The Company of Mary
The Missionaries of the Company of Mary is a missionary religious congregation within the Catholic Church. The community was founded by Saint Louis de Montfort in 1705 with the recruitment of his first missionary disciple, Mathurin Rangeard.The congregation is made up of priests and brothers who serve both in the native lands and in other countries. The Montfortian Family comprises three groups: the Company of Mary, the Daughters of Wisdom and the Brothers of Saint Gabriel.
As early as 1700 Montfort had conceived the idea of founding a society of missionaries. Five months after his ordination, in November 1700, he wrote:
"I am continually asking in my prayers for a poor and small company of good priests to preach missions and retreats under the standard and protection of the Blessed Virgin".
In 1713 he went to Paris with a view to recruit members for his community. The director of the seminary Du St-Esprit promised to send him such young priests as would feel called to do missionary work. During the intervals between his missions Montfort wrote the Rule of the Company of Mary (1713) though no official membership would develop before his death. After de Montfort died in 1716, two young priests and occasional collaborators, Father Adrien Vatel and Father Rene Mulot continued his mission. From 1718-1781 the "Mulotins", although few in number, gave over 430 missions throughout western France, most of which lasted a month.
After the French Revolution Montfort's community was reorganised by Father Gabriel Deshayes, elected superior general in 1821. He received from Pope Leo XII a brief of praise for the Company of Mary and for the Daughters of Wisdom, which had also been formed by de Montfort with the help of Blessed Marie Louise Trichet. Father Dalin who was superior general from 1837-1855, obtained canonical approbation of both congregations. Hitherto the missionaries had but one residence, the mother-house at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre (where de Montfort and Trichet are buried) in the Pays de la Loire region. During Dalin's administration as general, several establishments were made in France. Under his successor, Father Denis (1855-1877) the community accepted the direction of a seminary at Pontchâteau in the Diocese of Nantes, from where priests were sent to Haiti, the Company's first attempt at foreign missions.
The anti-clerical sentiment which arose in the French government in the late 19th century, resulted in the enacting of the Jules Ferry laws which led to many religious congregations which operated schools to leave France. The Montfortian novices took refuge in the Netherlands, where a novitiate and a scholasticate were established. In 1883, a school was also begun at Schimmert. That same year saw the establishment of the first house in Canada. The beatification of de Montfort, in 1888, gave a new stimulus to the company's expansion. A novitiate and a scholasticate were founded near Ottawa (1890); a mission school at Papineauville, Quebec (1900) and missions in Denmark. In 1901 the Company took charge of what was then theApostolic vicariate of Nyassa Land (Malawi) where the congregation ministers to this day. The 20th century witnessed the expansion of the Company throughout the world, and its members now serve on every continent.