Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Where the Church is normally organized the recruitment of the secular clergy is provided for by means of ecclesiastical seminaries. The little, or junior, seminaries commence the work, the theological seminaries complete it. Missionary countries are dependent for a supply of clergy on foreign missionary colleges and on apostolic schools. The object of apostolic schools is to cultivate vocations for the foreign missions. Apostolic schools, as distinct from junior ecclesiastical seminaries , owe their origin to Father Alberic de Foresta, S.J. (b. 1818; d. 1876). That zealous priest found in existence many works of zeal for the spread of the Gospel -- "The Apostleship of Prayer", "The Society for the Propagation of the Faith ", "The Holy Childhood" -- but, excellent as these associations are, Father de Foresta felt that they were doomed to be inefficient unless there could be found a supply of apostolic men to preach the Gospel and to administer the sacraments. Taught by experience in the guidance of souls, he felt convinced that many pious youths, prevented by want of means or other circumstances from entering the ranks of the secular clergy, possessed a true vocation to the ecclesiastical state. He felt a desire to cultivate such vocations, and to utilize them for the advantage of the foreign missions. He knew that the Church in her legislation (Council of Trent, Sess. XXIII, cap. xviii, de Ref.) had expressed a wish that the children of the poor should be admitted to the sacred ministry, and should receive a gratuitous and exclusively ecclesiastical education to prepare them for it. He therefore formed the design of opening a school where youths who gave promise of an ecclesiastical vocation, and who were disposed to go and labour on foreign missions, might be properly trained.

With the approval of his superiors, Father de Foresta opened the first apostolic school at Avignon in 1865. The conditions of admission were of two kinds: those which regarded the pupils and those which regarded their parents. As regards the former the conditions were: (a) that the pupil should be at least twelve years of age; (b) possess a sufficient elementary education ; (c) have good health; (d) present a certificate of good conduct and piety from his parish priest ; (e) have a sincere desire to serve God either as a priest in a missionary country, or as a religious in an order devoted to the foreign missions. As regards parents the conditions were: (a) that they should give their consent to their son's entering the school and a written agreement not to oppose his vocation nor require his return home during the school vacations; (b) that they should engage to receive the pupil back if the superiors of the school judged it advisable for him to devote himself to a secular calling. The course of studies in the apostolic school comprised a through training in the Latin and Greek classics, in modern languages, and in mathematics, so as to prepare the pupil to take up philosophy in an ecclesiastical seminary or to enter the novitiate of a religious order. The residence of the scholars was near one of the colleges of the Society of Jesus. The pupils attended classes along with the students of the college, and thus had the advantage of emulation and competition with others while living under ecclesiastical discipline in their own house. For the material support of the school Father Foresta depended partly on the voluntary fees paid by the parents of the pupils, according to their means, and partly, or rather chiefly, on the charitable contributions of the faithful, who had come to understand that it is a greater work of piety to educate a priest than to build a church.

The good work commenced by Alberic de Foresta in 1865 prospered. In 1868 similar apostolic schools were established at Amiens and Turin ; in 1869 one was opened at Poitiers, in 1871 at Turnhout in Belgium and at New Orleans, in 1873 at Bordeaux, in 1874 at Tananarive, in 1877 at Dole and at Monaco, and in 1879 at Boulogne-sur-Mer. Pius IX, in a Brief dated 12 April, 1867, blessed the work of the apostolic schools, and in Briefs dated 30 June, 1870, and 15 May, 1877, repeated his approval and bestowed indulgences on them and on those who promoted them. Anticlerical legislation in France since 1880 has been an obstacle to the work. But like the Apostles, who when persecuted in one city fled to another, the superiors of these schools have not abandoned their pious enterprise. The apostolic school of Avignon has been several times transferred from one place to another, and is now located at Eremo Lanzo, in the neighbourhood of Turin, where it has about 72 pupils. The school at Bordeaux has been transferred to Vitoria in Spain, where it carries on its work with fifty pupils. The Amiens apostolic school has been transferred to Littlehampton, in England, and thence to Thieu, in the Diocese of Tournai, Belgium. The school at Poitiers still exists. In 1881 the number of students in the schools founded by Father de Foresta amounted to between four hundred and five hundred, and they had already given about five hundred missioners to the Church. When the schools of Avignon, Amiens, Turnhout, Poitiers, and Bordeaux had been only about thirty years in existence they had already educated about one thousand missionaries. The Bordeaux school alone has up to 1911 produced two hundred and fifty priests, secular and regular.

Besides the apostolic schools on the Continent, the Jesuit Fathers possess a flourishing apostolic school at Mungret, near Limerick, in Ireland. The Mungret apostolic school owes its origin to the Rev. William Ronan, S.J. In the course of his missionary work throughout Ireland Father Ronan had met many boys who gave signs of an ecclesiastical vocation, but who, from lack of means or other causes, were unable to attain the object of their aspirations. Father Ronan was eventually appointed rector of the Jesuit college at Limerick, and he then conceived the idea of opening an apostolic school in connection with that establishment. On 24 September, 1880, a commencement was made with eight pupils. Two years later the Jesuit Fathers acquired possession of the government agricultural college, built on the site of the famous monastic school of Mungret, which dated from the days of St. Patrick and had been confiscated at the Reformation. There, under the title of Mungret College, the apostolic school was established, and a new department opened for lay students. Father Ronan, its first rector, visited the United States in 1884 and had an opportunity of explaining to several members of the American hierarchy the object of his apostolic school. He obtained permission to appeal to the faithful for means to enlarge the school buildings and to found burses. His appeals met with a liberal response. On his return to Ireland he enlarged the buildings of Mungret College and founded several burses for the education of students. In 1911 the number of apostolic scholars in the college was seventy-three.

The course of studies extends over a period of about seven years, and on leaving the school the scholars are qualified to enter a theological seminary, or the novitiate of a religious order. The scholars attend the classes of the Jesuit college at Mungret. The efficiency of the teaching is attested by the success which the pupils have obtained in the Intermediate examinations, and in those of the (late) Royal University of Ireland. In a list of one hundred and sixty-three former pupils given in the "Mungret Apostolic Record", 1910, there are to be found one M.A., sixty B.A.'s, and nine who in their higher theological studies obtained the degree of Doctor of Theology. In 1910 the number of pupils who left the school to go on to higher ecclesiastical studies was twelve. The average yearly number since 1886 has been eight. The Mungret students are permitted vacations at their homes and are at full liberty to study for the secular mission in a foreign missionary country, or to enter a religious order having charge of foreign missions. The list of past pupils above referred to shows how this liberty is exercised: out of one hundred and sixty three pupils, forty-nine entered the Society of Jesus, seven became Redemptorists, 4 Vincentians, 2 Passionists, 2 Dominicans, 1 a Discalced Carmelite ; all the others, 98 in number, entered the ranks of the secular clergy . The Mungret apostolic scholars are to be found in China, India, the Philippine Islands, Africa, Australia, and America. In the United States a Union of Mungret Apostolic Alumni was formed in 1910. Means for the support of the school are derived partly from payments made by the parents of the pupils, and partly from endowments and subscriptions made by pious benefactors. Benefactors who make a donation of X700 ($3500), a sum sufficient to found a burse in perpetuity, are styled founders. Those who give £180 ($900), a sum sufficient for the support of a student for six years, are called protectors, while those who give £1 ($5) annually are called subscribers. All share in the indulgences granted by the Holy See to those who promote apostolic schools ; and in the weekly Masses and prayers offered for benefactors, as well as in the monthly Mass which all graduates of the school who become priests are pledged to celebrate during life for their benefactors.

The example set by Father de Foresta has found many imitators. Most religious orders and congregations have established apostolic schools for the recruitment of their own ranks or for the foreign missions. Amongst them may be mentioned the Vincentians, the Salesians, the Fathers of the Holy Ghost, the Missionaries of St. Joseph's, Mill Hill, the White Fathers , the African Missionaries of Lyons, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the Missionaries of Mont-St-Michel, the Dominicans, Franciscans, and Redemptorists. The Fathers of the Congregation of the Mission have several flourishing apostolic schools: at Dax in France, with 112 pupils; Wernhoutsburg in Holland, 150; Ingelmunster in Belgium, transferred in 1904 from Loos near Lille with 60 pupils; Vienna, 50 pupils; Perryville, Missouri, 48 pupils; Germantown, Pennsylvania, with 70 pupils. Of these the schools at Dax and at Wernhoutsburg may be taken as types. In 1864 there was founded at the birthplace of St. Vincent de Paul an establishment representing the various charitable works instituted by the saint. Out of that establishment there sprang a technical and a secondary school. Some of the boys manifested a desire to enter the ecclesiastical state , and in 1871 an apostolic school was commenced with nine pupils. In a few years the number increased to 40, and in 1911 it amounted to 112, consisting of boys from various departments of France, together with two Spaniards, nine Portuguese, two Greeks, and two Algerians. The pupils present themselves of their own accord with the consent of their parents. An essential condition of admission is the desire to prepare for the ecclesiastical state. The pupils are free to choose to study for the foreign missions, or to return to their own dioceses. At the close of each year those who give no solid promise of an ecclesiastical vocation are dismissed. In the higher classes only those are retained who manifest a vocation for the Congregation of the Mission. About one in three of the pupils enters the congregation. The others become priests in their native dioceses, or enter religious communities, or return to secular life. The course of studies, comprising the classics, modern languages, and mathematics, is similar to that followed in the Catholic secondary schools of France, and ends with rhetoric, after which the pupils who have remained up to the highest class enter the novitiate of the Congregation of the Mission. The resources of the school are derived to some extent from payments made by the parents of the pupils, but chiefly from allocations granted by the superior general of the Congregation of the Mission. The past pupils of the school are to be found at present in the vicariates entrusted to the Congregation in China, Persia, Abyssinia, and Madagascar. The school at Wernhoutsburg was founded in 1882, and in object and organization resembles that at the Berceau de St-Vincent near Dax. The number of students in 1911 was 150. Besides instruction in the Classics and mathematics there are classes in French, Dutch, German, and English. From twelve to fifteen students annually enter the novitiates of the Congregation. The pension payable by the students is 300 francs (about $60) a year. Those who have no vocation for the Congregation of the Mission, but desire to complete their studies in the school, pay a pension of 500 francs ($100).

The Salesian Fathers, founded by Ven. Giovanni Melchior Bosco, possess several flourishing apostolic schools, such as those at Tournai in Belgium, at Nyon in Switzerland, at Le Catel in Guernsey. The object of the Salesian apostolic schools is to foster the ecclesiastical vocations of boys who on account of poverty are unable to enter the diocesan seminaries. The conditions of admission are good conduct and a desire and aptitude for the priesthood. The course of studies prepares them to enter a diocesan seminary, a foreign missionary college, or a religious order, in the choice of which they are left full liberty. The most important of the Salesian schools is that at 63 Boulevard Leopold, Tournai, Belgium, founded in 1895. The number of pupils in 1911 is 170, of whom 60 entered in 1910. The establishment has received encouragement from the cardinals of Mechlin, Cologne, Ravenna, from the cardinals in France, and from more than fifty archbishops and bishops. The Salesian school in Guernsey has seventy pupils. There is also a preparatory Salesian school at Surrey House, Surrey Lane, Battersea, London.

The Fathers of the Holy Ghost have an apostolic school at Grange-over-Sands in the Diocese of Liverpool and an apostolic college with 60 students at Cornwells, Archdiocese of Philadelphia , United States. The Fathers of St. Joseph's Missionary College, Mill Hill, London, have an apostolic school (St. Peter's) at Freshfield, Liverpool, founded in 1884, where youths between the ages of fifteen and twenty are admitted to study the humanities in preparation for entrance at St. Joseph's College. The present number of students is forty-seven. The chief conditions of admission are, a sound English education, recommendation from a priest, and a small nominal pension. The work of the Mill Hill Missionary Fathers in Uganda, Madras, Punjab, and the Philippine Islands is the fruit of the education begun at the Freshfield school. Other congregations have similar apostolic schools. The Petits Cleres de Saint Joseph have one at Suse in the North of Italy. The number of pupils in 1910 was eighty, and the establishment has already given more than three hundred missionaries, including priests and brothers, to the Church. The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart have established, for the recruitment of their own order, an organization called "La petite oeuvre du Sacre Coeur pour l'encouragement des vocations sacerdotales et apostoliques". The number of pupils in its various establishments, one of which is at Fribourg in Switzerland, is about six hundred. This institute has already produced more than three hundred priests and two bishops. The congregation of the White Fathers (Peres Blancs) have one hundred and sixty students in their various apostolic schools preparing for missionary work in North Africa. The Lyons Society of African Missions have a preparatory school at Cork in Ireland, and in their various schools they have a total of three hundred students. The Company of Mary have an apostolic school at Romsey, Hants, whither it was recently transferred from Belgium, while the Fathers of St-Edme-de-Pontigny have an apostolic school at Hitchin, recently transferred from Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy. The Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Passionists, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and the Redemptorists also have apostolic schools for the recruitment of their own orders.

It has been impossible to obtain complete statistics of all existing apostolic schools. The following figures give the status of the chief apostolic schools in 1911: Jesuit, Eremo di Lanzo (transferred from Avignon ), 72 pupils; Vitoria (transferred from Bordeaux ), 50 pupils; Turnhout, Belgium ; Poitiers ; Thieu, 82 pupils; Mungret, Ireland, 73 pupils; Vincentian, Dax, 112 pupils; Wernhoutsburg, 150 pupils; Ingelmunster, 60 pupils; Vienna, 50 pupils; Perryville, Missouri, 48 pupils; Germantown, Pennsylvania, 70 pupils; Salesian, Tournai, 170 pupils; Guernsey, 70 pupils; St. Joseph's, Mill Hill, St. Peter's, Freshfield, 47 pupils; Petits Clercs de Saint-Joseph, Suse, Italy, 80 pupils; Fathers of the Holy Ghost, Cornwells, Pennsylvania, 60 pupils; Missionaries of the Sacred Heart , in various schools and colleges, 600 pupils; White Fathers, in various schools and colleges, 160 pupils; Society of the Africa Missions, in various schools and colleges, 300 pupils. This account of the apostolic schools shows how the Holy Spirit is at work in the church, calling and preparing vessels of election to preach the name of God to Gentiles. The work of apostolic schools is, according to the words of Pius IX, "salutary and useful" ( salutare et utile ). "It is", wrote Monseigneur de Ségur, "one of the most beautiful flowers which the garden of the Church presents at the present day to the eyes of God and men". The graduates of those schools are apostles, and those who contribute to their education have a share in the work and are partakesrs in the reward of apostles.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 2:12-22
12 do not forget, I say, that you were at that time ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
9 His saving help is near for those who fear him, his ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:35-38
35 'See that you have your belts done up and your ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 21st, 2014 Image

St. Hilarion
October 21: Abbot and disciple of St. Anthony the Great, companion of St. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter