Compassion Magazine

Sisters of the Cross and Passion

Mother Mary JosephOn March 25, 1851, Elizabeth Prout and two young women moved into a house on 69 Stocks Street in the parish of St. Chad's in Manchester, England. They called it St. Joseph Convent. On November 21, 1852, the first seven sisters received the religious habit. This was the beginning of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion.

Home visitsThe foundation of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion was a direct outgrowth of the Passionist Mission to England in the mid-nineteenth century. The purpose of their foundation was twofold. The goal of the Passionists in England was to win converts to the Catholic Church and to inject new life into the Catholicism already present. The Passionist Sisters were intended from the beginning to participate in this mission, especially in their work with women. They were also founded to make religious life available to poor, hard working women who could not become nuns in other communities because they lacked the necessary dowry. The first Sisters of the Cross and Passion were unique in England because they combined a contemplative lifestyle with an active apostolate and they earned their own living, some in factories. (left: home visits in the United States, 1957)

From the beginning, Elizabeth Prout, now Mother Mary Joseph (above, right), met with opposition from people who thought nuns who went out to work were a contradiction in terms. However, the bishop and many of the clergy were very pleased to have sisters who would teach not only day classes and Sunday school, but evening classes, instruct converts, care for sodalities, and go out to the homes to visit the lapsed and the sick.

Sisters of the Cross and Passion - first Sisters to arrive in USA
First Sisters to arrive in the US, from left:
Sr Dionysius Fitzpatrick, Mother Gonzaga McCunnin, Sr Louis Myers, Sr Pius Rudden

In North America

Sr Joan Robinson with studentsThe first four Sisters of the Cross and Passion arrived in the United States on March 6, 1924, at the invitation of Bishop William A. Hickey of Providence, Rhode Island. The sisters established themselves in Providence teaching in the Assumption parish school. In 1932 they opened a novitiate in Bristol, Rhode Island.

The community grew slowly and was able to accept invitations to staff other parish schools in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Maryland. The sisters also became involved in retreat work, opening their own retreat house, Our Lady of Calvary, in Farmington, Connecticut in 1958. In 1985 three sisters began work with the Passionists at their mission in Jamaica, West Indies.

Today, in response to the changing needs of the Church, the Sisters of the Cross and Passion in North America engage in a variety of ministries. In addition to education and ministries of spirituality such as retreat work, preaching, and spiritual direction, many sisters do pastoral work in parishes and hospitals. In imitation of their foundress, Elizabeth Prout, much of the sisters' work is with the poor and aims at improving the lives of women. (above right, Sr Joan Robinson with students, 1999)

--Mary Ann Strain, C.P.




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