With these words “Today, a great work is beginning”, pronounced by St Anthony Mary Claret in the presence of 5 young priests in a small room in the Seminary of Vic, on the 16th Day of July 1849, the life and apostolate of the Congregation began. Claret recognises that the idea of the foundation of the Congregation was not his per se, but rather the product of a divine inspiration that made him begin what could be considered a risky and fragile endeavour. Were it not to be for divine intervention, the circumstances in which the Congregation was born could have spelt doom for it because within twenty days of its foundation, Claret was appointed the Archbishop of Cuba which he had to accept with a great deal of reluctance. The Congregation however survived through the intervention of God and the direction of one of the Co-founders Esteban Sala who died in 1858.
Jose Xifre took over in 1858 and had what could be considered one of the longest tenures in the function of the Father General since his tenure ended in 1899. However the Congregation under him experienced an unprecedented progress and expansion. When he took over, the Congregation had just a house and 10 missionaries, on his death in 1899, the Congregation had 61 houses and 1,300 missionaries. It was under him that the Congregation came to Africa and the first mission was in Equatorial Guinea.
In the first half of the 20th Century the growth of the Congregation was steady, the Congregation continued to develop the ministry of preaching the Gospel both in its traditional forms and in new ways that included teaching and school Apostolate. Magazines and Jornals were also introduced according to the inspiration of our founder for the spread of the Gospel.
The Canonization of our Founder St Anthony Mary Claret on the 7th of May 1950 was a historical landmark for the Congregation and the catalyst needed for a sustained apostolic zeal in the Congregation. It represented an ecclesiastical support and appraisal of not Just our Founder but also the Congregation and all it stands for.
In the Year 1973 through the instrumentality of Fr Christian Ihedoro, the Congregation came to Nigeria. It was by some stroke of providence that his travel documents back to Equatorial Guinea where he was serving, was not available. He decided to stay back in the country and recruit Missionaries there. The success of that singular decision was unprecedented since it took only 34 years for another Major Organism to be created from the Province that crystallized from his effort. The West-Delegation of Nigeria was inaugurated on the feast of our Father Founder, 24th of October 2007 and in its three years of existence, it counts a total of 54 missionaries including Novices.
By 2006 the Congregation worldwide has a total of 19 Bishops, 2,080 priests, 3 permanent deacons, 202 brothers, 679 professed students and 145 Novices scattered over sixty countries and in about 448 Communities.