The worldwide missionary order the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) was established in 1732 at Naples by St. Alphonsus Liguori. Their work is to spread the love of Jesus Christ as our redeeming, loving Lord.
Disgusted by the corruption he found in the courts, St Alphonsus abandoned a brilliant legal career to embrace the priesthood in Naples. His compassionate nature drew him to devote himself especially to those who were untouched by ordinary pastoral care. His experience with them led him to found the Redemptorists.
Redemptorists first came to the southern hemisphere in 1882, establishing themselves on the east coast of Australia. Within twelve months they began to make annual visits to New Zealand. The parish missions they gave throughout the country were a new phenomenon in the New Zealand church, a religious experience and an uplift that was deeply appreciated.
After twenty years their numbers had increased and there were Redemptorists available to settle permanently in New Zealand. They secured a property in Wellington on Mount Victoria, facing across to the heart of the city. On the site was erected St. Gerard’s monastery, one of the most prominent Catholic structures in the country. For over eighty years it was the Redemptorists’ base, from which they ranged from Kaitaia to The Bluff, bringing to Catholics the support and encouragment provided by parish missions. Though the Redemptorists have left St. Gerard’s, it has passed into the hands of the International Catholic Programme for Evangelisation which uses it for the same purpose for which it was erected, the spreading of the Word of God.
Redemptorists say of themselves that they “follow the example of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, by preaching the Word of God to the poor”. That is how they put it at the beginning of the Constitutions by which they live. That sums up the life and ministry of St. Alphonsus, and it is the way he described his foundation.
Like their founder the Redemptorists see themselves as sharing in the redeeming mission of God’s Son. They see themselves as first and foremost preachers of God’s word. St. Alphonsus was an accomplished preacher and he has left to his followers a rich tradition of preaching included in the vast library of pastoral writing that has won for him the title of Doctor of the Church.