Let the Celebrations Begin!

One of the first impressions of Passionist archives was to associate them with the smell of cigars. In the 1970s I had the opportunity to go the St. Michael’s Passionist Monastery in Union City, New Jersey. Sure, I went to the large church and toured the corridors of the monastery, but a distinct and lasting memory was meeting Passionist priest John Poole. He was the chronicler. I found out from him that in his small office in the basement of the Union City monastery was a collection of documents that brought alive the experience of the Passionists in the United States since 1852. I became curious. What do these documents reveal? I asked John Poole if he could show me around. He put his cigar down and started opening up metal file cabinets.

Each cabinet held the Passionist world in the United States. There was information about monasteries in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Union City, New Jersey; Dunkirk, New York; Baltimore, Maryland; The Colored Missions in North Carolina; the Passionist missions to Hunan, China; the Passionist retreat movement; Passionist parishes; St. Ann’s Novena in Scranton; Argentina; Normandy, Missouri. A simple question opened up a world of study and reflection.

I did not have enough time to look at all the material. There was just too much. I realized understanding the Passionists is an invitation to participate in a larger experience of contemplation and action. I left there with an urge to know how these Passionists shaped the gospel in their life and ministry.

I realized that people make history. History is more than facts, information and dates. History breathes. It has a smell just like the cigar smoke that permeated the documents. As time went on I desired to find the historical pulse of the Passionists in the United States; to understand it; to critique it; to know what makes Passionists Passionists. In other words what was the motivational force behind this group of priests, brothers, sisters and ordinary people who desired “to preach the Crucified?” In what way has this United Sates experience of the Passionist Congregation founded by St. Paul of the Cross left its mark in the world?

The meaning of being Passionist still excites me. Therefore I am trying to share some of this excitement with you. On Labor Day 2002 the Passionist will celebrate 150 years of ministry in the United States. Through regular reflection thoughts on Passionist history let us celebrate this milestone. Weekly or bi-monthly, depending upon time and schedule, I will explore 150 years of Passionist history. I hope it will be a means for us to be educated in our experience and begin to enter into a spirit and sense of the sacred as we move towards our Labor Day 2002 celebration.

I envision this as a process. Reflections will be short and to the point and punctuated with questions or resource material for further study. Topics will vary.

Simply read, think and reflect. Forward these reflections to anyone you know interested in the Passionists. It is time to celebrate and understand 150 years of our base presence in the United States.

Fr. Rob Carbonneau, C.P.
Historian and Director of The Passionist Historical Archives.
March 5, 2000

Please contact me at [email protected] if you have any comments. Permission of Archives needed for publication.