Redemptorists, Or Congregation Of The Most Holy Redeemer, known also as Liguorians, a society of missionary priests in the Roman Catholic church, founded by St. Alfonso Maria da Liguori. The foundation of the society dates from Nov. 9, 1732, when Alfonso, with twelve priests, two candidates for orders, and a rich gentleman who volunteered to serve them as lay brother, united in community at Scala, in the Neapolitan province of Benevento. After laboring together successfully for some time, Alfonso deliberated with his companions on the choice of a rule of life; but the diversity of opinions among them became irreconcilable, and they dispersed, one priest and the lay brother, Vito Curzio, remaining with Alfonso. As Alfonso continued his labors, new members flocked to him, several houses were established, and the rules drawn up by him for the government of the society were approved in 1749 by Pope Benedict XIV., Alfonso himself being chosen superior general for life.
The rule of the Redemptorists prescribes, besides the three usual monastic vows, a fourth, which obliges the members to accept outside of the order no dignity, office, or benefice, except upon an express order of the pope or the superior general, and not to leave the order unless by special permission of the pope. The principal sphere of action of this order has been the conducting of what is called a "mission," lasting one, two, or more weeks, during which time the missionaries endeavor to prevail upon all the members of a church to devote their time principally to religious exercises and a thorough reformation of their lives. St. Alfonso and his companions followed in this the method of the Jesuit missionaries in Italy. When the Jesuits were suppressed by Clement XIV., Alfonso aimed at replacing them by his order as popular instructors. This circumstance, and Alfonso's known love for the. suppressed order, caused the Redemptorists to be not unfrequently confounded with the Jesuits. The order spread early from Naples into Sicily and the Papal States; but even before the death of the founder all the houses in the kingdom of Naples were excluded from the order, because they had procured a ratification from the government at the expense of important and unauthorized alterations of their rule.
The division lasted till 1790, when a reunion was effected. The first German members established missions in Courland and at Warsaw, but both succumbed to the wars arising out of the French revolution. In Austria they have had since 1808 many influential patrons, and it has ever since remained one of the most important provinces of the order. In France they suffered some losses from the interference of the government in 1830, and again in 1861. They have found an important sphere of action in the United States, whither they first came in 1841, and where they principally labor among the German population. In 1858 a number of American Redemptorists left the order and established with the pope's sanction an independent missionary congregation. (See Paulists.) In 1874 they were called to Canada and placed in charge of St. Patrick's church, Quebec. In 1870 the Redemptorists were involved with the Jesuits in the decree of the Italian parliament suppressing all religious orders in Italy; in 1873 their central residence in Rome was also suppressed.
In the latter year the German parliament decreed their expulsion from Germany, and on May 31, 1875, another decree sequestrated their property and deprived them of all civil rights in Prussia. A similar proscription swept away their houses in Switzerland and banished their members. In France, where they possessed eleven houses in 1869, their numbers have not increased since the war, the French government refusing the Redemptorists exiled from Germany permission to settle there. These have taken refuge principally in the British empire and colonies, and in the United States. In this country they have (1875) houses in Maryland, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Illinois. - A congregation of Redemptorist nuns, which was likewise founded by Liguori in 1732, has never extended itself widely.