Sulpicians

Formally the Society of Priests of Saint Sulpice. Founded at Paris, France in 1642 by Jean Jacques Olier, for the purpose of providing directors for the seminaries established by him. Alexander Le Ragois de Bretonvilliers, the successor of Olier (1657 to 1676), drew up the constitution of the society and secured its approval. The object of the society was to labour, in direct dependence on the bishops, for the education and perfection of ecclesiastics. During the 18th century the society carried on its work amid the difficulties aroused by Jansenism and philosophism. In the 19th century it continued its work of clerical training while sharing all the vicissitudes of the Church in France. Attacked during the persecutions brought about by the separation of Church and State, the society lost the old seminary of Paris, yet it was not dissolved and continues to subsist.

Olier, in union with several pious persons, among them Jerome Le Royer de la Dauversiere, founded the Society of Notre-Dame de Montreal. The object of this undertaking was to found a city in honour of the Blessed Virgin, as headquarters for the Indian missions and as a stronghold against the Iroquois. In 1657 four of Olier’s disciples went to the mission of Villemarie and in 1663 the associates of Notre Dame ceded their rights and duties to the Society of Saint-Sulpice, which was thenceforth owner of the Island of Montreal. At the end of the 17th century, the Sulpicians had organized in the vicinity of Montreal six parishes which they administered and supplied with churches, presbyteries, and schools. In 1684 three Sulpicians attempted to found a mission in Texas, but they failed, and one of their number, Father Chefdeville, was martyred by the Indians. During the 18th century the number of priests increased and new foundations were made throughout Canada.

The Sulpicians came to the United States upon the institution of the American hierarchy. In 1791 four Sulpicians arrived in Baltimore, purchased a house on the edge of the city and began Saint Mary’s Seminary. The following year their number was augmented, but it was still too early for a seminary and the priests ministered in the churches of Baltimore and the missions of the country. Under Father Tessier (1810 to 1829), the seminary became solidly established and in 1822 it was endowed by Pope Pius VII with all the privileges of a Catholic university. Six seminaries in all, Baltimore, Bardstown, Brighton, Emmitsburg, Dunwoodie, and Menlo Park were founded or directed by Sulpicians. They now have Saint Mary, Baltimore, Saint Charles College, Catonsville, Maryland, the Sulpician Seminary at the Catholic University, and Menlo Park, California. The establishment and development of the Propagation of the Faith in this country were largely due to their efforts. The Sisters of Charity at Emmitsburg were established by their direction and cooperation. Father Joubert founded the the Oblates at Baltimore, and Father David the Sisters of Nazareth, in Kentucky. They maintain a web site at www.sulpicians.org. Sulpicians profiled on this site include