The Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle, known as the Paulist Fathers, is the first community of Catholic priests founded in the United States.
The community was founded on July 7, 1858, when four former Redemptorist priests formed a new society of apostolic life around the vision of Fr. Isaac Thomas Hecker. The four Redemptorists (Fr. Hecker, Fr. Augustine Hewit, Fr. George Deshon and Fr. Francis Baker) were converts to Catholicism who strongly believed that Protestant America, if approached in the right manner, would be enriched by the Catholic faith.
The first Paulist Fathers had years of experience preaching parish missions, a form of Catholic revival preaching that reconciled lapsed Catholics and encouraged practicing Catholics to deepen their faith. Protestants often attended these events as the spouses or friends of Catholics — or just out of curiosity.
In 1858, Fr. Hecker wrote to a friend:
“We have the encouragement of a number of bishops, and also, we trust, the prayers, sympathy, and assistance of the faithful. We shall have obstacles to face, opposition from friends and foes; but if we are the right kind of men and have the virtues which such a position as our demands, our trials will only strengthen us and make us better Christians.”
Father Hecker sought to evangelize using the popular means of his day- preaching, public lectures and the printing press.
We honor the these men who helped strengthen universal church in America and pave the way for the future of the society itself.
A tribute to those who have served in the highest leadership positions among the Paulist Fathers.
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