The Congregation of Jesus and Mary was instituted at Caen, in Normandy, France, on 25 March 1643 by Saint Jean Eudes, exemplar of the French school of spirituality. The principal works of the Congregation are the education of priests in seminaries and the giving of missions.
To develop the spirit of Jesus Christ in the members of the Congregation, Father Eudes caused to be celebrated every year in his seminaries the feast of the Holy Priesthood of Jesus Christ and of all Holy Priests and Levites. After the feast of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary it is the primary feast of the community. The solemnity begins on 13 November, and thus serves as a preparation for the renewal of the clerical promises on 21 November, the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin. As early as 1649 Father Eudes had prepared an Office proper to the feast. Some years later the feast and office were adopted by the Sulpician Fathers.
During the lifetime of Father Eudes, the congregation founded seminaries in France at Caen (1643), Coutances (1650), Lisieux (1653), Rouen (1658), Evreux (1667), and Rennes (1670). These were all "grand" or "major"seminaries; Father Eudes never thought of founding any other. He admitted, however, besides clerical students, priests with newly granted benefices who came for further study, those who wished to make retreats, and even lay students who followed the courses of the Faculty of Theology.
After his death, directors were appointed for the seminaries of Valognes, Avranches, Dol, Senlis, Blois, Domfront, and Séez. At Rennes, Rouen, and some other cities seminaries were conducted for students of a poorer class who were called to exercise the ministry in country places. These were sometimes called "little" seminaries. The postulants were admitted early and made both secular and ecclesiastical studies.
During the French Revolution, three Eudists, Fathers Hébert, Potier, and Lefranc, were martyred at Paris in the massacres of September 1792. The cause of their beatification with that of some other victims of September has been introduced in Rome. Father Hébert was the confessor of King Louis XVI, and shortly before his death he made the king promise to consecrate his kingdom to the Sacred Heart if he escaped from his enemies.
After the Revolution, the Congregation had great difficulty in establishing itself again, and it was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that it began to prosper. Too late to take over again the direction of seminaries formerly theirs, the Eudists entered upon missionary work and secondary education in colleges. The "Law of Associations" (1906) brought about the ruin of the establishments which they had in France.
The Congregation as of 1913
Besides the scholasticates which they have opened in Belgium and in Spain, the Eudists directed in the early 20th century seminaries at Cartagena, at Antioquia, at Pamplona, at Panama (South America), and at San Domingo, West Indies. In Canada they had the Vicariate Apostolic of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a seminary at Halifax, Nova Scotia, a college at Church Point, N.S., and at Caraquet, New Brunswick, and a number of other less important establishments. They numbered about fifteen establishments and about one hundred and twenty priests in Canada in 1913. In France, where the majority still remains, the Eudists continue to preach missions and to take part in various other works. In 1947, the order acquired the Langley Park mansion in Langley Park, Maryland, and operated a seminary there until 1963. In more recent times, the Congregation was active for a while in San Diego where they had various pastoral assignments since the late 70's (Marian High School, SDSU Catholic Newman Center, Blessed Sacrament Parish, St James Parish, St Patrick Parish), in Los Angeles with the pastoral care of Saint John Eudes Catholic parish, and in Phoenix, Arizona, at St Jerome (one Associate). And in 2005 the Congregation opened its first community in Asia in Tagaytay, Philippines. From there they moved to Quezon City (by Ateneo de Manila University) where they have their house of formation Saint John Eudes. They also have a retreat house in Taytay, Rizal, from which Eudists help with ministry and retreats in numerous parishes.