Our Founder, Fr. Thomas A. Judge, C.M. was a Vincentian priest whose apostolic zeal led him to organize small groups of lay men and women to love and serve God in the ordinary circumstance of their lives. In 1909, a formal meeting of what was to become the Missionary Cenacle Apostolate took place in Brooklyn, N.Y. in St. John’s Parish.
From this lay organization came two new missionary religious congregations: the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity (priests and Brothers) and the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity (Sisters). The Blessed Trinity Missionary Institute is a vowed laity who have come forth to serve. These four branches are known as the Missionary Cenacle Family.
In 1915, Father Thomas Judge was assigned to the eastern part of Alabama. What he found in the towns were mill workers living in the most deplorable conditions. In the countryside, sharecroppers barely eked out a living on their small plots of land. Father Judge encountered prejudice against Catholics, founded on misconceptions about the Church and fear of the unfamiliar.
With his customary zeal, he went about his missionary work among the people in Alabama, taking every opportunity to preach, both in formal church settings and more informally whenever a situation allowed. He encouraged non-practicing Catholics to return to the sacraments. With those of other faiths, he tried to dispel their myths about Catholicism. He remained within the social and cultural norms of the day but challenged them by directing his efforts to poor white mill workers and black sharecroppers.
The “southern heritage” left us by Fr. Judge is as vital today as it was in his time. The way it is expressed has necessarily changed with the times, but the Southern missions remain a productive field for our special brand of missionary work: preservation of the faith with a special focus on developing a missionary spirit in the laity. Today, our missionaries are serving in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.