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The Missionary Society of Saint Paul the Apostle, better known as the Paulist Fathers, is a Roman Catholic religious society for men founded in New York City in 1858 by Servant of God Fr. Isaac Thomas Hecker in collaboration with Fr. George Deshon, Fr. Augustine Hewit, and Fr. Francis A. Baker. Members of the society identify themselves as such by the use of the initials C.S.P. after their names, for the Congregation of St. Paul.
The Paulist Fathers were the first religious community of priests created in North America and as such the Society took on a very American character, particularly in organization and administration. The President, Vice-President, and Council of the Paulist Fathers are elected to 4-year terms; in addition, a First Consultor is appointed by the President.
The Paulist mission is to evangelize the people of North America in a manner particularly suited to the continent's culture. In addition to evangelization, the Paulists have taken on ministries of ecumenism, interfaith relations, and reconciliation as part of their missionary focus. The Paulists seek to be a bridge between contemporary culture and Catholicism by presenting the Gospel truths in fresh ways that are compelling so that the fullness of the Catholic Church can be shared effectively with others. The Paulists use all available media to accomplish this end, beginning in print with the founding of Catholic World magazine in 1865 and continuing and extending their mission in the work of Paulist Press and in radio, film, and Internet ministries.
Because the Paulist Fathers' primary mission has been the conversion of the American people and society, the vast majority of Foundations (as Paulist centers of ministry are called) and priests are located in the United States of America, although a significant historic presence in Canada has resulted in a number of Canadian vocations over the years. There are Paulist Foundations in 13 states in the U.S. and one in Toronto, Canada and Rome, Italy.
Patrons of the Paulist Fathers include the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary, St. Paul the Apostle, St. Joseph, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Patrick, St. Philip Neri, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Mary Magdalen and St. Elizabeth Seton.