Lazarists, a society of regular clerks founded at Paris in 1625, so called from the priory of St. Lazare, near Paris, their first official residence, but whose proper name is " Priests of the Congregation of the Mission." While St. Vincent de Paul resided as tutor and chaplain with the count de Joigny, father of Cardinal de Retz, he effected much good among the count's numerous vassals by religious revivals, called missions in the Roman Catholic church. The countess de Joigny, wishing to have a body of such missionaries, obtained from her brother-in-law, Jean Francois de Gondi, archbishop of Paris, the College des Bons En-fants, and induced Vincent with another priest, Antoine Portail, to take possession of it in 1625, for the purpose of founding a congregation of missionary priests. Their enterprise was officially approved by the archbishop of Paris, April 24,1626; and the missionary society was approved by Urban VIII., Jan. 12, 1632, and Vincent appointed by him its superior. A few days before this last date, Vincent was put in possession of the priory of St. Lazare in the St. Denis suburb, to which a leprosy hospital had been attached in the 12th century, and which had been till then the property of the canons regular of St. Augustine. The new congregation, which only numbered four associates in 1626, had so much increased in 1632 that they were called to labor in almost every diocese of France, and even in foreign countries.
They lived together in great poverty and harmony, without being bound by any religious obligation, till Alexander VII. issued a bull confirming their society, April 18, 1655, and in a brief published in the following September regulated their constitution. This prescribes that no one can be admitted into the congregation till he has passed two years of seclusion in one of their seminaries. At the end of this period the candidate binds himself by the simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and a special vow of ministering to the spiritual needs of the poor. The associates are exempted from the jurisdiction of bishops in the interior of their houses, but dependent on that jurisdiction in diocesan ministrations. Their dress is that of the secular clergy. When the constitutions, with the supplementary rules drawn up by St. Vincent (who had in 1642 been elected by the congregation superior for life), were formally accepted, May 17,1658, they had already formed establishments and founded missions in every Catholic country of Europe. Beginning in Rome in 1640, their successful labors among the poor of the city, the shepherds of the Campagna, and the peasants of the surrounding provinces, caused them to be called successively to Genoa, Turin, Naples, and Tuscany. Their establishments in the former kingdom of Sardinia were suppressed by the French in 1798; they were restored in 1816, but occupied none of their former houses till 1830. The establishments formed by them after that date in Piedmont and the island of Sardinia continued to prosper till 1870. They were equally prosperous in the kingdom of Naples, where they were compelled to form almost a separate organization in 1788; they reunited with the main body in 1827, and shared the fate of the religious orders in the late political changes in the peninsula.
In 1646 eight Lazarists went to Ireland, and labored among the Catholics of Limerick and Tipperary, but were compelled to withdraw after the capitulation of Limerick. Others from 1651 to 1679 ministered to the spiritual wants of their coreligionists in the Hebrides, Orkneys, and the west coast of Scotland. James II. called them to London at his accession, but they fled the kingdom in 1688. In 1795 they had a principal share in organizing the college of Maynooth, and in 1832 they opened a college in Dublin; and other establishments followed in Ireland, England, and Scotland. They were introduced into Poland in 1651 by Maria Louisa, the French queen of John Casimir; and in 1796 the Lazarist province of Poland, counting the houses dependent on it in the neighboring countries, possessed in all 35 establishments. Suppressed at that time, they were allowed to return to Russian Poland in 1816, and had seven houses there at the breaking out of the last insurrection, none of which now remain. Their six principal houses in the Austrian dominions have not been molested.
In 1848 their former residence in Posen was restored to them, and in 1850 they were intrusted with the direction of the theological seminary of Cologne. From these centres they multiplied so rapidly, that they were considered the largest missionary organization in Germany when they were suppressed by the Falk laws in 1872. - Their success in Spain and Portugal and their colonies was chiefly due to the favor of the Portuguese king John V., which enabled them to extend their missionary enterprise throughout the peninsula, as well as to the Azores and to Goa. In Madagascar a Lazarist mission was opened at the French colony of Fort Dauphin, on the E. coast, in 1648. Successive relays of missionaries having succumbed to the climate, excessive hardship, and the treacherous cruelty of the natives, the mission was closed in 1674. In 1783 the Lazarists were substituted for the suppressed Jesuits in the Levantine and Chinese missions. There are now (1874) 16 Lazarist establishments in the Turkish empire, the principal of which are at Constantinople, Alexandria, Smyrna, Damascus, and Bevrout. and two missions at Urumiah and Khosrovah in Persia. To all of these are attached churches, colleges, and schools for both sexes, those for girls being always directed by sisters of charity.
In the Chinese empire one of their first missionaries, Pedrini, obtained high rank at court in 1724 through his proficiency in music and mathematics, and the favor of the emperor, who had been his pupil. The controversy with the Jesuits relating to Chinese religious rites prevented the Lazarists in Europe from sending assistance to Pedrini. Those who first succeeded to the Jesuits gained even a higher position than Pedrini; but in 1820 they were involved in a general religious persecution, several of their priests were put to death, and the remainder expelled. They founded, however, a seminary at Macao for training native missionaries, and by this were enabled to establish similar seminaries in each of the eight provinces which they at present labor to evangelize in China.- In France the Lazarists have enjoyed the double popularity arising from the name of their founder and from their being, like the sisters of charity, a French institution. Before 1789, besides their numerous residences, they directed 49 theological seminaries for the training of the secular clergy. They were suppressed during the revolution, restored by Napoleon in 1804, and a hospital was given them in Paris for the establishment of a central institution and novitiate, together with an annual dotation of 15,000 francs.
In 1809 their opposition to the emperor's plans of a national church caused their suppression. They were recalled by Louis XVIII. in 1810, and have continued to prosper, until in 1874 they count 24 houses in France, and two in Algeria. - In South America they owe their first establishment in 1810 to King John VI. of Portugal. They have colleges and theological seminaries at Caraca and Bahia, with residences at Rio de Janeiro, Congonlias, and Santa Catharina. They accompanied a colony of sisters of charity sent from Spain to Mexico in 1844, opened a seminary in the capital, and almost simultaneously were called to Puebla and Leon. In 1859 a residence was given to them in Monterey, and in 1800 in Guadalajara. They are at present excluded, like all ecclesiastics of foreign birth, from the territory of the republic.-The Lazarists came to the United States in 1817 with Bishop Dubourg of New Orleans, and formed successively residences at Barrens, Perry co., Mo., and St. Louis, and a college at Cape Girardeau. They soon obtained establishments in Louisiana, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, California, and New York. They now (1874) possess 14 establishments in the United States, with colleges in Brooklyn, N. Y., at Suspension Bridge near Niagara, and at Germantown, Pa., which is the central house in this country.- The total number of Lazarists in both hemispheres is at present a little less than 3,000.