Passionist Planning for Ministry: An Historical Perspective on the 1970s Kaski Report, Province Task Force on Consolidation and the Stotts Report

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by Fr. Rob Carbonneau, C.P.


For a good many Passionists and laity gathered at Mt. Pocono, Pennsylvania in May 2002 for the 46th Provincial Chapter for St. Paul of the Cross Province, the term “planning” might bring to mind the phrase “Déjà vu all over again.” On the one hand, attention at a Provincial Chapter to implement a Province Pastoral Plan is as commonplace as prayer and the election of a Provincial. On the other hand, the planning process evokes for some the image of being on an endless treadmill. And for some others it serves as the elixir for ministry, service, and creativity to preach the Gospel in and to serve the Church.

As we Passionists and friends of the Passionists move into the planning process so necessary for the 2006 Provincial Chapter it may be helpful to appreciate several points. First, detailed planning on a regular basis may be seen as one of the many gifts of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Second, the Kaski Report, the Task Force on Consolidation, and the Stotts Report summarized in the following article are a reminder that the Passionists do have a history of planning. Third, common parlance often leads to the comment that these planning projects often “just sit on the bookcase or shelf.” At the same time, if we are honest, we all need to be reminded that if the reports are on the shelf or bookcase it is we who can take them off. Fourth, we consequently consider re-visiting the contents of the reports. The information may offer us a helpful context as to how we have arrived at our present reality. Also, in my capacity as province historian such reports may be of educational importance for those who minister with the Passionists, are employed by the Passionists, or are part of the Mission Fulfillment Program or wish to participate in financial or development projects in the future.

Yes, Province Pastoral Planning is a thirty year old tradition in St. Paul of the Cross Province. Let us be mindful of this legacy.

Province Planning

During the 1970s many Passionist monasteries and retreats found themselves in a fight for their very existence. Not readily known to the general Catholic faithful, this fight developed after Vatican II. It came as a long term result of the Vatican request that religious congregations make the charism of their respective founders applicable to the modern era.

The Passionists, like other religious congregations, held a worldwide Extraordinary General Chapter in 1968 and 1970. The end product was the hotly contested Chapter Document: The Thirty-Ninth General Chapter of the Congregation of the Passion. It was a product of the April 28-June 19, 1970 gathering of the Passionist representatives in Rome. Compared to the previous Passionist Rule of Life which had directed their life, prayer and apostolate since 1720, the 1970 document lacked the traditional juridical and legislative tone. Instead, the 1970 Chapter Document employed Scripture and an historic understanding of Paulacrucian spirituality as a leaven to instill maturity in Passionist community life and the apostolate. Each Passionist province throughout the world was responsible for implementation of the document in their respective locales.

The Kaski Report 1971

Provincial of the eastern province Father Flavian Dougherty, one of the key progressive leaders during that 1970 General Chapter, concluded that an unbiased study of the eastern province was appropriate. From the information gained the Chapter Document might more readily enter Passionist daily life. The end result was The Passionists in the East Province: Today and Tomorrow. Report number 321. April 1971. This became known as the Kaski Report. During the winter of 1970 to 1971 the Katholiek Sociaal-Kerkelijk Institut (Kaski) located at 30, Paul Gabriëlstraat, The Hague, Netherlands conducted a series of interviews with Passionists in the eastern United States. Passionist Father Cor Spruit from the Netherlands conducted the research.

In all, the report was sixty-nine pages. After a short introductory note and introduction which stated the research method, the bulk of the material was divided into three chapters, a conclusion, and an appendix.

Chapter One set the tone by offering statistics and prognosis. In this part one of the points of attention was the developing vocation crisis. Chapter Two of the Kaski Report was divided into five parts which was based upon the interview process conducted throughout the province. Part one examined the views of a minority group of Passionists which the researchers had identified as those who had a traditional outlook towards the living out of their religious life. Part two explained that there was a majority group of Passionists who were defined as “neither clearly traditional nor exclusively progressive.” This led into clarity on the topics of renewal-adaptation; community life; community of prayer; apostolate; government and authority; urgent problems, and a conclusion. Part three of this second chapter gave voice to the progressives who were “the minority group with new ideas and views.” A fourth part offered general remarks on the Birmingham, Alabama experiment, which eventually became the House of Greater Solitude; the Canada experiment; the Passionist presence in Atlanta, Georgia; the mission effort in Jamaica, West Indies; and the attitude towards the document of the General Chapter. Chapter two ended with a short conclusion.

Chapter Three of the Kaski Report concentrated on the “past, the present and the future of an apostolic religious community.” Again, based upon interviews, one part looked at the sense and meaning of an apostolic community in general, for the Passionists, and for the Passionists in the Unites States. A second part tried to describe the “actual appearance of an apostolic-religious community” especially as it came to life in spirituality; community life; the apostolate; prayer-life; and government and authority. Immediately following was a four page section entitled “Further concrete possibilities.” The conclusion was an ending one page statement of summation.

Noteworthy was the Kaski Report decision to include a nine page appendix on Jamaica, West Indies. A key element in this was the attention paid to the Passionist missionary identity on the Caribbean island especially as it pertained to future possibilities of ministry surrounding the Gospel in light of “Jamaicanization” found in the local culture of the people.

Task Force on Consolidation

Just after the Kaski Report was completed in April 1971, the June 1971 Thirty-Eighth Provincial Chapter elected a Task Force on Consolidation which was given a mandate to study, re-evaluate and suggest options of action for all Passionist ministries. They promulgated the Report of the Task Force on Consolidation to the Province Assembly gathered at Bishop Molloy Retreat House, Jamaica, New York on January 10, 1972. The original forty-four page document examined twenty different topics directly related to province planning. Consolidation required all Passionist communities and ministries to send in self-studies. Much of this material emerged through the process of community meetings in each location. While Passionist community meetings were, historically, nothing new, what was novel was the process of meeting which emphasized and encouraged members to begin to take some responsibility for communal and ministerial activity. This “democratization” of religious life was a direct effect of Vatican II. Progressives welcomed it. More traditional religious were skeptical. Without a doubt many ingredients entered into this new research and planning potion from which all were to drink.

The Stotts Report

Provincial Father Flavian Dougherty took the leadership given to him through his re-election at the 1971 Provincial Chapter to launch The Research and Planning Project for the Passionists. Their study culminated in the publication a two volumes. The first completed in 1974 was titled The Religious. The second completed in 1975 was on the subject of Social Systems. While it is unfortunate that the proposed, and quite possibly most important third volume, Planning and Implementation was never published it is appropriate to give a synopsis of the contents in the two existing volumes. Collectively, this series of three paper-bound books was known as The Stotts Report. The Director of the Project was Dr. Herbert E. Stotts and his staff Dr. Orlo Strunk and Dr. John Ward. All were from Boston University School of Theology, Boston, Massachusetts. The Passionist Executive Board who worked so closely with them were Father Cassian J. Yuhaus, C.P., the Province Director for the Project and Fathers Michael Brennan, C.P. and Thomas Joyce, C.P. who were Research Associates.

The Religious 1974

This 312 page volume provides a time-capsule look of Passionist vowed religious life among priests and brothers in St. Paul of the Cross Province during the decade following Vatican II.

This consisted of eight chapters and three appendices. Chapter One explored “Systems Theory: The Monastery as a Case Study.” Chapter Two explained “Design and Research Procedures.” Chapter Three concentrated on “Recruitment” options which make others aware of the Passionist life and ministry while Chapter Four studied “Formation” which included such topics as the residence program, the novitiate, theologate, and Passionist Brothers Formation Program. Chapter Five offered a psychological profile of the “Religious” and their values; vows; religious faith; attitudes towards community; work, leisure and continuing education; and identity of the Passionist brothers. “The Senior Religious” were previewed in Chapter Six while “Local Leadership” was discussed in Chapter Seven and “Departees” was the topic in Chapter Eight. The three appendices consisted of published material gained by means of the interview process.

Social Systems 1975

This volume concentrated upon the public face and ministry of the Passionists. This 455 page volume was divided into ten chapters and an appendix. The researchers opted for a luncheon program at all Passionist ministry sites. This “Operation ‘Feedback’ ” invited people from each respective locale, 22 in all, to offer there image of the Passionists. Thirty years later, their comments make for reflective reading. This initial chapter included an extensive report, an “Inner Circle,” an “Outer Circle,” and Employee feedback.

Chapter Two on “The Monastery” is of interest because it provides valuable detail on the age differential in various Passionist locations; prioritization surrounding apostolic works; gains and losses or distribution of personnel; as well as physical and financial resources, public ministries, and the Passionist Monastery as a social system.

Chapter Three is helpful for its analysis of the Passionist “Retreat House” ministry. Each retreat house is examined separately along with their respective financial resources and involvement with the laity. Because of time constraints, the understanding of a Passionist parish is limited to St. Paul of the Cross Parish, Atlanta, Georgia. It was hoped that this 45 page section would constitute a “model for parish studies” to be done in other Passionist locations.

Chapter Five summarized “Chaplaincies and Particularized Ministries” while Chapter Six signaled the impact of “Mass Media” such as Sign Magazine and the Radio and Television Ministry. Chapter Seven offered readers a thorough appreciation of the “Preaching” ministry. Over the years, the relationship, hierarchy of value, and expression of these above three ministries would occupy much attention in many Passionist ministries.

The last part of the volume featured “Missions and Regional Vicariates” in Chapter Eight, “Finances” in Chapter Nine and “Provincial Government” in Chapter Ten. Finally, the Appendix is a “Survey of Provincial Administration.”

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