Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Historical Summary
In 1852, at the request of Bishop Michael O’Connor of Pittsburgh, four Passionists arrived in Pittsburgh: Fathers Anthony Calandri, Albinus Magno, Stanislaus Parczyk, and Brother Lawrence DiGiacomo. By 1853 the present monastery was built and additions followed in 1855 and 1856. The adjacent church, with a commanding view of downtown Pittsburgh, was erected in 1858. The monastery and church quickly became a center of novena devotions and a destination for people in need.
At the request of the diocese, Passionists staffed the nearby church of St. Michael’s from 1853 until 1973 and founded St. Joseph’s Church in 1867, turning it over to the diocese in 1887. In addition, Passionists began preaching parish missions throughout the East. For most of its history St. Paul of the Cross Monastery served as the site of the novitiate for the initial training of candidates. In the 1960s it was also a residence for students studying theology. Many found the monastery and church to be places of peace. During the Depression the monastery soup kitchen became a special place for people in need of help. A Food Bank continues today at the monastery.
Those seeking an extended time of peace availed themselves of the retreat house, the first Passionist retreat house for lay men, which opened in 1920. An extension was added in 1961. Today, there are 40 weekend retreats each year, accommodating up to 120 people on a weekend. The Passionists and lay staff have maintained a busy schedule of preached weekend retreats for men and women, evenings of recollection, as well as specialized programs and hosted events.
By 1948 an increase in vocations, devotional services, and retreats necessitated a renovation of the entire complex. Rededication took place in 1950. But by the 1970s, fewer vocations and aging personnel demanded an adaptation. From 1977 until 2000 the original monastery wing was home to St. Paul’s Manor, a health care facility. In 2001 Mercy Behavioral Health System began to use this area. During this same period, the Passionist section of the monastery was renovated.
Today the Passionists in Pittsburgh remain dedicated to serving the needs of the local church through the various ministries, especially reconciliation and spiritual direction, of the monastery, church, and retreat house.