Fr. Joseph Xifre animated the Congregation as the Superior General from 1858 t 1899. When he began his term of office, the Congregation had one house and 10 members. When he died, it had 61 houses and around 1,300 members.
Once the monarchy was restored in Spain in 1875, the Congregation was able to recover the houses from which it had been driven by the Revolution and began a period of expansion, not only in Spain, but also in Africa and America.
Special mention needs to be made of the missions of Equatorial Guinea, Cuba and Mexico. The Missionaries developed impressive apostolic, cultural and social work, often accompanied by extreme hardships for the Missionaries, costing some of them their lives. For example, of the 11 Missionaries that made up the first expedition to Cuba all but two died a few days after arriving on the island.
As the members in the Congregation grew, formation centers were needed and as the Congregation spread, juridical reorganization was required to assure good governance. In the first half of the twentieth century the process of growth and establishment was constant. The Congregation kept expanding into other countries and developing its ministry of preaching the Gospel, both in traditional ways (popular missions and spiritual exercises) and modern ways (renewal programs and teaching). Journals began and publishing houses opened, all consistent with the Claretian influence on the apostolate of the written Word.
But trials and suffering were also part of these years. During the Mexican Revolution (1927) Fr. Andres Sola died a martyr; and in the Spanish Civil War (1936) 270 Missionary priests, brothers ad students received the palm of martyrdom, among them are the 51 Blessed Martyrs of Barbastro. In 1949 all the missionaries were expelled from China.
In 1949 the Congregation celebrated its first hundred years with 2,638 professed members and 160 novices. It was now international present in 25 countries, and that same year a German, Fr. Peter Schweiger was elected Superior General.
The canonization of the Founder was a peak moment for the Congregation. On 7 May 1950 Holy Father Pope Pius XII raised him to the Holy Altar as Saint Anthony Mary Claret. Not only was this the acknowledgement of his personal holiness, but also the Churchâ€™s ringing endorsement of the work of the Congregation.
The celebration of the Second Vatican Council had great impact on the renewal of the Congregation, on a deeper understanding of Claretian identity in the Church and on new missionary efforts. The renewal process continued, reaffirmed year after year, and accompanied by the Congregationâ€™s expansion in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. Not only have new foundations been set up in various countries, but also new frontiers in ministry have been opened and new apostolic activities undertaken: centers for Bible study, renewed forms for popular missions, services specifically directed to religious themselves, concrete commitments on behalf of peace, justice and the safeguarding of creation, presence among the poor, the marginalized and immigrants, promotion of the social communications media and of interreligious dialogue.
In 1999 the Congregation celebrated its 150th anniversary. As proof of its fidelity to its mission, an occasion both of anguish and glory was the martyrdom of our Filipino brother Fr. Rhoel Gallardo in May 2000 as well as persecution, kidnappings and all kinds of violence that the Congregation has undergone in recent years all over the world.
Thus, Fr. Claret was a man of God who was chosen to face the spiritual problems of modern age and to solve them in the light of the Gospel of Charity and peace. To carry out his fruitful work more effectively he gathered together a group of good and zealous priests and formed a religious congregation officially known as â€œThe sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.â€ Within a short span of 155 years this Congregation had phenomenal growth. As of 31 December 2008, the Congregation had 19 Bishops, 2107 priests, 3 permanent deacons, 196 brothers, 591 professed students and 88 novices, 20 provinces, 15 independent delegations, 3 dependent delegations, 461 houses and residences in 62 countries.
The Claretian Congregation in every country is engaged in what may be called in general the Christian Apostolate. Though the Claretian Missionaries are called â€˜Servants of the Wordâ€™ their activities are not confined to any particular field. The Claretian motto is to spread the Kingdom of God and the Gospel in the particular context of what is urgent, timely and effective.