Passionist Overseas Missions
by Brother Leo Di Fiore, C.P.
Passionist Overseas Missions was established as an ongoing Mission Awareness Office for the Province of St. Paul of the Cross in 1980. Without the support and insight of the then Provincial Consultor Fr. Roger Elliott, C.P., the office of Mission Awareness, – “Passionist Overseas Missions” – would not have become a reality.
The American Provinces, for many years, have promoted our Mission work. Initially our work in China and then in later years in the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Jamaica, West Indies, Honduras, Mexico, and India, as well as having Passionists from North America serving in additional Mission areas not directly assigned to the North American Provinces.
The establishment of the Passionist China Mission in Hunan did not come easily. The request for a Mission territory in China given to the Holy See was met with the response, on more than one occasion, of a Mission area in Tibet. Only after long negotiations Hunan was given.
For many years making the Catholic population of the United States aware of the Passionist Mission efforts was done mainly through Sign magazine. The China Missions were greatly promoted by Sign, the articles written by the Sign staff and by Missionaries serving in China were not only accepted with enthusiasm but served as an excellent incentive for initiating vocations throughout the late 1920s through the late 1950s. Sign also offered an excellent source for helping to finance our Mission efforts.
Along with Sign, an added dimension was the ‘Mission Appeals’ as Dioceses and Archdioceses around the country developed Mission programs and Propagation of the Faith Offices as well as Mission Cooperative Programs. The Passionists of North America were a part of this effort. We would have speakers available for conducting such programs. These programs or Appeals were often done by former Missionaries or Missionaries on furlough.
As the years of change took place within the Church and especially in the American Church, the late 1960s proved to be a challenge even in supporting our Overseas Missions. By the 1970s this challenge became even more evident with the aging of personnel and such sources of Mission Awareness like Sign no longer being in existence.
Passionist Overseas Missions, for the Province of St. Paul of the Cross, was one way of trying to meet that challenge by having an office dedicated to Mission Awareness. The office would work closely with the Propagation of the Faith Offices of the Archdioceses/Dioceses of the United States. Our personnel, Passionists, who were most willing to offer a weekend or two and in some cases many more than just a few weekends, promoted our Mission efforts overseas and our men serving in Mission territories. We also at times called upon Permanent Deacons closely associated with the Passionists either in our ministry or through a close personal relationship with our Mission efforts and apostolates. Sisters of other congregations who through their history have been associated with our Missions such as the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, Pennsylvania and the Sisters of Charity of Convent Station, New Jersey have been asked to aid us in our Mission Awareness programs in varied ways.
Over the years the Brothers of the Province of St. Paul of The Cross have also played a large part in the Mission Awareness Programs of the Province. Br. Terence Skorka, C.P. for many years conducted appeals and also coordinated personnel for the various Mission Appeal assignments. Br. August Parlavechio, C.P., Br. André Mathieu, C.P., Br. Edward Hall, C.P., Br. Michael Moran, C.P., Br. Paul Morgan, C.P., Br. Joseph Rogers, C.P., Br. Michael Stomber, C.P., Br. Matthew Krawchyk, C.P. – all of these Brothers have held to the long tradition of financing our Mission efforts. A tradition that goes back to the time of Paul of the Cross himself asking the Brothers along with others of his Religious to go on the ‘quest’. In the establishment of the North American Province one of the founders, Br. Lawrence Di Giacomo, C.P., was noted in the chronicles of the Province for his outstanding abilities; on the ‘quest’.
Through his efforts both in the United States and Canada in the 1850s and early 1860s, much of the establishment of the Passionists in the United States was accomplished. Br. Lambert Budde, C.P., a Passionist Brother from Belgium, and outstanding architect and contractor serving at the China missions, built many of the early structures established in our then Prelature of Hunan. A long and most inspiring tradition among our men is not only serving the Universal Church in Mission Territories, but also in making the Congregation known and established in new and challenging areas of the world.
How do we make our presence known, in Mission lands, to the faithful of today’s world with our work in developing countries? One way is to give them heroes. Not a new idea, an idea long used by Sign and our preachers for years, and we have the heroes. The China Martyrs Fr. Godfrey, Holbein, C.P., Fr. Clement Seybold, C.P., Fr. Walter Coveyou, C.P.. The Philippine Martyr Fr. Carl Schmitt, C.P.. The men who served in China, Bishop Cuthbert O’Gara, Bishop Quentin Olwell, who also served in the Philippines – Bishop Reginald Arliss, C.P., Second Bishop of Marbel – and added heroes such as Fr. William Westhoven, C.P., Fr. Paul Ubinger, Fr. Linus Lombard, C.P., Fr. Germain Heilman, C.P., Fr. Marcellus White, C.P., Fr. Ernest Hotz, C.P., only to mention a few.
All of these men had or have their stories. Some were reluctant to share the ‘whole’ story with us because parts of that story were just too painful to relive, but all are heroes. These are but a few, I can’t name them all, space and time will not allow for the accounting of each name, but all are heroes who still engender in the hearts of the faithful, devotion to a spirit of commitment, personal discipline, faithfulness to beliefs and a willingness to sacrifice all to bring Christ, a Christ crucified, to their people. These heroes did this not in a stylized or idealistic way but in the events of everyday life meeting the human needs as well as the spiritual needs of the people they felt privileged to serve.
There is a belief, and I am a strong promoter of that belief, that the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ will survive and prosper through our Mission efforts worldwide and in third world countries. I firmly believe this! For we have a long tradition of our love for the Missions and that has been manifested in many ways over the years throughout the Congregation. I can recall recently being told that our Province was willing to financially aid another Province’s Missions with support for the men serving there. The local Superior of that Mission, after consulting with his fellow Missionaries, notified the donor Province that they were grateful for the possible assistance but they would only accept the help if it could be used for the poor, who they serve, for they felt they as Passionist Missionaries had to make it on their own but they could use the funds better by using them for the poor of their Mission area.
On yet another level with the leadership of the Congregation over the years there has been a constant love and vigilance for the Missions even to the point of recent Superior Generals, after their terms have been completed, choosing to serve in Mission territories. To name only a few, Most Rev. Malcolm Lavelle, C.P. serving in Mandeville, Philippines and India, Most Rev. Paul Boyle, D.D., C.P. serving as Ordinary of the Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica, West Indies, and past Superior General Most Rev. Jose Augustine Orbegozo, C.P., has on several occasions expressed his hope to one day serve as a Missionary to Peru.
We are a Preaching Congregation. We are a Missionary Congregation, not by accident but by design of St. Paul of The Crass. We are to preach Christ crucified and where do you find Christ crucified today? On the streets of India where the Passionists are serving. In the towns of Africa where the Passionists are serving. At an AIDS hospice, ‘Casa Passionista’, in Honduras established by the Passionists as well as at St. Benedict Clinic serving more than 40,000 people annually in the mountains of Honduras. You find Christ crucified with the poor living in a city with violence, like Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies. In all of these places and more, wherever there is a Passionist serving, you find Christ crucified. You find Him today and as we approach the new millennium, we continue to find Him as we will in millennia to come.