The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Latin: Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris; CSsR), commonly known as the Redemptorists, is a religious congregation of the Catholic Church, dedicated to missionary work and founded by Alphonsus Liguori at Scala, near Amalfi, Italy, for the purpose of labouring among the neglected country people around Naples. Members of the congregation are Catholic priests and consecrated religious brothers and minister in more than 100 countries.
The Redemptorists are especially dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and were appointed by Pope Pius IX in 1865 as both custodians and missionaries of the icon of that title, which is enshrined at the Redemptorist Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori in Rome. Many Redemptorist churches are dedicated to her under that title.
Alphonsus Liguori was deeply moved by the plight of the poor living in Naples and the surrounding area and established his community with the aim of providing spiritual nourishment. Amongst his companions was Gerard Majella. In 1748 Alphonsus petitioned Pope Benedict XIV, to allow him to establish a congregation to minister to the poor in the area around Naples. Benedict agreed and the congregation was formed in 1749.
Within ten years of the foundation, communities had been established at Nocera, Ciorani, Iliceto, and Caposele. Due to political complications, there was an initial difficulty with the houses in the Papal States being separated from those in the Kingdom of Naples, but this was overcome in 1793 and the congregation soon opened houses in Sicily and other parts of southern Italy.
The congregation was soon to move beyond the borders of present-day Italy. In 1785 two Austrians, Clemens Maria Hofbauer and Thaddeus Hübl joined the Redemptorists. In 1786 Hofbauer and Hübl went to Warsaw in Poland where the papal nuncio gave them responsibility for the parish of Saint Benno; their mission thrived until the community was expelled in 1808. In 1793, Hofbauer turned his sights on establishing communities in Germanic lands. Soon houses were opened in the south at Jestetten, Triberg im Schwarzwald, and Babenhausen. In 1818, a house was established in Switzerland at the abandoned Carthusianmonastery in La Valsainte.
In 1826, at the request of the government of Austria, the Redemptorists established a community in Lisbon, Portugal, with the purpose of ministering to German speaking Catholics. Other houses quickly followed in German-speaking areas: Mautern an der Donau (1827), Innsbruck (1828), Marburg (1833), Eggenburg (1833) and Leoben (1834).
The congregation also rapidly expanded into Belgium with communities at Tournai (1831), Sint-Truiden (1833), Liège (1833) and Brussels (1849). A community was even established in the, at the time somewhat anti-Catholic, Netherlands when a house was opened in Wittem in 1836. The revolutions of 1848 which swept over Europe caused much upheaval, and the Redemptorists were expelled from Switzerland and Austria and were at risk elsewhere.
The congregation thrived throughout the remainder of the 19th century; in 1852 there were four provinces and by 1890 this had increased to twelve with communities having been established in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, England, Scotland, Spain and Suriname. The 20th century saw the continuation of expansion to where the congregation created new provinces, vice provinces and missions in every decade and established a network of lay associates and volunteers who work with the Redemptorists to bring the Gospel to the poor.