The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, popularly known as the Redemptorists, was founded by Alphonsus Maria de Liguori on 9th November 1732 to follow the example of Jesus Christ announcing the Good News to the poor.
Born in 1696 near Naples, St. Alphonsus received an exceptional education in philosophy, literature and the arts and was awarded doctorates of civil and canon law at the age of 16. Following the wishes of his father he became a lawyer and before he was 20 he was regarded as one of the most gifted lawyers in the Kingdom of Naples. However, despite his success St. Alphonsus was not truly satisfied and after losing an important case he abandoned his legal career to enter the priesthood. He was ordained in 1726.
Caring for the poor was the hallmark of Alphonsus’s ministry and as a young priest he worked himself to the point of exhaustion. In 1730 he was ordered to take some rest and with some companions he went to Scala on the Amalfi coast south of Naples. In Scala Alphonsus encountered groups of shepherds who sought out the missionaries, asking them for the gospel. These shepherds and the country peasants were at this time the most down-trodden group in society and at Scala the poor were totally abandoned with no one to help them. It was for this reason that Alphonsus, after much prayer and discernment chose to share his life with them and to bring to them, in abundance, the word of God. His life became one of mission and service to the most abandoned. The Congregation was approved by Pope Benedict XIV on 25th February 1749.
At first, only a handful of men followed the inspiration of Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Yet within the lifetime of its founder the Congregation expanded beyond the Kingdom of Naples, first in central Italy and then in Poland. During the first decades of the nineteenth century Redemptorist communities were established in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany, Belgium and Holland. In 1832, the centennial year of the foundation of the Congregation, six Redemptorist missionaries (three priests and three brothers) traveled to the United States of America and began the first missionary work outside of Europe. Foundations followed in Latin America, Australia, and eventually Africa and Asia.
The first African community was established by the Belgian Redemptorists in the Congo state, then a Belgian colony, in 1899. Foundations followed throughout Africa and the Redemptorists are now present in 12 African countries where they continue to bring the Good News to the abandoned poor.