Compassion Magazine

The Passionists: 150 years in America, continued

Six missionariesEstablishing a New Mission
Gerald Laba, C.P. - introduction to article

Responding to one of the expressed goals of the general chapter, the Twentieth Chapter of St. Paul of the Cross Province voted unanimously to establish a mission in China. Early in 1922, six missionaries (photo, right) arrived in Yuanling (formerly Shenchow) in northeast Hunan Province. Other groups followed in the summers of 1922 and 1923.

New Arrivals

It was not long before this new venture exemplified an outstanding spirit of generous service and collaboration in mission. In 1924, four missionaries from Holy Cross Province were among the new arrivals. During the next two years the Sisters of Charity from Convent Station, New Jersey, and the Sisters of St. Joseph from Baden, Pennsylvania, brought expertise in nursing, administration, and education.

Sisters in China
Sisters of Charity and Sisters of St. Joseph in China

These religious and those who followed worked tirelessly to provide food, medical assistance and hospital care for those in need, while caring for orphans and providing for catechetical instruction and education. Their efforts were challenged by the rugged environment of the land, famine, sickness, bandit raids and war. During the Sino-Japanese War, care was provided for an estimated 100,000 refugees.

The Shadow of the Cross

Passionist Fathers Godfrey Holbein, Clement Seybold, and Walter Coveyou

All of the missionaries did not return to their homeland. Sickness claimed the lives of some, and on April 24, 1929, Fr. Walter Coveyou (right), Clement Seybold (center), and Godfrey Holbein (left) were brutally murdered by bandits.

Bishop Cuthbert O'Gara C.P.
Bishop Cuthbert O'Gara, C.P. at installation as bishop of Yuanling in 1934 (left) and after release from prison, 1953
Passionist Fathers Marcellus White and Justin Garvey
Fathers Marcellus White and Justin Garvey crossing into Hong Kong, the last of the Passionist community to leave in 1955

With the communist takeover in 1949, the missionaries endured house arrest, imprisonment, and expulsion. Cuthbert O'Gara, C.P., first bishop of Yuanling, was imprisoned on July 2, 1951.

After Bishop O'Gara's release from Yuanling prison on March 20, 1953, the release of other missionaries followed. Finally, Fathers Marcellus White and Justin Garvey (above, right) crossed into Hong Kong on November 19, 1955, the last of their community to depart.

 

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