Our Name: CICM
WHAT DO THE LETTERS CICM SIGNIFY?
The letters CICM are an abbreviation in Latin of the name Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae or Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Rev. Theophile Verbist, chose this name for his newly founded missionary institute as a way of honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, and placing his institute under her patronage.
The CICM missionaries are also known by several other names depending on the country where they are working.
In Europe and Africa they are widely known as the “Missionaries of Scheut” or “Scheutist”, Scheut being the name of the locality near Brussels where the institute was founded. In the past CICM missionaries were sometimes known as the “Belgian Fathers” since the institute was founded in Belgium and most of its members were Priest. However, the institute was never an exclusively Belgium institute and includes both priest and brothers. Thus this name has fallen out of use, especially as the institute becomes more and more multicultural.
In North America the institute is known as “Missionhurst – CICM” and its members referred to as “Missionhurst Priests and Brothers”.
Hurst is an old English word meaning a small hill or a wooded rise. As the headquarters of the missionary institute in North America are located on a small wooded hill, this became the popular name of the institute in that part of the world.
REV. THEOPHILE VERBIST, FOUNDER OF THE CICM CATHOLIC MISSIONARY INSTITUTE
China always held a special placein the heart of CICM founder Fr. Theophile Verbistand in the hearts of those who came after him.
Born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1823, Father Theophile Verbist had ambitions to become a priest ever since he was a boy. So, while his twin brother looked towards becoming a lawyer, he headed into a priestly vocation. In the years after his ordination, he was a prefect in the minor seminary in Malines, a chaplain at the Belgian Military Academy, and a diocesan priest in the archdiocese of Malines-Brussels.
His first serious thoughts of being a missionary came when he was already 37 years old.Inspired by the work of the Holy Childhood Association which cared for abandoned children in the Far East and in other parts of the world, Father Verbist felt that he, too, should do something more for the poor and needy in China. By strenuous efforts he overcame numerous obstacles, until his Belgian mission in China was finally approved by Pope Pius IX. The new foundation’s first formation house was located at an old site of pilgrimage called Scheut, in the municipality of Anderlecht, near Brussels, Belgium. Thus the name: ‘Scheut Missions or Missionaries of Scheut’.
In 1865, Father Verbist and four other zealous companions made their final preparations for their mission in China. They arrived in the winter of that same year in the village of Xiwanzi, in the Province of Inner Mongolia, north of the Great Wall.
There they set up a base, getting to work immediately on plans to administer the vast territory that lay before them: organizing small Christian communities, attending to an orphanage and school, and training seminarians.
“It’s difficult. Such a pity that we are so few,” Father Verbist used to voice to himself whenever he considered the vast task ahead of him. But guided by the Holy Spirit, he and his team were able to overcome the obstacles – not the least of which were the harsh terrain, the severe weather, the immense distances to be covered, and the local language.
These missionaries also faced many critical situations, including famine, sickness, accidents, and martyrdom. Father Verbist himself died of typhoid fever at Laohugou, China in 1868, at the age of 45, just three years after arriving in Inner Mongolia. His companion, Father van Segvelt, a co-founder of the CICM Congregation, had succumbed to the same dreaded disease a year earlier.
Although not a canonized saint, the fact that his foundation has grown to what it is today is testimony to the love and work of Father Verbist and the power of the Holy Spirit within him.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations,” Christ said to his disciples…
Father Theophile Verbist lived by that command and continues to inspire others to do likewise to this very day.