A brief history of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer

On 18 June, 2008, the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (Transalpine Redemptorists) were received back into full communion with the See of Peter. The Transalpine Redemptorists are now completely united with the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.


Archbishop LefebvreArchbishop Lefebvre.

In March 1987 a young Redemptorist priest, seeking to make sense of the turmoil in the Church and finding, as by accident, that the crisis in the Church came from and was caused by a crisis in the Liturgy; and finding himself both convinced of his need to celebrate the seemingly forbidden ‘old Mass’ and to be out on a limb because of it; turned to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre for advice and assistance.

As the months passed in the quiet of the seminary of Ecône, Switzerland, it was suggested that he ask the Archbishop about the wisdom of founding a religious community where the old Mass and the old Redemptorist Rules could be lived for the English speaking world. On 3 December 1987 the Archbishop gave his blessing and encouragement to the project, although at that stage there were no others involved. A few days later, 8 December, the idea was also presented to Cardinal Gagnon who was making an official Visit to the seminary. His Eminence likewise encouraged the project warning only that vocations for such a life may be difficult to find.

Prudence dictated that there was need of at least another member before the idea could be taken seriously notwithstanding the blessings of an Archbishop and Cardinal. A seminarian who knew of the proposed foundation showed some interest in it for himself and the two agreed to make a pilgrimage to Fatima over the forthcoming Christmas vacation. During the nine successive days of the pilgrimage the Holy Mass and prayers were offered to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for light and direction. On the last day of the novena the seminarian agreed to join the foundation if he received the permission of his Spiritual Director and the Rector of the Seminary. Permissions were given for him to join the foundation. Then, along with two others, on 2 August 1988 at Warden Manor on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, England, the foundation began. The Archbishop blessed the title for the monastery: The Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.

SheppyMonastery of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, Sheppy. Notice the garden-shed cells.
Quite soon on in their history the members of the community took religious names. The priest became Fr. Michael Mary, the seminarian became Brother Anthony Mary; they became known as the Transalpine Redemptorists, a name that has remained with the community ever since.

The Isle of Sheppey was home to the Transalpine Redemptorists for the next 10 years or so. As aspirants arrived, there was need for accommodation and it was found that garden sheds were suitable and could be heated with portable gas burners although there was no running water. Still conditions were cramped and it was clear that something would soon have to happen. After several years they were offered a house in France; and then another house - an ex-convent in fact - by the SSPX district superior for France.
JoinvilleThe monastery at Joinville.

The Monastery was moved to the property in Joinville, France. However it was soon apparent that there was going to be a problem, which was destined to drive the Transalpine Redemptorists from France — Visas. Visas were not granted to the members for more than 6 months at a time, at which point, each one had to leave France and re-apply for his Visa. Fr. Michael Mary and Fr. Anthony Mary were eventually able to get Visas for up to one year at a time, but it was clear that this could not work. It meant constant trips back-and-forth across the English Channel to Sheppey which was now 300 miles away. In fact, the Monastery of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart on Sheppey never really closed; there were some members of the community there at least every month. So the Transalpine Redemptorists were now on the lookout for another place to call their home.


In January 1999, Fr. Michael Mary, Fr. Anthony Mary and Brother Nicodemus Mary had gone to a quiet place in Scotland in order for the Fathers to prepare sermons for the Missions they were to preach the following month in America. Having finished early, they took a brief detour to Orkney, where many of Fr. Michael's relatives were from and are buried. Stopping at an estate agent and asking for a list of available property, they were given a wad of paper. On the bottom of the pile was a piece advertising the sale of a small island - Papa Stronsay. Papa means "Priest” in Old Norse, so this Island was "Priests' island of Stronsay", Stronsay being the larger island next to it. It seemed too good to be true and so they went to see it. It was perfect, but way over the small budget range that they could afford. So they returned from Scotland and began a novena (prayers on 9 consecutive days) to St. Joseph who, amongst other things, is the patron saint of house hunters! By the end of the 9th day of the novena, just over the exact amount needed had been donated. It is a Redemptorist custom to pray during night prayers, three Gloria Patris in Honour of St Joseph and St Cajetan for the benefits of providence; here was experienced one of those great benefits! So the island of Papa Stronsay was purchased by the Transalpine Redemptorists on the feast of the Queenship of Mary, 31st May 1999, and has been their home and mother house ever since.

In 2007, a new foundation was made in Christchurch, New Zealand.