The missionary expansion of the Order, because of a misunderstood statement of St. Camillus as well, is a rather recent development. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Order had just thirty communities, in large part in Italy and Europe, after an attempt at mission in Africa, at the side of St. Camboni, did not have a happy outcome. The only presence outside Europe at the time, the house in Lima, had been separated from the Order for over a century.
However this was an epoch of renewed enthusiasm and to such an extent that within a few decades the Order flowered anew with openings in European and non-European countries. In a short time the religious founded communities in Germany, Austria and Poland. They arrived in the United States of America, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, as well as in Ireland and England. Subsequently, Canada and Australia welcomed the sons of St. Camillus. The Order ceased to be markedly Italian and European and became universal. Two continents still awaited the presence of the Sons of St. Camillus.
In the year 1946, after the end of the Second World War, five religious left for China. They founded houses in Yunnan, in the south of the country, a poor region with many people suffering from leprosy. There they engaged in an intense work of assistance and won the esteem of the local population. In the year 1952 these missionaries were expelled by the Communist government and they left with the courage and the firm intention to continue in Asia. They stayed in Formosa, which is now Taiwan. The mission prospered. They built a large hospital and founded the first faculty of nursing on the island; they also developed intense activity for human promotion and health-care service on Pescadores Island, without, however, neglecting work involving evangelisation and corporeal assistance for the inhabitants of the mountains. In the year 1952 the Camillians arrived in Thailand. There they founded centres for care, hospitals and rest homes. In addition to Thailand, Camillians work in Vietnam and Laos.
In the year 1975 the Camillians founded communities in the Philippines. In that nation the development of the foundation has been rapid and at the beginning of the third millennium it itself became an autonomous Province after annexing the Delegations of Taiwan and Australia. In 2011 the Delegation in Indonesia emerged from the Province of the Philippines and came to have its own space in the Camillian world. Since 1983 the Order has also been present in India where it is developing rapidly with a strong presence in the field of health and health care, especially in the field of AIDS. Now the Camillians who work in Asia make up 15% of the religious of the Order and the future is promising.
Tanzania was the first nation of the continent of Africa to receive Camillians and this took place in the year 1959. Later Burkina Faso, Benin, Kenya, Madagascar and Uganda opened their doors to our Order. The option for those most in need came to be a reality that burnt the soul. In the States of Africa, where Camillians work, there are some of the poorest countries in the world. In addition to their presence in the field of care for the last, the Camillians in Africa have positions of importance in research (the CERBA Reseach Institute, Ouagadougou) and in the management of socio/health-care institutions. The religious who work in Africa make up 13% of the religious of the Order as a whole.
The option for those most in need is not confined to Africa. In Latin America, the flag of St. Camillus has been raised in almost all the countries from the south to the north of the continent: the management of hospitals; care for handicapped people; the animation of pastoral care in health in dioceses; projects for prevention; hospices; and care for AIDS patients – these are some of the varied activities in which they are involved. Amongst the most recent countries to have witnessed the presence of the Order we should list Haiti which was chosen to follow on from the prophetic vision of the General Chapter of 1989 – ‘Towards the Poor and the Third World’. In the Americas, the Order is present in the United States of America, Mexico, Haiti, Colombia, Equador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil.
The spirit of dedicating attention to countries where poverty is greatest has led to new openings in countries of the area of the former USSR, such as Romania, Georgia, Hungary and Armenia, where the Order is implementing programmes for health for the poorer sections of society often in cooperation with the Lay Camillian Family.
The Order, which for centuries was Italian and partly European, is journeying towards the fulfilment of the prophecy of St.Camillus: ‘The time will come when this little plant will have branches throughout the world’.