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.
Articles are also available on the Internet from an earlier edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia
The Spiritans by Msgr. Paul E. Campbell
Koren, Henry J. The Spiritans: A History of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University, 1958. (eBook. Click title to read)
Call number for print book: BX3680 .H6 K6
Van Kaam, Adrian L. A Light to the Gentiles: the Life Story of the Venerable Francis Libermann. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1959. (eBook. Click title to borrow from Internet Archive.)
Call number for print book: BX 4705 .L62 V3 1959A
Spiritan Rule of Life (2013) - from the website of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, Rome