St. Clement Hofbauer was born in 1751 in Moravia, in Central Europe (today part of the Czech Republic), the ninth of 12 children of a poor family. While he dreamed of becoming a priest from an early age, he was apprenticed to a baker. Later, working as a baker in a monastery he was able to begin his schooling. However, the monastery was closed by the emperor, Joseph II, and Clement had to seek work elsewhere. A chance meeting with two wealthy ladies outside St. Stephen Cathedral in Vienna led to their sponsoring him in the seminary. Traveling to Rome with a friend, Thaddeus, both men were drawn to the Redemptorists, the community they entered. They were ordained together in 1785. His feastday is observed on March 15.
Following ordination the two young Redemptorists were sent back to Vienna, but religious difficulties there led them to Poland. There they ministered to German-speaking Catholics, as well as to the native Poles. Clement and Thaddeus also worked among the poor, founding an orphanage and a school for boys.
Attracting vocations, the Redemptorist community grew in Poland, and eventually sent men to Germany and Switzerland. However, political and religious tensions led to their expulsion, and after two imprisonments Clement made his way back to Austria, becoming “the apostle of Vienna.” In Vienna he spent the last 12 years of his life, hearing confessions, visiting the sick, and eventually establishing a Catholic college. When he died in 1820 the Redemptorists were firmly established north of the Alps, a reason why Clement is sometimes called the “second founder” of his congregation.
Despite many adversities St. Clement persevered in proclaiming the Gospel to all who would listen, while ministering to all who had special needs. Each time he was forced to begin anew, fresh possibilities seemed to open for him. St. Clement was canonized by Pope St. Pius X in 1909.