Our History

Claude Poullart des Places

Founded in Paris in 1703 the Congregation of the Holy Spirit began life as the Seminary of the Holy Spirit. This seminary was founded by a young and brilliant law student, Claude Poullart des Places, who gave up his career to dedicate his life to the service of the poor and who would die at the age of thirty during an outbreak of pleurisy. Faithful to his wishes, his brothers in community buried him in the paupers’ grave. The purpose of the seminary was to train young men to become priests at the service of the poorer sections of society. Over the years many Spiritans were also sent to work in Africa, the Americas and in Asia. 

Francis Libermann

In 1848 a young missionary congregation dedicated to the Holy Heart of Mary joined with the Spiritans to become the religious missionary congregation that we know today. This group was founded by a convert from Judaism, Francis Libermann, and their first works brought them to work in Africa and with freed slaves.

So from the beginning our religious community has been marked by a strong multi-cultural dimension where mission has been understood, essentially, as leaving one’s home and country to discover the presence of Christ in peoples of other cultures and traditions.

In Asia

Very early in our history, from 1733 to 1780, a few missionaries formed in the Seminary of the Holy Spirit were sent to Asia, including China and Vietnam. One of them, Bishop Pottier, worked as Apostolic Vicar in Sichuan, where he developed the christian community to about 30,000. He trained catechists, and priests. He ordained Augustin Zhao Rong, the most famous Chinese Martyr.

In 1997, the Spiritans came back to South East Asia, where two communities were established in Taiwan and The Philippines. Ten years latter, we opened another community in Vietnam.