Deepening of Roots in Europe and Elsewhere
During the leadership of Fr. Libermann (1842 to 1852), 47 Spiritans were sent to Africa: of these, 20 died, 15 returned to France and 12 continued to work in Africa. These statistics made the Congregation look to its policies of recruitment, formation, and service in a hostile climate.
Fr. Schwindenhammer, the successor of Libermann, slowed down the sending of missionaries to Africa in order to consolidate the Congregation in France and implant it in other parts of Europe. He started social and educational works, orphanages and trade schools. From 1860 onwards, with the Congregation consolidated, strengthened and established in other parts of Europe, the Spiritans started once again to send men to Africa.
Starting in 1851, the Spiritans opened colleges, and charitable works, and took on the responsibility for parishes in Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyana and Reunion.
Libermann was very keen to make a foundation in Ireland, and did receive the first Irish brother in 1849. In 1859, the Spiritans opened a school at Blanchardstown which was transferred to Blackrock the following year. A second school/seminary was started at Rockwell in 1864.
Libermann himself travelled in the Rhineland and recruited seven German aspirants. In 1864, in Marienthal, the Spiritans opened a school/seminary, a novitiate, and schools for young people with learning difficulties. They took over the pastoral care of two sanctuaries and twenty surrounding villages. Unfortunately, after the Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871), Bismark expelled the Spiritans from Germany.
In 1867 a junior seminary was started at Santarem and was subsequently transferred to Gibraltar. The Seminary of the Holy Spirit was founded at Braga.
A group of missionaries of the Holy Heart of Mary went to the southwest of the country in 1845, but withdrew in 1848. Another attempted foundation came with the opening of a school in 1888 at Ballarat, but this again was abandoned three years later.
A college was opened in Trinidad in 1863 beginning a long lasting involvement of Spiritans in education on the islands. In 1865, the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince asked the Spiritans to open the college of Saint Martial in Haiti.
The United States
When the Spiritans were expelled from Germany by Bismark, four of them were sent to work in Ohio in 1875. Eventually, the Spiritans made their way to Pittsburgh, PA which to this day remains their centre in the U.S.A.
At the request of Mgr. de Macédo, the Bishop of Belem, the Congregation took over the running of the seminary of Our Lady at Belem in 1885.
After the French Revolution, the Prefecture Apostolic of Pondichery was confided to the Spiritans in 1828. They opened a school in Pondichery and a technical school in Chandemagor. The Foreign Missions of Paris were given this Prefecture in 1886 and so the Spiritans withdrew two years later.
From the start of their apostolate, both Mgr. Bessieux in Gabon and Mgr. Kobès in Senegal looked for ways of penetrating further into the interior away from the coast.
The Spiritans sent to Senegal and Gabon took particular care with the education of young people and opened training centers for teachers, catechists, farmers, craftsmen and clergy.
The Spiritans first arrived at Bathurst, the capital of the British colony of The Gambia, in 1849.
Fr. Jean Ba Lacombe was the first African to join the Congregation. Born in Bathurst (Banjul) in The Gambia on October 28, 1829, he studied at Saint Louis in Senegal, and entered the Seminary of the Holy Spirit in Paris in October, 1848. His Superior was Fr. Libermann. He was ordained priest at Gorée on November 5, 1852 by Mgr. Kobès and took his vows in the Congregation in December, 1857. Fr. Lacombe worked as a missionary in Senegambia until his death in 1900.
The Congregation opened the mission of Boffa, Guinea, in 1877. They reached Liberia in 1884 but had to withdraw after three years. The first foothold in Nigeria was made in 1885 at Onitsha on the banks of the vast river Niger.
Missionaries arrived in Angola in March 1866 and founded the mission of Landana. They set up a garden and plantations, a school and boarding school. From Angola, they penetrated into the Congo.
On the East African coast in 1862, two stations were opened “to help the setting up of other missionary stations” – the island of Zanzibar, famous for its slave market, and Bagamoyo on the mainland. The first mission started in the interior was at Mhonda in 1877.