Brief History of the Servants of Mary

Before the Servites ever existed as an official religious Order, seven prosperous men came together in the city of Florence, Italy. As a reflection of the penitential spirit of the times, it had been the custom of these men to meet regularly as members of a religious society established in honor of Mary, the Mother of God. Eventually, the seven left their comfortable homes, put aside their finery and went to live together in a ramshackle building outside the city walls. The holiness and penitential lifestyle of the seven quickly attracted attention and people seeking prayers and spiritual direction became frequent visitors. To avoid these distractions that they considered a hindrance to the contemplative life they sought, the entire group moved to more peaceful surroundings, and established a hermitage on the summit of a nearby mountain, Monte Senario, sometimes known as the "sounding mountain." Coming to be known as the "Friar Servants of Mary," others joined the first seven on Monte Senario, and as the group continued to grow, the seeds of the new religious Order took root. The Friar Servants of Mary were approved as a religious Order by the bishop of Florence sometime between the years 1240 and 1247. In the year 1304, the Order of Friar Servants of Mary received definitive approval as a religious Order in the Church by the Holy See. Servite presence in the United States dates from 1852 when Fr. Antoninus Grundner of the Tyrolese Province began working among the German speaking Catholics first in New York City, then in eastern Pennsylvania, and finally as pastor of St. Alphonsus Church in Philadelphia. Fr. Grundner died in 1876 without having made a permanent foundation, though some Austrian Servites continued to work with Italian Servites in the Midwest. While attending the First Vatican Council in 1870, Joseph Melcher, first bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin, invited Servites to work in his diocese. That same year four Servites, under the guidance of Fr. Austin M. Morini, took charge of St. Charles Church in Menasha, Wisconsin. In 1874, Bishop Foley invited the Order to Chicago, and eventually, Chicago became the center of Servite activity in the United States. The  American Province was established in 1909. Today, we serve in nearly all countries of North and South America. In addition, we are found in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. From a humble beginning we have been blessed with a long and rich history. We still, like our Seven Founders, go where the needs of God's people demand that we go. And we still seek the perfection of the Gospel way of life under the protection of Mary, the Mother and Servant of the Lord.  A more detailed history can be found at the International Servants of Mary website at: http://www.servite.org/History/History-Origins.aspx by clicking on the menu item “history.”

Brief History of the Secular Order of the Servants of Mary

Right from the origins of the Order of the Servants of Mary (1233), there were people and married couples who desired to share the spirituality of the order. Some laymen were accepted in the priories as "oblates", according to the Benedictine habit to accept some laymen in their monasteries. The majority of those people, who shared the Spirit of the Servants of Mary, remained in their own environment, carrying out their own work, family duties and fulfilling social obligations of their time. In the year1424, the Pope Martin V with the Bull “Sedis apostolicae providentia”  officially recognized the Secular Order of the Servants of Mary. Following the principles established by the Pope, all the men and women who were living the spirituality of the mendicant orders (Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Carmelites and Servites) became "Third Order", each receiving a specific rule of life. Since then, up to a few years ago, the name "Third Order" was most commonly used to designate the groups of people who were tied up to the order of the Servants of Mary and the other mendicant orders, even though some of these groups were called "Consortia". From the end of the sixteenth century, the third Order of the Servants of Mary was supported and vigorously animated by the Prior General of the Order. Since then the Prior General played an important role for canonical approval, animation of the secular fraternities that came up in our parishes and in diocesan environments in which the figure of Mary and the mystery of her Sorrows are contemplated by the group of these people. The present Rule of Life of the Secular Order of the Servants of Mary, prepared according to the directives of the second Vatican council and the principles of the new Constitutions of the Order of the Servants of Mary was approved by the Apostolic See in 1987. And after a series of revisions of the text, it was approved by the Holy See on the 29th of April 1995.