The Priestly Society of St. Pius X was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre on November 1, 1970 in the Diocese of Fribourg, Switzerland. Archbishop Lefebvre established this new priestly society for the purpose of preserving the Catholic priesthood and the Mass of All Time. According to the Statutes that he promulgated, the members of the Society of St. Pius X are to live life in common so that they may support and encourage one another in the difficult toils of the apostolate. The Society is structured much like a religious order, with the notable difference that the vows of Religion are not taken by her priests. Nevertheless, it was the Archbishop’s ardent desire that this society possess a religious spirit and foster in all of its houses a religious atmosphere. Moreover, from the very beginning, entrance into this Society was never restricted to clerical aspirants alone. The Statues of the Society explicitly state that entrance is possible to all souls desiring and willing to assist in this profound undertaking, whether through a priestly ministry or by the profession of religious vows.
The professed religious members are in no way supernumerary in the Society. Through the labor of these consecrated souls, invaluable support is given to their fellow priestly members and to the apostolate. It is by their dedication to the spiritual life and the care of souls that the priestly members are given new vigor and zeal, and the religious atmosphere of the community, which is so vital for fidelity to one’s apostolate and the spiritual life, is preserved. The Archbishop desired from the very start that this fragile new priestly community be accompanied by religious brothers who would follow the same Rule, live the same community life, and strive for the achievement of the same sacred task.
However, this desire was not realized until 1972 when the Society of St. Pius X received her first religious brother, Brother François, who entered the brotherhood at St. Pius X Seminary in Econe, Switzerland. He was soon joined by another aspirant, Br. Gabriel, in 1972. Both of these two brothers came to the Society from novitiates of different religious orders, so they entered the Society as novices instead of as postulants. In 1973, Br. Gabriel made his first profession with the first religious vows ever taken by a SSPX member. In 1974, the first five postulants began their postulancy at St. Pius X Seminary in Econe. It is the common practice of the Society to form and train her novices and postulants in her seminaries as well as in separate independent houses, called Novitiates, whose sole purpose is this sacred task.
On December 25, 1976, a new edition of the Statutes of the Society of St. Pius X was promulgated by Archbishop Lefebvre. It is at this time that the Archbishop made an addendum to the original Rule, a new section which laid out special rules for the Brothers of the Society which are in addition to the general rule.
The growth of the brotherhood over the years has been constant, but slow in comparison to that of the Society’s priesthood, perhaps because the brothers are not as well-known or understood by the general populace. For in a time in which the supernatural is so disregarded and devalued, it is not too surprising that few see the profound beauty, efficacy, and excellence of a religious vocation. Nevertheless, since their establishment in 1972, the brotherhood of the Society has grown from two brother novices in a quasi-novitiate to 128 souls strong, laboring in the apostolate all over the globe, with over five houses of formation. Some of these formative houses continue to be attached to one of the Society’s seminaries, while others have been established as independent houses, such as Holy Angels Novitiate in Winona, Minnesota.
In 1981 the first American brother donned the religious habit, thereby beginning his novitiate at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Ridgefield, CT. In 1988, the novitiate accompanied the seminary in moving to Winona, MN. However, in 1990 the novitiate was separated from the seminary and established as a separate house in El Paso, TX as the Novitiate of Jesus and Mary. This separation was not destined to be permanent. In 2005, the novitiate returned to Winona and was once again attached to the American seminary; but as the old saying goes, nothing lasts forever. In 2016, while the seminary was in the process of moving to her newly built home in Dillwyn, Virginia, it was decided that the novitiate would be separated and established again as an independent house. Thus, when the seminary departed Winona in October of 2016,
Holy Angels Novitiate came into existence. Providence never leads one to folly. The zealous efforts of the few priests and brothers who remained were fueled and strengthened by God’s grace, and Our Lord blessed their labor with a fruitful harvest. At present, there are now six priests, a deacon, and seven professed brothers working to form new religious souls for the SSPX. In the three years since its founding, Holy Angels Novitiate has seen the first profession of seven new Society brothers. With the continued grace and guidance of Our Lord with the protection of Our Lady and St. Michael, may the religious brothers of the Society of St. Pius X continue to grow throughout the world, and especially here in the United States, by many more generous souls giving up all to answer the call of their Divine Master!