Hungarian Monastic Orders

The first members of Western monastic orders came to Hungary from Italy. In 972, Grand Prince Géza of Hungary and his family were christened by Bruno, a priest from St. Gallen. His missionary work was followed by St. Adalbert of Prague, who escaped with his monks from Italy to Hungary, where they built a monastery in Pannonhalma in 996. Monastic orders in medieval Hungary included Benedictines, Premonstratensians, Cistercians, and the mendican orders of the Dominicans, the Franciscans, and the Augustinians. The only order established in Hungary, that of St. Paul the Hermit, was also popular during this period, though they preferred to stay further from inhabited regions and lived their lives of strict discipline in the depths of forests, spending their days prying and working. More recently, the Secularization Decree issued on January 12, 1782 by Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor banned monastic order not involved in “useful pursuits” and, although famous for a stroke of the pen he used on his death bed to revoke all his decrees (with a few exceptions), the gesture was insufficient for undoing the untold damages suffered by the Church and the Hungarian people. After this period, the importance of monastic orders again started increasing, all the way up to the time the communists took over control in 1948, when there were 23 male and 44 female orders in Hungary, mainly engaged in running parishes, teaching in schools, running kindergartens, and working in hospitals and social institutions. The communist state disbanded monastic orders in June 1950, enforced by way of the “forced housing” of the affected approximately 3500 men and women. Within the meaning of an agreement concluded by the State and the Church, the Benedictines, Piarists, the branch of Franciscans named after John of Capistrano, and the School Sisters of Notre Dame were the only exceptions who were not banned. The members of the disbanded orders were ordered to leave their respective monasteries within 3 months, though many were imprisoned before this deadline. The movable and immovable property of the disbanded orders was confiscated by the State. In September 1950, those who were forcibly housed were released, though they had nowhere to go. The 250 members of the 8 monasteries permitted to remain operational were allowed to continue living their lives as before. However, 11 thousand monks and nuns were left without a home.

Law-Decree 1989/17 was promulgated on August 30, 1989, which again allowed the functioning of religious orders in Hungary. The majority of the orders were re-established after the 1990 change in political system, and they set about redefining their missions as well. The majority of former monasteries and schools were returned to their owners. There are currently 1178 monks and nuns in Hungary: 660 women and 518 men, who belong to 91 different orders (59 female and 32 male orders). The three most numerous religious male orders are the Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Hungary, the Hungarian province of the Society of Jesus, and the Hungarian Province of Piarists. The female orders/societies of apostolic life with the most members are the Sisters of Social Service, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and the Dominican Sisters of Saint Margaret of Hungary. These monastic orders serve God and their brothers and sisters with their charity, social, work, and pastoral work.