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The Trinitarians


Part of the uniqueness of St. Ann Parish is the involvement of the Trinitarian community.  The formal name of the religious community is:  Holy Trinity Fathers and Holy Trinity Sisters, and together we form the Trinitarian family along with the laity who participate as Third Order members.  While members of Holy Trinity Fathers have been a part of St. Ann Church since 1916 and members of Holy Trinity Sisters have been part of St. Ann Church/School since 1920, our history as a religious community in the Catholic Church extends beyond the scope of this parish.

It was back in late twelfth century that a professor at the University of Paris named John DeMatha was becoming very concerned about the social upheaval in society.  This was the time of the Crusades, and it was apparent from hearing stories about this war from pilgrims passing through Paris, that many people were suffering spiritual and physical hardships.  Many Christians were sold into slavery by non-Christians when  their land was conquered and, sadly, many non-Christians were also sold into slavery by Christians. John DeMatha knew this terrible physical enslavement because of religion was negating any opportunity that Christians would have to practice their faith.  Soon,  John DeMatha felt called to become a priest, and it was during his first mass on January 28, 1193, that Our Lord appeared to him in a vision with Jesus the Redeemer in the center flanked on either side by a Christian and non-Christian slave.  The image of Jesus was holding staff with a red and blue cross on the top of the staff.

John DeMatha was not sure what this vision meant for him, so he retreated to a quiet setting outside of Paris named Cerfroid, and there he met Felix of Valois, a holy hermit, who helped him discern the call of God in his life.  For the next five years, John DeMatha attracted other men to his idea, and on December 17, 1198, Pope Innocent III decreed that John DeMatha received his permission to establish the Order of the Most Holy Trinity (Trinitarians) for the purpose of redeeming Christian captives and for helping the local Church.   John DeMatha and the Trinitarians would sail to various port cities and redeem the Christian captives, so that they could be returned to their families and the practice of their faith.  The early Trinitarians were so committed to this mission, that many times the Trinitarian friar would exchange places with a Christian slave, so that the slave could be free, and the remaining friar could minister to the other slaves.

The slavery of the twelfth century is different than the slavery of this century, so the original charism of the Order has developed through the years to combat any part of society which threatens our Catholic faith.  One would find the Trinitarian friar engaged in many works of social justice and spiritual ministry, so that everyone could be free to enjoy the gifts of God.  Today, there are Trinitarians found in France, Italy, Spain, Austria, United States, Canada, India, Madagascar, South America and Mexico.  Although the entire congregation remains small in number (about 650 members), there is a spirit about the Order which continues to attract new candidates more than 800 years after the original foundation.

Throughout the United States, Trinitarians are found in various ministries within parishes, schools, prisons and shelters.  Wherever people are unable to live life fully and enjoy the gifts of God, you could find a Trinitarian who wants to assist them in being free to celebrate their faith in God. The Trinitarians believe in the value of common life, and it is rare that a Trinitarian would live alone, so important is the concept of community and common prayer.  During the day, the Trinitarian will gather with his brothers and pray the Liturgy of the Hours and engage in dialogue and fraternal life as an expression of the life of the Trinity.  Truly, the gift of being a Trinitarian consists first in how we live as religious and then how we minister to others.  They are inseparable.

American Trinitarians are found in:  Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, New York, Georgia and California.  Wherever you discover a Trinitarian community, you will find a presence which creates community and invites the people of God to accept their call from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be Godís people and to make a difference in the world. We are a small group of Trinitarians in the United States (around 90 members), but this number helps us maintain a quality common life, as well as a focus on our ministries.

There are two symbols which always point to the presence of the Trinitarian community. The first is the distinctive red and blue cross which the friar wears on his religious habit.  The cross itself is taken from the original vision of St. John DeMatha back in 1193, which provided the inspiration of the foundation of the religious Order.  This red and blue cross will be seen in many of the churches and institutions sponsored by the community.  The second symbol is the initial:  O.SS.T.  This initial after the names of Trinitarians is a Latin abbreviation and stands for:  Ordo Sanctissimae Trinitatis, which is  translated: The Order of the Most Holy Trinity, which is the canonical name for our religious community.  Throughout the world, all Trinitarian members will use this initial as a sign of  the presence of the community.

If this type of religious life as a Trinitarian priest, brother or sister interests you, contact this Web site, and we will forward your inquiry to our American headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland.

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