Compassion Magazine

The Passionists: 150 years in America, continued

The First Foundation in America and the Founders
Gerald Laba, C.P. - introduction to article

Anthony Calandri, C.P.When Michael O'Connor, first bishop of Pittsburgh, traveled to Rome with the Acta of the First Plenary Council of Baltimore and his diocesan report to Propaganda, he formally requested that the congregation be established in his diocese. The bishop assumed financial responsibility for the passage and lodging of the religious as well as their language study. They, in turn, were to live the rule and to work for the "spiritual advantage" of others. Bishop O'Connor was exceedingly generous, becoming the "first benefactor of the Order in America."2

Fathers Anthony Calandri (superior)(photo, right), Albinus Magno, and Stanislaus Parczyk, and Brother Lawrence di Giacomo arrived in Pittsburgh in the fall of 1852. Calandri and Magno, both missionaries, were practically opposite in temperament. The former was exacting in regard to the observance of the rule and to his office, failing to appreciate differences in attitude and culture. Magno possessed "a stronger, more assertive and better balanced personality, kept himself open to discussion, adaptation. and, if necessary, change." Testa had intended that such diversity would prove to be complementary. 3

Calandri first worked among the orphans who were being cared for by the Sisters of Mercy. In the course of fund-raising, he reconciled lapsed Catholics, "rectified marriages, pacified families an won convertsÉ.the city also witnessed Father Anthony's heroic charity during the cholera epidemic in 1854," when he endeared himself to people of all denominations. Magno (photo below, right), the first to learn English, helped out in various congregations throughout the diocese and instructed some of the order's postulants.4

At the request of Bishop John Neumann, Parczyk, who was fluent in German, worked for a brief period as an agent of reconciliation at Holy Trinity German Church in Philadelphia, the scene of long-standing tension over the issue of trusteeism. Shortly after arriving in Pittsburgh, he began to minister to the German people of St. Michael's parish in Birmingham, assisted by Brother Lawrence, the youngest of the group.5 These same German people contributed generously toward the building of the first monastery. Contributions from local Catholics and Protestants enabled its completion in the spring of 1854. By that time, the religious had become widely known for their ministry as confessors.

Following these initial endeavors, the organization of life and apostolate was primarily due to the arrival of John Dominick Tarlattini from Italy in 1854 and Gaudentius Rossi from England. Tarlattini succeeded Anthony Calandri as superior and "was singularly responsible for the development of the Passionist life in the United States. Its shape, its vision, its spirit, the attitudes it adopted and the adaptations it accepted were his responsibility." 6

Monastery, PittsburghThe community's preaching apostolate began with the arrival of Rossi in December 1855. Following a special series of discourses on the Passion which he delivered at the Pittsburgh cathedral, a mission campaign was inaugurated throughout the diocese. Lasting until the end of the following year, it brought "the spiritual exercises of a parish retreat or mission" to rural areas for the first time.

Subsequently, requests from outside the diocese brought the preaching ministry to Brooklyn (St Joseph's, Pacific and Dean streets), St. Louis, the Diocese of Hartford, Boston (St. Joseph's, Chambers Street), and Baltimore. The mission in Brooklyn, at which many Protestants were in attendance was accompanied by the testimony of cures, arousing controversy "in the Protestant and Catholic press." 7 Most lasting in effect were the three missions held in Baltimore, after which a new foundation was initiated at the request of Archbishop Martin John Spalding in 1865.

Ministry to converts was an expressed concern of the congregation for its mission in America. After the opening of the monastery in Pittsburgh (photo from 1870s, above right), this apostolate "was given a more definite form" in the more distinct preparation of mission sermons. The "first recorded instance of a fully organized mission for Protestants" was at St. Joseph's in Boston (March,1864). 8

 

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