Compassion Magazine

The Passionists: 150 years in America, continued

Guadentius Rossi, C.P.New Approaches to Missions and Retreats
Gerald Laba, C.P. - introduction to article

America called for new approaches to preaching missions and retreats, and so American Passionists turned to the experience of the Passionists in England, exemplified in the work of Gaudentius Rossi, C.P. (photo, right). Rossi favored a more intellectual (less emotional) content and less elaborate ceremonies. The American setting meant changing the daily schedule, simplifying the opening ceremony, and introducing a catechetical instruction for children, especially as preparation for first confession and Communion. As in England, the renewal of baptismal promises replaced "the former acts of detestation of sin and the oath of perseverance in virtue." 11 Finally, a large mission cross was placed near the church at the close of the mission.

Rossi had wanted to exceed "the accommodations granted in England and looked toward a far greater independent development of the apostolate much more in accord with American culture, ideas and temperament," 12 but it was not until 1884 that the congregation allowed particular Fidelis Kent Stone, C.P.mission directories for each province.

By the turn of the century, two missionaries were creating a distinct impact as preachers. James Kent Stone (drawing, right), formerly an Episcopalian priest and president of Hobart College, was ordained as a Paulist in December, 1872 and later entered the Passionists as Fidelis of the Cross. Xavier Sutton, C.P.Soon known for his eloquence, he was requested by Cardinal Gibbons to conduct a mission at the Baltimore cathedral and to preach at the requiem for Pius IX. He also preached at the inauguration of The Catholic University of America.

Xavier Sutton (photo, left), born in Tiffin, Ohio in 1852, was also a very successful preacher. In 1899. at St. Raphael's Church in New York City, he began to develop a program of missions which reflected his interest in a ministry to the wider Christian community. Working almost exclusively in the midwest, he became renowned in his preaching to Protestants and, with the early Paulists, was a pioneer in this apostolate. His adapted mission format often included a one-week mission for Catholics and a second week for Protestants, followed by programs of instruction for those who were interested. Fr. Xavier's courtesy and clarity did much to overcome anti-Catholic sentiment.


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