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Eudists, or Society of Jesus and Mary, an ecclesiastical society instituted at Caen, France, March 25, 1643, by the Venerable Jean Eudes. The principal works of the society are the education of priests in seminaries and the giving of missions. The end which Father Eudes assigned to his society made him decide not to introduce religious vows. He was persuaded that, better than religious, priests, finding in the very dignity with which they were invested the reason and means of rising to eminent perfection, were in a position to inspire young clerics with a high idea of the priesthood and of the sanctity which it required. He also felt that bishops would not so willingly give their seminaries over to priests who were not entirely subject to them. Father Eudes shared the opinions of Cardinal de Berulle and Father Olier, who did not think it proper to admit religious vows in the orders which they founded. Even St. Vincent de Paul did so only after great hesitation and on the condition, ratified by the sovereign pontiff, that the Priests of the Mission should not form a religious order, properly so called, but an ecclesiastical society.
The Society of Jesus and Mary is not, therefore, a religious order, but an ecclesiastical body under the immediate jurisdiction of the bishops, to aid in the formation of the clergy. It is composed of priests, and of postulants who are admitted after a probation of three years and three months. There are also lay brothers employed in temporal affairs, but who do not wear the ecclesiastical habit. To develop the spirit of Jesus Christ in the members of the society, Father Eudes caused to be celebrated every year in his seminaries the feast of the Holy Priesthood of Jesus Christ and of all Holy Priests and Levites. After the feast of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary it is one of the principal in the community. The solemnity begins on November 13 and is celebrated with an octave. It thus serves as a preparation for the renewal of the clerical promises on November 21, the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin. As early as 1649 Father Eudes had prepared an Office proper to the feast. Some years later the feast and office were adopted by the Sulpician Fathers. Although not a religious order, the Society of Jesus and Mary is subject to discipline which does not differ from that of orders with simple vows. The administration is modeled on that of the Oratory to which Father Eudes had belonged for twenty years. The supreme authority resides in a general assembly which names the superior general and which is called, at intervals, to control his administration. It alone can make permanent laws. In the intervals between the general assemblies, the superior general, named for life, exercises full authority in matters spiritual and temporal. He has the right to name and depose local superiors, to fix the personnel of each house, to make the annual visit, to admit, and, in case of necessity, to dismiss, subjects, to accept or to give up foundations, and, in general, to perform, or at least to authorize, all important acts. He is aided by assistants, named by the general assembly, who have a deciding vote in temporal affairs, and a consulting vote only in other questions.
During the lifetime of Father Eudes, the society founded seminaries at Caen (1643), Coutances (1650), Lisieux (1653), Rouen (1658), Evreux (1667), and Rennes (1670). These were all "grand" seminaries; Father Eudes never thought of founding any other, He admitted, however, besides clerical students, priests with newly granted benefices who came for further study, those who wished to make retreats, and even lay students who followed the courses of the Faculty of Theology. After his death directors were appointed for the Seminaries of Valognes, Avranches, Doi, Senlis, Blois, Domfront, and Séez. At Rennes, Rouen, and some other cities seminaries were conducted for students of a poorer class who were called to exercise the ministry in country places. These were sometimes called "little" seminaries. The postulants were admitted early and made both their profane and ecclesiastical studies. During the French Revolution, three Eudists, Fathers Hébert, Potier, and Lefranc, perished at Paris in the massacres of September, 1792. The cause of their beatification with that of some other victims of September has been introduced in Rome. Father Hebert was the confessor of King Louis XVI, and shortly before his death he made the king promise to consecrate his kingdom to the Sacred Heart if he escaped from his enemies. After the Revolution the society had great difficulty in establishing itself again, and it was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that it began to prosper. Too late to take over again the direction of seminaries formerly theirs, the Eudists entered upon missionary work and secondary education in colleges. The "Law of Associations" (1906) brought about the ruin of the establishments which they had in France. Besides the scholasticates which they have opened in Belgium and in Spain, they direct seminaries at Carthagena, at Antioquia, at Pamplona, at Panama (South America), and at San Domingo, West Indies. In Canada they have the Vicariate Apostolic of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a seminary at Halifax, N. S., a college at Church Point, N. S., and at Caraquet, N. B., and a number of other establishments less important. They number about fifteen establishments and about one hundred and twenty priests in Canada. In France, where the majority still remains, the Eudists continue to preach missions and to take part in various other works.