In 1846 within 10 years of the founding of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts, our Founder, St. Gaetano Errico, petitioned the Holy Father to obtain the faculty to institute a “Pious Union of Jesus and Mary.” His aim was to provide a special lay association allowing the faithful to more deeply immerse themselves in the love of the Sacred Hearts and contribute their gifts and service to help the Missionaries in their apostolates. The Pious Union flourished for many years but with the passage of time became just a memory.
Over ten years ago, an Italian Lay Missionary group was formed in Naples. Dedicated to aiding in the mission of the congregation, they became active in a meal program for the needy and speaking with the people of the area, inviting them to attend activities and retreats to renew their faith. They gathered for spiritual enrichment and committed themselves to a deeper prayer life.
In 2011, Fr. Salvatore Izzo, Superior General issued a document to all the Missionary communities encouraging them to establish Lay groups. He quoted from the Vatican document on Consecrated Life in which laity are invited to share in the charism and spirituality of religious congregations. New groups were established in Nigeria and in the United States.
Currently two groups, one associated with the Linwood community and one associated with the Fairfield community have begun meeting. In Linwood, the group meets monthly and has spent it’s first gatherings in the study of the life and charism of St. Gaetano Errico.Each meeting begins with prayer, and a sharing time with members speaking of their spiritual activities, a speaker is often on the program and the conclude with the celebration of Mass.
Lay associations must be founded in a area close to where a Missionary community resides. A Missionary priest is assigned as their Spiritual Director and a Lay Director is appointed as well. Members strive to emulate the values of religious life, charity, sharing, selflessness and witnessing the love of God in their own life situations so as to aid their congregation in their mission of building the family of God.