The Servite Order was born in 1233 in Florence, Italy, when seven merchants responded to the inspiration of Mary to dedicate themselves to serving her and God's people. Abondoning their business world, they retired to Monte Senario for a life of prayer and penance. For a while they cared for the sick in a hospital, and gradually were sought out for counseling and for their example of humility and peace. Eventually all but one were ordained priests. They adopted the rule of St. Augustine, and, strengthened by their dedication to Mary as their protector, they soon admitted many men to their group. It took several decades for final acceptance by the Church, but definitive approval of the Order came in 1304. Servites gradually extended their presence through Italy, and soon throughout Europe, and are now present in all the inhabited continents of the world. Our Seven Founders are specially noted for their unity as brothers, despite the fact that they came from different political factions in a place torn by civil strife. Their oneness was emphatically expressed by their canonization to sainthood as a group in 1888 - the only time a group other than martyrs was so graced by the Church. Servites have been in the U.S. since 1853, when Fr. Antoninus Grundner arrived from Austria to work in the diocese of Philadelphia. A few other Servites followed in the next few years, but no Servite community was established until Fr. Augustine Morini came to Wisconsin with several companions from Italy. They soon settled in Chicago, where students became more numerous, and the Order flourished.
As early as 1910 Servites came to Missouri. Fr. Vincent Tesselaar established a parish in Wilhelmina then, and the Order has served several missions in the Southeast part of the state, including Malden and Ironton. In 1927 Fr. Boniface Efferen was commissioned to found a parish in Affton, and Fr. Vincent Tesselaar was named first pastor when the first church , dedicated to our Seven Founders, was completed in 1928. Dozens of Servite priests and brothers have served in the parish over the last 70 years. Our parish is a very active one with 2600 families, a grade school with over 500 students, a vibrant parish council, BVM Sodality, Knights of Columbus, Home-School Association, Athletic Association, and several other active organizations.
A rebellious and violent young man, Peregrine 1 was once a member a street gang in his hometown of Forli, Italy. When a Servite priest (the future St. Philip Benizi) came to Forli preaching peace and reconciliation, Peregrine heckled Philip and then physically attacked him. Philip instead of striking back, forgave his attacker. Peregrine was so deeply moved by this act of forgiveness, that he eventually entered the Servite order himself. Peregrine spent the next fifty years ministering to the poor, the sick, and the homeless of Forli. He also imposed a special penance on himself- to stand whenever it was not necessary to sit. This caused open sores to develop on one leg. The sores became cancerous and a local surgeon said that the leg would have to be amputated. The night before the operation, Peregrine prayed before an image of the crucified Christ. His prayer led him into a deep trance-like sleep. He envisioned Christ reaching down from the cross and touching his cancerous leg. When Peregrine awoke the next morning, he found that his leg had been healed the cancer was gone! Peregrine lived twenty more years. He died on May 1, 1345 at the age of eighty. He was canonized in 1725.