St. Joseph’s Monastery History: Other Apostolates

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The original agreement between Archbishop Spalding and the Passionists in 1865 called for the Fathers to establish themselves in the diocese by administering St. Agnes Parish, Catonsville, and serving as chaplains to the Visitation Nuns at Mt. de Sales. Shortly afterwards, the Fathers became chaplains to the Xaverians, the boys both at St. Mary’s Industrial School and Mt. St. Joseph’s High School. By the late 1890s they were chaplains at St. Agnes Hospital, a position held by a Passionist continuously since that time.

With some interruption, the priests of St. Joseph’s Monastery cared for the spiritual needs of the Sisters at Mt. de Sales, until 1909, when a resident chaplain was appointed. They ministered to St. Mary’s from its opening until the school closed in 1945. Father Francis Murmann served the Brothers and the boys at the school for thirty-two years. It was he who baptized the city’s most famous native athlete, George Herman “Babe” Ruth.

The local foundation took on still another responsibility in 1938 when Archbishop Curley requested the Passionists to provide a chaplain for Bon Secours Hospital. The first resident chaplain is still assigned there. He is the widely known Father Silvan Brennan, C.P., dubbed by H. L. Mencken as “Friar Tuck.”

The Fathers were chaplains to the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart Sisters when they maintained their Motherhouse on Woodington Road, prior to moving to their present Towson location. They are also chaplains to Jenkins Memorial Hospital.

The Fathers, of course, administer St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish and are active in all the attendant parochial activities. Another aspect of parochial life in which the Fathers are regularly called to participate is supplying priests to aid with Sunday Masses and other religious services in understaffed parishes. They are also in constant demand as speakers for various parish activities such as Forty Hours Devotions, Communion breakfasts and meetings of various societies and organizations.

An important, but perhaps little-known function of St. Joseph’s Monastery is its use as a training center for newly ordained Passionist priests.

At one time the Eastern Province of St. Paul of the Cross conducted a “traveling seminary,” wherein different courses were given at different monastery locations from year to year. Therefore, over the years, St. Joseph’s has had seminarians assigned during various stages of their training.

Prior to 1955, the year immediately following ordination was devoted to study in Sacred Eloquence, that is, training in the various aspects of homiletics. Since the establishment by the Holy See in 1955 of the requirement for all priests of religious orders to spend the year immediately following ordination in pastoral study, the Passionists have enlarged the scope of this year’s training to include a wide area of study. Since 1964 this “pastoral year,” as it is known, has been taken in residence at St. Joseph’s. It is an “in-training” program for young priests, initiating them into a variety of apostolic works, while completing their studies before specific assignments.

After the second hundred years, the names and events recorded here may take on different importance or significance. If the past is truly prologue, as history is wont to argue, the words which Archbishop Michael J. Curley uttered at the laying of the cornerstone of the new church in 1931 will be as meaningful on the bicentennial as they are today:

“The spiritual sons of St. Paul of the Cross have devoted themselves zealously to the campaign of intensifying the spiritual life of this Archdiocese. There is no more loyal band of priests in all this Archdiocese than the good men who wear the insignia of Jesus Christ upon their cassocks. The badge of Him whom they preach, Jesus Christ Crucified, has become dear to our priests and people. It has become a sign of the priestly wisdom and piety of those who wear it. I could say much in praise of the Passionist Fathers, but in the end all the praise could be summed up simply by saying, ‘They have done their work well.'”