St. Clement Hofbauer, C.Ss.R.
Clement Hofbauer was born in Moravia (the present Czech Republic) on December 26, 1751. In baptism he was given the name John. He later changed his name to Clement. The death of his father in 1757 reduced the family to such poverty that Clement had little time for schooling. He became a servant in a monastery and learned the trade of baker. He used much of his free time for study with a view to becoming a priest.
In 1784, he made a journey to Rome, Italy accompanied by a fellow student, Thaddeus Hübl. The two pilgrims were attracted to the Redemptorists, a newly established religious community. After a shortened novitiate, they were professed in March 1785 and 10 days later they were ordained priests.
With Father Hübl, Clement returned to Austria, hoping to establish the Redemptorist Congregation in Vienna. When that proved impossible under Josephist laws, he went to Warsaw, where in 1787 he was given charge of the German church of St. Benno’s. There he inaugurated a vigorous pastoral activity and drew a rapid increase of candidates to join himself and Father Hübl.
The church of St. Benno's became the scene of a “perpetual mission” with each day a busy program of preaching, instruction, confessions, and devotions. There were also orphanages and schools for both boys and girls. This activity continued until 1808, when at the order of Napoleon, St. Benno's was closed and its community dispersed.
With one companion, Clement established himself in Vienna, where he remained until his death. As chaplain to the Ursuline convent and church he exercised an extraordinary influence throughout the city. In particular, he was able to advise and encourage some of the most important personages of the new Romantic Movement as well as others who were working for the Catholic revival in German-speaking lands.
His ceaseless activity attracted the attention of the police. From the time he came to Warsaw, he repeatedly attempted to extend the Congregation, especially in South Germany and Switzerland. But he did not live to see this. His prayers were answered only a few weeks after his death when the Redemptorists received permission to begin a community. From this community, the Redemptorists spread throughout northern Europe and into North and South America.
St. Clement Hofbauer died in Vienna on March 15, 1820. When Pope Pius VII heard the news, he declared: “Religion in Austria has lost its chief support.” Redemptorists venerate him as a great – indeed their second founder – for spreading their apostolate throughout the world.