This artistic image from the Passionist Historical Archives shows St. Peter’s Chapel Car. This was specially designed Pullman Car developed in conjunction with the Catholic Extension Society in Chicago. This Passionist ministry crisscrossed North Carolina from 1925 to 1931 by way of local railroad tracks with the purpose to preach the Gospel to scattered Catholics especially Black Catholics and purposely reach non-Catholics.
Existent archival sources in the Passionist Historical Archives suggest local Catholics coordinated the stopovers. Given the public dynamics of the event this Chapel Car ministry often interacted with a local population which abided by ongoing racist segregation laws and anti-Catholic prejudice frequently promoted by Ku Klux Klan.
Greater scholarly research would be welcome to know the successes and challenges faced by Passionist preachers: Fathers Alexis Cunneen (1874-1935), Stephen Sweeney (1889-1971) Egbert Albert (1892-1929) and Luke Hay (1893-1979). Worthy of note is that when Father Albert preached a Catholic parish mission at St. Benedict’s Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, he proved inspirational to then 13 year-old Thomas Berry (1914-2009). Berry eventually became a Passionist priest and scholar renown for his study of cultural history, religion and the environment. Also, according Father Hay’s obituary it is recorded that he participated the Chapel Car apostolate for three years. It also stated that the Chapel Car had living quarters for the priest missionary, an altar for saying Mass and could seat a capacity of sixty-six people. Hay is said to have preached 52 missions.