The Society of St.-Sulpice was organized in 1642 by J.J. Olier* in the parish of St.-Sulpice in Paris. Sulpicians are secular priests whose principal task is the theological education of parish clergy. As secular priests, Sulpicians take no special vows and are permitted to hold private property. Nevertheless they are expected to use their property in the service of Christ and to own it as though they did not have it. Theological training has never meant for the Sulpicians merely instruction in Scripture and dogmatics without spiritual formation and devotion to prayer and ascetism. To encourage the spiritual formation of their students, Sulpicians live a common life with them and share their spiritual exercises. In the past Sulpicians were strongly Thomist in their theology, though their spirituality followed the methods developed by their third superior-general, L. Tronson (1676-1700).
The society spread to Canada in 1657, even before it received papal sanction and its own constitutions. While suffering a partial eclipse during the French Revolution, it was restored during the reign of Napoleon. In 1791, under J.A. Emery, the order founded St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, the oldest Roman Catholic seminary in the USA, now a pontifical university. The society has numbered among its members many distinguished theologians, such as the French Church historian P. Pourrat and the American biblical scholar Raymond Brown.
See L. Bertrand, Bibliothèque Sulpicienne, ou Histoire littéraire de la compagnie de Saint-Sulpice (3 vols., 1900) and C.G. Herbermann, The Sulpicians in the United States (1916).