St. Joseph’s Monastery: In the Beginning

St. Joseph’s Passionist Monastery, Baltimore, Maryland
History of the Foundation

In March, 1865, a team of Passionist Fathers—Gaudentius Rossi, Superior; Anthony Calandri, John Baptist Baudinelli and Basil Keating-arrived in Baltimore to preach parish missions at St. John’s, St. Peter’s and the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Before the last mission had been concluded, the Congregation of the Passion, in the person of Rossi, had accepted the invitation of Archbishop Martin John Spalding to establish a foundation in this, the Primatial See. Thus, from the very beginning the followers of St. Paul of the Cross made a definite and visible contribution to the spiritual life of the Archdiocese. Their arrival was simple, their contribution immediate and their effect on the community permanent. In his book, Compelled to Speak, which recounts the early history of the Passionists in America, Father Cassian J. Yuhaus, C.P., states:

“None of the great missions were as lasting in their effect on a diocese or in the Order as the three that were held in Baltimore in 1865—apart from the great amount of good they effected at the time. Most significant is the fact that it was only in Baltimore that the Order, once it arrived, literally never left. No foundation in the history of the Order in America was accomplished as directly and simply.”

The immediate task was to administer, temporarily, the parish of St. Agnes in Catonsville, “a pretty suburb of Baltimore.” Father John Thomas Stephanini was elected first superior of the proposed foundation, and Father Charles Lang was appointed his assistant on Passion Sunday, April 2, 1865. Archbishop Spalding “solemnly and publicly before a large congregation installed” Father Stephanini as superior and pastor of St. Agnes. Brother Boniface Feld, who helped to pioneer each new foundation, was also assigned to the staff. Thus, Baltimore officially became the fourth foundation of the Passionists in the United States.

Within three months of their arrival, the devout Mrs. Emily McTavish, granddaughter of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, presented the Fathers with eight acres of land on Maiden Choice Lane as a site for their monastery. When they subsequently determined this location to be unsuitable, she graciously allowed them to sell the land and use the money to purchase a sixteen-acre tract on Frederick Avenue across from Loudon Park.

A small frame church, known as the Church of the Passion, was built in a wooded grove to accommodate the Catholics of the immediate area.