order can be translated into English as "Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer." Members of the Congregation are more commonly called "Redemptorists." It is a fitting name since they continue the work of Christ's Redemption in a very special way. Their task is similar to that of the first apostles -- to bring the message of salvation to all people.
The motto of the Redemptorists also reflects their mission and charism. Translated from the Latin, it is "With Him is plentiful redemption."
The Work of Redemptorists
The first task of every Redemptorist is to work for his own heavenly reward. His second task is to bring other people to this same salvation and eternal happiness. The Redemptorists work toward this goal either as priests or Brothers.
The major types of work done by the American Redemptorists can be summarized thematically to give some idea of the diversity and scope of their apostolic endeavors.
At the request of many U.S. bishops, the Redemptorists have assumed the care of parishes. American Redemptorist parishes can be found in big cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. You will also see Redemptorist parishes in small towns. Poor and abandoned souls are present everywhere--in the noise and clamor of a big city as well as in the quiet countryside. As parish priests, Redemptorists maintain the missionary zeal for souls taught to them by their saintly founder, Alphonsus Liguori.
St. Alphonsus wanted his men to be preachers. They were to travel from town to town and parish to parish bringing the Word of God to the people. In modern times this often means a parish mission or renewal. A Redemptorist priest will go to a parish and each day, for a week or more, preach a special sermon calling the faithful to a fuller practice of the Christian life and a deeper love for God. There will be special devotions, visits to the sick, and also a time for the sacrament of reconciliation.
Redemptorist special preachers also conduct triduums and novenas (three- and nine-day periods of prayer). Their dedication to service makes them frequently called upon to preach retreats to laypeople, priests, Sisters, and Brothers.
The Redemptorists have traveled great distances to preach God's word during the past two centuries. In the United States, they have found that by establishing retreat houses near populated areas they can also preach to the people who come to them.
A retreat may be priests, Sisters, or Brothers spending a week in a special union with the Father. Or it may be a weekend that laypeople will use to put their lives in order and give God a chance to work in them.
Some Redemptorists have been given a special talent to be used among his people. Others see a special need in the Church and do their best to fill it. Some American Redemptoristists do special work for the American bishops. Others serve as hospital or military chaplains. Still others feel called to work primarily with deaf Catholics, with the young, the old, minority groups, or migrant farm workers. These people are certainly among the most abandoned. The Redemptorists have been called to serve them in a special way.
At the request of the Holy Father, the Redemptorists have undertaken work in various countries as missionaries. American Redemptorists labor in Brazil, Thailand, and Nigeria.
By this missionary work they have fulfilled a dream of their founder, Saint Alphonsus, that his Redemptorists might spread the Gospel to the whole world.
Apostolate of the Pen
Following in the footsteps of Saint Alphonsus, who wrote more than 100 books in his own lifetime, American Redemptorists work to spread God's message through Liguori Publications.
If you are interested in more information on Redemptorist vocations, please read An Invitation to Share the Journey.