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The Spiritans: Home

Learn about the missionary congregation that founded Duquesne University


Introducing the Spiritans

The Congregation of the Holy Spirit, also known as the "Spiritans," was founded on Pentecost in 1703 by Claude Poullart des Places. Poullart des Places was a wealthy seminarian who, on seeing the poverty of many of his fellow seminarians, was called by God to use his fortune to help these men. From his generosity, the Congregation of the Holy Spirit was born. From the very beginning the Congregation saw it as their duty to take the Gospel to places where others would not go. One of those regions was Africa.

The Congregation was almost stamped out during the French Revolution, with only one member surviving. However, in 1848, the Society of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which had been founded by Francis Mary-Paul Libermann, merged with the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, giving the Congregation new life. The Society of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was also a missionary congregation, with the special burden of bringing the love of Christ to the African continent. Since the charisms of the two congregations were similar, the merger was favored by the Church. Fr. Libermann became the 11th Superior General of the Congregation and, because of his dynamic leadership, has been called the "Second Founder of the Spiritans."

Of course, one of the ministries of the Spiritans was the founding of the Pittsburgh Catholic College in 1878, in order to educate poor immigrant youth in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Catholic College has grown into what is now known as Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit, which continues under the sponsorship of the Spiritans.

Today there are over 3,000 professsed and lay Spiritans in almost 60 countries, with a large number of the younger confreres coming from Africa.

This guide is designed to help researchers, especially undergraduates, discover the rich history and many contributions of the Spiritans.

Learn the Basics

From the New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition (available from the Gale Virtual Reference Library)

"Holy Ghost Fathers"

"Claude Francois Poullart des Places"

"Francois Marie-Paul Libermann, Ven."

From the Catholic Encyclopedia (through the New Advent website)

Articles are also available on the Internet from an earlier edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia

"Congregation of the Holy Ghost and the Immaculate Heart of Mary"

"Ven. Francis Mary-Paul Libermann"

Internet Article from CatholicCulture.org

The Spiritans by Msgr. Paul E. Campbell

Biography and History (EBooks)

Koren, Henry J. The Spiritans: A History of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University, 1958.
    Call number for print book: BX3680 .H6 K6, 3rd Floor, GumbergLibrary

Van Kaam, Adrian L. A Light to the Gentiles: the Life Story of the Venerable Francis Libermann. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1959.
    Call number for print book: BX 4705 .L62 V3 1959A, 3rd Floor, Gumberg Library.

Rule of Life

Spiritan Rule of Life (2013) - from the website of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, Rome

Handbook for the Spiritan Rule of Life (1987)