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St Joseph's Society Missionary Society (Mill Hill Missionaries)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2254 St Joseph's Missionary Society
Held at: Mill Hill Missionaries
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Full title: St Joseph's Society Missionary Society (Mill Hill Missionaries)
Date(s): 1865-
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: c735 boxes of archival material plus a large collection of photographs
Name of creator(s): St Joseph's Society of the Sacred Heart for Foreign Missions

St Joseph's Society for Foreign Missions
St Joseph's Missionary Society/ Mill Hill Missionaries


Administrative/Biographical history:

The St Joseph's Foreign Missionary Society (Mill Hill Missionaries) was founded at Mill Hill in 1866 by Father Herbert Vaughan (1832-1903). It was the first catholic missionary society to be founded in England.

Ordained at the age of 22, Vaughan determined to devote himself to missionary work. Not strong enough himself for the vigours of overseas work, he aimed to achieve this via the establishment of a missionary training college; he was encouraged in his plans by his friend Father (later Cardinal) Manning (1808-1892) and by Cardinal Wiseman (1802-1865).

In 1863 Vaughan embarked on a tour of Central and South America and of California to raise funds for the new College. A year after his return to England in 1865, he was able to rent a house in Mill Hill about ten miles north of London. Under conditions of some poverty, the house operated as the new missionary training school, that of St Joseph's Society for Foreign Missions. Following further fund raising initiated by Archbishop Manning in 1868, the building of a new college on a freehold site nearby was completed in 1871; at the time it served a community of 34 students.

Later that year, the first missionary endeavour of St Joseph's was realised. Rome assigned the evangelization of the recently freed black population of the southern states of the USA. To this end, Vaughan himself travelled to America with his first four missionary priests. This led to the successful establishment of a mission in Baltimore, out of which developed, by 1892, a separate society, that of the Josephite Fathers. In 1872 Vaughan became Bishop of Salford and left Mill Hill though he remained Superior General of the Missionary Society, a cause that was always to be close to his heart.

In 1884 St Peter's School, Freshfield, near Liverpool was founded to serve as a preparatory school to the college. Later on, branch colleges were opened at Rozendaal in Holland and at Brixen and Absam in the Austrian Tyrol. Subsequently, recruits were also drawn from Ireland and North America. The domestic needs of the College at Mill Hill were met by a group of sisters, led by Mother Mary Francis Ingham, whom Vaughan persuaded to move from their native Salford. The sisters became known as the Francisan Missionaries of St Joseph and actively participated in missionary work at many of the missions established by St Joseph's Society for Foreign Missions.

The work in India of the Mill Hill missionaries commenced in 1875, first in Madras where five priests and a medical missionary journeyed in 1875 and later in North West India, in what is now Kashmir and Pakistan. In 1881 Rajah Brooke provided land for a mission at Kuching in Borneo where work was carried on among tribal peoples. Missions were also established among the Maoris, in New Zealand, in 1886 and in the Philippines in 1906.

In 1895 a group of five Mill Hill Fathers, led by Father Henry Hanlon went out to East Africa to establish the Vicariate of the Upper Nile. Uganda, where the White Fathers had arrived in 1878, had become a British Protectorate in 1894 and an English rather than a French Catholic presence was thought desirable. The first mission station was built at Nsambya. Despite deaths from fever the work grew to spread in time around Lake Victoria and into Kenya.

Fatalities among mission staff also occurred in the Congo where the Mill Hill Fathers arrived in 1905. Despite a difficult location - the mission was entirely surrounded by jungle - the mission flourished. A prefecture was established in 1927, a vicariate followed in 1948 and a diocese in 1959. In 1921 a party of Mill Hill missionaries went to the Cameroons, taking over from a mission developed by German missionaries and where the church had been kept alive by a faithful catechist, Matthias Efiem. From 1938 to 1964 when they were expelled Mill Hill missionaries also worked in the Sudan.

Missions established in the second half of the twentieth century included: a mission to the Falklands and surrounding areas, a mission to Santiago Chile and a mission to Brazil. By 1960 there were 1,200 Mill Hill missionaries serving in four continents.

For further information see:
James Dempsey, Mission on the Nile (London: Burns & Oates, 1955). H. P. Gale, Uganda and the Mill Hill Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co Ltd, 1959). Christopher Cook, A century of charity: the story of the Mill Hill Missionaries (London: Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, 1965). Robert J.O'Neil, Mission to the British Cameroons (London:Mission Book Service, 1999. Robert J.O'Neil, Mission to the Upper Nile (London: Mission Book Service, 1999) John Rooney, Khabar gembira; a history of the Catholic Church in East Malaysia and Brunei, 1880-1976 (London: Burns & Oates; Kota Kinabalu: Mill Hill Missionaries, 1981).


Scope and content/abstract:

The collection comprises the historical records of St Joseph's Missionary Society, mostly dating from the colonial period. From the time when indigenous clergy took over administration a good deal of the material remained overseas in the diocesan archives.
The following series of records can be distinguished:
1. The Generalate
minutes, correspondence, appointments, constitutional matters, correspondence with Rome (including the Vatican) financial papers;
2. Members
Personal files of missionaries;
3. The Missions
work among Afro-Americans in the USA 1875-1975, Pakistan and Kashmir from 1878, Borneo from 1881, Maori Mission in New Zealand from 1887, Uganda from 1894, Congo from 1904, Phillippines from 1905, Caribbean 1920-25,Cameroon from 1921, Kenya from 1924, Sudan 1948-64,Falklands from 1952, Brazil from 1974, Aborigine mission in Australia from 1984;
4. Colleges and houses in Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Austria, Germany and North America; 5. Publications including periodicals such as the St Joseph's Advocate, Millhillania, Central Newsletter periodicals of other missionary societies including the White Fathers, the Holy Ghost Fathers, SMA, Maryknoll, the Comboni fathers and a set of Katholische Missionem , also a collection of published works by members of the society,
6. Photographs - several thousands illustrating the work of the missions in many lands and a number of b/w films.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The records are arranged into six series of records.

Conditions governing access:

Bona fide researchers. There is a fifty-year closure on all personal correspondence. Contact the Archivist, Mill Hill Missionaries Archives, St Joseph's College, Lawrence St, Mill Hill, London, NW7 4JX

Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to the Archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Information currently unavailable

Archival Information

Archival history:

The archive has been in the continuous possession of St Joseph's College. Some gaps for the first quarter of the twentieth century and also for the 1940s and 1950s.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Created and held in situ.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Mill Hill Missionaries Archives also holds the Cardinal Herbert Vaughan papers, which are a subfonds of the St Joseph's Society for Foreign Missions collection.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Reverend William J. Mol, 'The archives of the Mill Hill Missionaries', Catholic Archives, II (1982), 20-27. Reverend William J. Mol, 'The archives of the Mill Hill Missionaries since 1982', Catholic Archives, XVI (1996), 12-20.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled using: Catholic Encyclopaedia ; Reverend William J. Mol, 'The archives of the Mill Hill Missionaries', Catholic Archives, II (1982), 20-27; Reverend William J. Mol, 'The archives of the Mill Hill Missionaries since 1982', Catholic Archives, XVI (1996), 12-20.
This description was prepared by the RSLP Mundus project. Used by London Signpost Archive Project with permission, Nov 2003.

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
October 2003

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