At the wish of Pope Paul VI, Bishop Paul Maria Hnilica, S.J. († 2006) from Slovakia founded a lay movement named Pro fratribus in 1968, with the purpose of spiritually and materially supporting the persecuted Church in Eastern Europe. People of any age or social status were welcome in this movement. It took on a new dimension as a number of young men and women joined, seeking to live a life consecrated to God and so dedicate themselves more directly to spreading the Gospel. This community received diocesan approval by the Bishop of Rožňava, Slovakia, Eduard Kojnok († 2011), on August 14, 1992, under the new name Pro Deo et fratribus – Family of Mary (PDF-FM) or simply Family of Mary, and on March 25, 1995, the Pontifical Council for the Laity raised the community to an Association of Pontifical Right and definitively approved the statues on March 25, 2004.
For the priests of PDF-FM, the Congregation for the Clergy erected an International Public Clerical Association of Pontifical Right with the faculty to incardinate on May 22, 2008. The name of this association is Work of Jesus the High Priest (Opus J.S.S.). The founder and president is Rev. Gebhard Paul Maria Sigl.
Priests and Brothers
Looking to Jesus the High Priest and following his example, the clerics of the Work of Jesus the High Priest strive to fulfill their duties for the kingdom of God.
The formation of seminarians takes place in Rome, and it consists of two years of pre-seminary followed by philosophical and theological studies at the Pontifical University in Rome.
The missionary brothers, who help the priests in their pastoral work, also receive their formation and training at the house of formation of the Work of Jesus the High Priest.
The essence of the vocation of the Apostolic Sisters in the Family of Mary is to offer their lives to God for the sanctification of priests. They do this especially by striving for a deep life of prayer and by offering up their daily activities and obligations in this intention.
The training and formation period for the Apostolic Sisters in the Motherhouse in Slovakia lasts at least three years; it serves to deepen the spirituality and gives the practical missionary aspect an opportunity to mature. The time of formation concludes with a Solemn Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary before a bishop through which the sisters express their total self-offering as a bride of Christ and oblige themselves to a life of Christian perfection according to the Evangelical Counsels.
Despite the various juridical structures, both communities live the same spirituality so that the Work of Jesus the High Priest and the Family of Mary form a single work.
A common spirituality is shaped by love of Mary, Eucharistic-priestly spirit and fidelity to the Holy Father. It has a missionary orientation and strives for true ecumenism so that Jesus’ promise of one flock under one shepherd (Jn. 10:16) might be realized.
The spirituality draws its strength from prayer and the sacramental life. Therefore, daily Eucharistic Adoration takes place in all of our missions.
The community’s priests hold various offices within the framework of the Universal Church. They dedicate themselves to the pastoral care of parishes and ecclesial institutions entrusted to them. They are assisted by both the brothers – who help in the mission according to the needs and their varying abilities – as well as the Apostolic Sisters and Mission Helpers of the Family of Mary.
Depending on the assignment from the local bishop, the exterior form of the apostolate and missionary work varies greatly. It ranges from parish work; teaching in schools and operating a high school dormitory; taking care of children, teenagers, families and elderly to different charitable efforts, especially in the missionary territories.
The missionary magazine Triumph of the Heart published several times a year in six languages (German, Slovak, English, Italian, Dutch and French) shares the spirituality as well as the missionary work of the association.
The community is currently working worldwide in Italy, Germany and Austria; in Switzerland, France and the Netherlands; in the Slovak and Czech Republics as well as in Uruguay, Kazakhstan and Russia.