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Servite Story

Florence in Tuscany, Italy, is one of the most cultured, elegant cities in Europe, if not the world. It's history is replete with great figures of art, literature (Dante Alighieri, for example), architecture and politics (the Medici's come to mind!) Florence is also where the Servite Order began. If Assisi glories in the memory of St. Francis and Bologna that of St. Dominic, our Seven Holy Founders and St. Philip are the pride of Florence. Our first church is 'up the street' from the famous Cathedral with its Giotto bell tower. The street is called 'Via dei Servi' (Servite Street).

The Order's story began with seven merchants in this bustling medieval city. They had been devout laymen, belonging to an association itself called The Servants of Mary. In 1233 they decided that they wanted to enter more deeply into a relationship with God, with Jesus' Mother Mary and with each other. They therefore farewelled their families and moved into a small hut in the corner of the Franciscan cemetery just outside the city walls.

The area was called Cafaggio and is where to this day, the priory and church of the Annunziata stand. Here their spiritual life flourished. A few years later, for reasons political as well as spiritual, they relocated to a remote mountain top location called Monte Senario. It is still there and still one of our most revered priories. Senario is called 'the Cradle of the Order' because while there they began to accept new members, candidates who would follow in their footsteps and keep alive their charism of rich community life, service of others, drawing abiding aspiration from Mary, Mother and Servant of the Lord.

A few years later the small group, now growing, came back into the heart of Florence and began an apostolic activity that led them quite rapidly to make foundations in Siena, Arezzo and many other towns of Tuscany and beyond.

The Annunziata became the symbol of active ministry just as Senario was a symbol of their contemplative life of prayer.

This duality of the mountain top (Senario) and the city centre (Annunziata) of prayer and ministry, has characterised the Servite Order ever since. Believe it or not, the order has had groups of hermits several times in it's history, sometimes in existence for several centuries! Hermits really live for God alone because they limit drastically their contact with the secular world.

At the same time, the majority of the friars, and the Servite sisters who eventually came to share their spirituality, have lived active lives of ministry in parishes, schools and missions. It is an interesting and attractive combination, the best of two worlds. And so, Servites spend a part of each day in prayer, on 'Senario', coming together each morning and evening to praise and petition the God to whom they have dedicated their lives. The rest of the day is spent at 'Annunziata' looking after the spiritual and material needs of others in whatever ministry they are engaged.

The Order of Servants of Mary has spread all over the world, starting from that mountain top and city centre. Servite College is one of a whole range of schools that are part of this International movement. From Chile to the U.K, from Australia to South Africa these schools work to bring the same ideals to young people that led those original seven to leave all the comforts of their Florentine culture and to join together in brotherly love for a life of prayer and service. The things we do and the way we do them should reflect those seven men, that small community of brothers who gave origin to our name and to our ideals.