Compassion Magazine

The Passionists: 150 years in America, continued

Ministry to Black Americans
Gerald Laba, C.P. - introduction to article

The Chapel CarThe years 1928 to 1938 mark the beginning of an apostolate among black Americans in North Carolina and Alabama. From chapel-car missions, eastern Passionists eventually worked toward building parish communities in New Bern, Washington, and Greenville, in the newly formed Diocese of Raleigh. The growth of these congregations was accompanied by the foundation of grammar schools and fully accredited high schools, directed by the I.H.M. Sisters from Scranton and the Sisters of Christian Charity. At Greenville, Fr. Maurice Tew began convert work. He built a catechetical center for children from public schools and preached on TV. He was a popular speaker at school gatherings and before Protestant congregations. (Chapel car, at right, c. 1928)

After Bishop Vincent Waters directed that all churches and schools be integrated, the consolidation of missions and parishes under diocesan personnel followed during the 1960s.

Parish picnicIn 1938, at the invitation of Bishop Thomas J. Toolen of the Mobile diocese, the Passionists of Holy Cross Province began a ministry to the black community in Ensley, Alabama. Organization and building began with the opening of the first school at Holy Family Mission in September, staffed by the Felician Sisters of Chicago, and continued when the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth began teaching at Holy Family High school in 1943. The Sisters of Charity also directed the development of a hospital facility in several stages.

A second mission was begun at Fairfield, where the church of St. Mary was dedicated in March 1943. A small elementary school staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Joliet, Illinois, was dedicated in March 1949. (above: Pastor Philip Paxton, C.P. at parish picnic, Birmingham, Alabama, 1999)


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