Compassion Magazine

The Passionists: 150 years in America, continued

Expansion and adaptation
Gerald Laba, C.P. - introduction to article

Albinus Magno, C.P.During the period 1854-60, dioceses in the east, midwest and the northwest expressed interest in the establishment of Passionist foundations. It was in Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, New York, however, that the Passionists, with some uncertainty, established their second retreat. Bishop John Timon, C.M., based his request on an earlier promise of consideration by the Passionist general, and Albinus Magno, C.P. (photo, right) strongly encouraged the new foundation. In April, 1860, the latter assumed his duties as pastor of St. Mary's parish and by July 20, 1862, a small monastery had been built for the community. In 1877 the visitor general directed that it be converted into a preparatory school.

Following a mission given by Rossi and Calandri at Our Lady of Mercy, West Hoboken (now Union City, New Jersey), Fr. Anthony Cauvin (a primary organizer of the Church in this area) offered to help to establish the community in the new diocese. James Roosevelt Seton Bayley, first bishop of Newark. was pleased with the proposed foundation, and with the general's approval, the religious arrived in West Hoboken on April 16, 1861. In the years that followed, the Passionists founded parishes and schools and conducted numerous retreats and parish missions, thus contributing to the organization and growth of the Church in northern New Jersey.

"The Immaculata"During these early years, the founders were quickly presented with the growing needs of the local church in a new political and religious context. Americans were practical. The nation was experiencing increased immigration and nativism. Most importantly, it was deeply affected by the unrest and division which erupted into the Civil War. There was a pressing need for parish organization and ministry. New vitality was being sought through parish missions and retreats for the clergy.

The Passionists adapted to America, dispelling concerns that their strict rule of life would be incompatible with other settings. Addressing the community's cautious approach to the acceptance of parishes, Anthony Testa determined that judgments in this regard would be made locally. He wisely admonished the founders, first in Belgium and then in America, to emphasize the spirit of the Passionist Rule, especially in the training of novices, while adapting to the national character. That they accepted his advice is confirmed in the observations of Cardinal Gibbons, who acknowledged that he had known the founders personally, praising them as "international men" who "identified themselves" with the country and became Americans. "Their work proves," he said, "that the rule and spirit of St. Paul of the Cross are adapted to every clime and every age." 9

St Francis Church, St Paul, KansasBeginning in the 1870s, four new foundations were established in the midwest, the first at the invitation of Archbishop John Purcell of Cincinnati. "The Immaculata" on Mt. Adams, the site of a Good Friday pilgrimage and a part of the "religious history",10 was entrusted to the care of the Passionists in May, 1871 (photo, above left). Later, the community purchased and remodeled the old Cincinnati Observatory for use as a monastery, and erected a church under the title of Holy Cross.

Following a clergy retreat preached by Charles Lang in the summer of 1877 and a mission at the cathedral, Bishop William McCloskey invited the Passionists to work in the Louisville diocese at the parish of St. Cecilia. A community residence soon opened in July 1880, with chaplaincies at St. Agnes Academy and St. Vincent's orphanage.

In the diocese of St. Louis, a plan for a new foundation was approved by Archbishop Peter Kenrick after a series of missions in 1883-84. When work on the new Passionist retreat at Normandy stopped for lack of funds, Fr. David Phelan, editor of the Western Watchman, organized a benefit at which parishes and several religious congregations worked for its successful completion.

After giving retreats to religious in 1893, the Passionists saw the former Jesuit mission at Osage, southern Kansas, as a possible site for their own ministry and began work there in 1894. Later, the name of Osage Mission was changed to St. Paul, Kansas, in honor of the Passionist founder. (above: detail from mural at Neosho County Community College: St Francis Church at St Paul, Kansas)


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