Before the Servites ever existed as an official religious Order, seven prosperous men came together in the city of Florence, Italy. As a reflection of the penitential spirit of the times, it had been the custom of these men to meet regularly as members of a religious society established in honor of Mary, the Mother of God. Eventually, the seven left their comfortable homes, put aside their finery and went to live together in a ramshackle building outside the city walls. The holiness and penitential lifestyle of the seven quickly attracted attention and people seeking prayers and spiritual direction became frequent visitors. To avoid these distractions that they considered a hindrance to the contemplative life they sought, the entire group moved to more peaceful surroundings, and established a hermitage on the summit of a nearby mountain, Monte Senario, sometimes known as the "sounding mountain."
Coming to be known as the "Friar Servants of Mary," others joined the first seven on Monte Senario, and as the group continued to grow, the seeds of the new religious Order took root. The Friar Servants of Mary were approved as a religious Order by the bishop of Florence sometime between the years 1240 and 1247. In the year 1304, the Order of Friar Servants of Mary received definitive approval as a religious Order in the Church by the Holy See.
Servite presence in the United States dates from 1852 when Fr. Antoninus Grundner of the Tyrolese Province began working among the German speaking Catholics first in New York City, then in eastern Pennsylvania, and finally as pastor of St. Alphonsus Church in Philadelphia. Fr. Grundner died in 1876 without having made a permanent foundation, though some Austrian Servites continued to work with Italian Servites in the midwest. While attending the First Vatican Council in 1870, Joseph Melcher, first bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin, invited Servites to work in his diocese. That same year four Servites, under the guidance of Fr. Austin M. Morini, took charge of St. Charles Church in Menasha, Wisconsin. In 1874, Bishop Foley invited the Order to Chicago, and eventually, Chicago became the center of Servite activity in the United States. The American Province was established in 1909.
Today, we serve in nearly all countries of North and South America. In addition, we are found in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. From a humble beginning we have been blessed with a long and rich history. We still, like our Seven Founders, go where the needs of God's people demand that we go. And we still seek the perfection of the Gospel way of life under the protection of Mary, the Mother and Servant of the Lord.