Spiritan History

1703 – 1792: Foundation of the Congregation and the early developments up to the French Revolution


On May 27th, the Feast of Pentecost, in the church of Saint-Etiènne-des-Grès in Paris, Claude Poullart des Places and his 12 companions consecrated themselves to the Holy Spirit, under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for their service to the poor. 


On December 17th, Claude Poullart des Places was ordained priest, aged 28.


Claude Poullart des Places died on October 2nd aged 30. The following day, he was buried in a common grave for poor clerics at Saint-Etienne-du-Mont. By that time, there were 72 students in the Seminary of the Holy Spirit. They were the first “Spiritans” in the wide sense to emerge from the Seminary of the Holy Spirit. 


Spiritans started work in other continents: Fr. François Frison de la Mothe was sent to Quebec in Canada; others went to North America to the Amerindians and the Acadians, while some went to the Far East to work under the auspices of the Foreign Missions of Paris: China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Siam (Thailand) and India. Those remaining in France served in various dioceses or alongside the de Montfort missionaries, a result of the close friendship between Claude Poullart and St. Grignion de Montfort.


The Archbishop of Paris, Mgr. de Vintmille, approved the Rules and Constitutions of the Seminary of the Community of the Holy Spirit and the Immaculate Conception (1726) and of the Immaculate Virgin (1734).


In 1765, Rome confided to the Congregation of the Holy Spirit the Apostolic Prefectures of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon (1765), Guyane (1765) and Saint-Louis of Sénégal (1778). From 1766, the Community of the Holy Spirit used the title of “The Congregation of the Holy Spirit”.


Up until this year, 22 Spiritans had worked in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon and in Acadia (Canada) as missionaries to the Indians and professors in the seminary of Quebec. But now the English colonisers were growing in strength and the Spiritans, being all from France, were expelled from Canada. But they continued their apostolate in the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.


At the time of the French Revolution, all religious orders and congregations were suppressed. Some Spiritans sought refuge in England, Switzerland, and Italy while others worked for various dioceses in France until, thanks to the faith and courage of Fr. Jacques Bertout (1753-1832) who initially laboured as a priest in northern England, the work of the Spiritans was taken up once again.