Compassion Magazine

The Passionists: 150 years in America, continued

The Response to Vatican II
Gerald Laba, C.P. - introduction to article

With all religious congregations, the Passionists entered into the spirit of aggiornamento encouraged by Vatican Council II. American participants at the council included Barnabas M. Ahern (shown at right with Pope John Paul II), a noted Scripture scholar, consultor, and adviser to the American bishops, Malcolm Lavelle (superior general), and Theodore Foley (left), a member of the Commission for Religious. Later, as superior general, Theodore encouraged members "to move with the Church" in its "pilgrimage toward God" while seeking first the gift of "personal and interior renewal." During the chapter of renewal of 1968-70, he and James Patrick White (former provincial of Holy Cross Province) served as bridge-builders to the respect and unity which produced the Chapter Document of 1970. As the foundation for the revised "Rule" completed in 1982, this document placed the Passion of Jesus "at the very heart of the Congregation," the source of "authentic unity" for Passionists everywhere (see Mercurio, The Passionists, ch. 22, esp. 152-55).

Principles articulated at the council and during the extraordinary general chapter guided the process of internal renewal, formation and education, and reflection on ministry. Local communities attempted to foster increased dialogue and planning while province commissions directed work in liturgical development, historical research, and the preaching apostolate. The House of Solitude, established first at Birmingham (September 14, 1969), and later at Bedford, Pennsylvania, provided the opportunity for prolonged reflection in the context of the forty-day retreat. Religious formation began to combine the experience of a university education with internal programs of study and preparation for ministry.

In 1967 the Passionists of Holy Cross Province joined with the Servites (eastern province) and Franciscans (Sacred Heart province) to form Catholic Theological Union at Chicago. Paul Bechtold, C.P., elected as the first president, described this venture as an opportunity to create a "theological school with a greater depth of faculty, a larger student body, and in ecumenical contact with seminarians of other faiths." With a focus on the Master of Divinity program, the school's expressed purpose has been to prepare "men and women for ministry in the Roman Catholic tradition." With the formation of an interprovince novitiate and theologate in 1981, students from St. Paul of Cross Province now participate in the theology program offered at CTU. (Paul I. Bechtold, Catholic Theological Union at Chicago: The Founding Years, 1965-1975, Chicago: Catholic Theological Union, 1993)

Carroll Stuhlmueller C.P. and Donald Senior, C.P.

Educational Ministry has also been represented in the research and writing of such scholars as Carroll Stuhlmueller (above, left) and Donald Senior (Sacred Scripture) (above, right) and John Francis Kobler (the study of Vatican II). Thomas Berry is a noted authority on creation spirituality and issues of environmental concern. In the years following Vatican II, Passionists of both provinces offered various programs directed toward the renewal of religious life.

Ministry directly related to social justice has taken many forms:

  • A mission to Honduras (with an outreach to Haiti), begun in the fall of 1987, has served the needs of the sick and poor, provided care for orphans and a hospice for dying children, and developed parish communities with an emphasis on the development of lay leadership. The Casa Pasionista has provided a home for the dying and those living with AIDS.
  • A collaborative program in Detroit entitled "Life Directions" has encouraged high school students to focus upon developing their personal gifts in community.
  • STAUROS: USA has attempted to relate the mystery of the Passion of Jesus to the experience of human suffering.
  • Stewardship regarding investments has been fostered through membership in the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility.
  • In various locations, Passionists have been committed to ministries which seek to bring assistance and hope to the alienated, the chemically dependent, and those suffering from serious illness.
  • Since the early 1970s, Passionists have sponsored and worked in volunteer programs in Baja California, Appalachia, Mississippi, and Alabama. The on-going commitment of the laity to these programs has been inspiring.



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