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Passionists

PASSIONISTS

(Official Catholic Directory, #1000). A religious institute professing simple perpetual vows and officially entitled the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, for which the initials are "C. P." The habit is a black tunic with a leather belt. The heart-shaped emblem with a cross mounted on the heart with the inscription Jesu XPI Passio "The Passion of Jesus Christ" in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin is the official seal of the Passionists and is worn on the tunic.

Origin. The Passionists were founded in Italy in 1720 by Paul Francis Danei (now St. paul of the cross), who, at the age of 26, after a retreat of 40 days, wrote the Rule and Constitutions for his Passionist Community. The following year he took a vow to promote the memory of the Passion; this particular vow accounts for the Congregation's distinctive spirituality and its specific apostolate. In 1725 Benedict XIII permitted Paul to recruit members, but it was not until 1737 that the first foundation was completed on Monte Argentario near Orbetello.

Papal approval was granted for the Rule in 1741 and again in 1769, following two revisions. The reasons for the delay in approval were: (1) the severity of the original Rule, which had to be tempered so as to make it livable;(2) Paul had extensive correspondence with the Holy See to convince them the purpose of the Community was to keep alive the "memory of the Passion" rather than simply to promote "devotion to the Passion." After the Rule was approved for the first time, Paul sought to obtain permission for solemn vows for his brethren. The reason for this is that it would allow him more authority in presenting

candidates for ordination, rather than making him dependent on the local bishop for such permissions. It would also allow him to establish a Community of passionist nuns. On November 16, 1769, Clement XIV's bull Supremi Apostolatus praised and approved the Passionist Congregation. Soon after, the pope entrusted to the Passionists the perpetual custody of the ancient Basilica of SS. John and Paul on the Coelian Hill in Rome that became the General Headquarters of the Congregation. By the time of his death, October 18, 1775, Paul had established 12 houses, two provinces, and in Rome, one hospice; he presided over six General Chapters; his members numbered 114 priests and 62 brothers. He also founded a second community, the cloistered Passionists Nuns.

Spirituality. The spirituality of the Passionists is identical with that of its founder. The cross dominated Paul's life. He desired to participate as intimately and absolutely as possible in the sufferings and death of the Redeemer to effect the complete transformation of his soul in God. The establishment of an Institute whose members would perpetually carry out this ideal and bring its fruits to countless souls was the single object of all his labors. The Rule and the way of life he bequeathed his followers aimed at removing every obstacle to participation in

Christ's Passion and at providing every means to render it efficacious. Hence, the spirit of the Congregation, emphasized in its official documents, is one of prayer, penance, and solitude.

Rule. St. Paul of the Cross' Rule for the Passionists has had only three revisions in over 200 years. In 1917 a minor revision was occasioned by the new Code of Canon Law. The second was completed in 1958 after a study was carried out according to the desires and norms of the Holy See. The Rule and Constitutions were again given papal approval by John XXIII in the brief Salutiferos Cruciatus. The Rule and Constitutions were revised again in 1984 after the Second Vatican Council, which exhorted religious communities to rediscover their founders and charism. The Passionist Rule states that the specific purpose of the Congregation is "to recall and promote the memory of the Passion of Christ by its way of life and its apostolate, especially its ministry of preaching."

Passionists take the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as well as a special vow to keep alive in the hearts of the people of God the memory of the sufferings and passion of Christ. The members of this Congregation are called to a contemplative-apostolic spirituality. This is attained through a serious commitment to prayer, community living, and a vigorous apostolic ministry. This latter is especially attained through the preaching of the word of God, in retreats and parochial missions, and by teaching people to pray.

Apostolate. The Second Vatican Council had a profound influence on the life and ministry of the Congregation. The decrees of the 42nd (1988), 43rd (1994), and 44th (2000) General Chapters of the Congregation have researched the founder and the charism of the Community. As a result, the Community has developed a rich understanding of the "memory of the Passion," which in turn has driven the members to identify with and embrace the "crucified of the world" today. These Chapters have motivated its members to have "a passion for life, and a life for the Passion" in contemporary society.

History. For the first 35 years after the death of its founder, the Congregation progressed slowly but steadily, with emphasis on the contemplative and penitential aspects of the life. The first crisis occurred in 1810, when religious communities in Italy were forced to disperse by the Napoleonic suppression of religious communities. Reestablished by Pius VII in 1814, the Passionists were among the first communities reconstituted in Rome. It would take several years for the Community to regain its original vitality before considering any further growth. Before 1840, the Congregation limited itself to Italy, where it had two provinces. The 60 following years, however, were years of increase and expansion during which houses were founded in 13 countries in Europe and America; ten new provinces were formed; a mission in Bulgaria was increased; and a mission to the Australian aborigines was undertaken. The membership rose from 371 in 1840 to 1,475 in 1905.

The man credited for this new growth, Anthony Testa, was well prepared to direct the progress of the Community. After 12 years as provincial of a northern Italian province, he was chosen to be the Superior General of the Congregation. As Superior General he governed for 23 years (183062) and is regarded as the second founder. Bernard Silvestrelli guided the Institute from 1875 until his death in 1911. His reputation for holiness and the favors obtained through his intercession led to the introduction of his cause before the Holy See.

In 2001, the total membership of the Passionists was 2,326 religious: 13 bishops, 1,779 priests, 274 brothers, five permanent deacons, and 255 students. There were approximately 400 communities of Passionists throughout the world, spread over 55 countries on the five continents, organized into 23 provinces, four Vice Provinces, and one General Vicariate, with various Provincial Vicariates in mission areas.

Outstanding Members. Besides St. Paul of the Cross, other members of the Congregation have been canonized: St. Eugene bossilkov (19001952), St. Innocent Canoura Arnau (18871934), St. Gabriel possenti (18381862), and St. Vincent strambi (17451824). St. Gemma galgani (18781903) and St. Maria goretti (18901902) were also sponsored by the Passionists. Fourteen other causes are in various degrees of advancement before the Holy See. Most notable among these causes are: Blessed Dominic barberi (17921849), who received John Henry newman into the Church; Blessed Pius campidelli (18681889), Blessed Isidore De Loor (18811916) from Belgium, Blessed Nicephorous Diez-Tejerina (18931936) and 27 martryed Passionists (priests, brothers, and students) in the Spanish Civil War, Blessed Charles houben (18211893), a Hollander in Dublin, Ireland, Blessed Grimaldo santamaria (18831902), Blessed Bernard Mary silvestrelli (18401921), and Blessed Lawrence salvi (17821856). About 50 other Passionist religious are listed in postulation archives.

Work in the United States. The Passionists established the first house of their Congregation in the U. S. at Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1852 at the invitation of Bishop Michael O'Connor. In 2001 they had 35 communities in the U. S., one in Canada, and two in Jamaica, West Indies. There are 366 religious in two provinces: the eastern with the headquarters at South River, New Jersey, and the western with headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. Foremost among the preaching communities, Passionists pioneered in the retreat movement; they conducted retreats for the laity, priests, and religious, and preached parish missions and renewal programs throughout the United States and Canada. The Passionists in the United States established independent vicariates and are still staffing missions in China, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, West Indies, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines, as well as, parishes in African-American communities in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. In the past, they published The Sign, a monthly magazine of national interest, and are highly involved in television ministries.

Bibliography: c. yuhaus, Compelled to Speak: the Passionists in America, Origin and Apostolate (Westminster, MD 1967). r. mercurio, c. p., The Passionists (Collegeville, MN 1991). f. ward, The Passionists: Sketches Historical and Personal (New York 1923). f. giorgini, History of the Passionists (Rome 19871988).

[k. o'malley/

c. j. yuhaus]

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