St. Paul of the Cross preached and ministered only in Italy. In fact, his new Congregation was confined within the borders of the Papal States in Central Italy. But even from his earliest days as a Passionist, his vision reached out to the nations “beyond the seas.” As early as 1758 St. Paul expressed his willingness to accept mission responsibilities in the region “beneath Mount Causcasus in Asia.” Father Caspar Caulfield, our recently retired General Mission Secretary, has written of St. Paul’s mission efforts and delivered a discourse on this subject at the Second Passionist Asian Superiors Conference in Seoul, 1977.

The Passionists were able to accept the first foreign mission in 1781 when two missionaries went to Nicopolis in Bulgaria. This was a mission to the faithful of the Latin Rite. Passionists have remained there ever since. Today there are five religious of the Dutch Province still in that Communist-controlled country.

In 1840 the great Passionist General, Father Anthony Testa, was able to send Passionists “beyond the seas” out of Italy. Father Dominic Barberi founded the Congregation in France, Belgium and England. Later Father Anthony Calandri and his companions were sent to establish the Passionists in the United States. Father Anthony was also conscious of the life-long dream of the Founder for Passionist foreign missions. He sent four Passionist missionaries to far away Australia to work among the aborigines. This effort proved a failure, but one of the four missionaries finally landed in San Francisco and brought the Passionists to California. He was later joined by other missionaries, but this mission also ended in failure of a sorts. For some of the California missionaries, under the leadership of Father John Dominic Tarlattini, got to Mexico and there established the Congregation.

It was in this way that the newly founded American Province of St. Paul of the Cross began mission-foundations in Mexico, Argentina and Chile. When our own Province was founded in 1906, the religious had a mission consciousness that extended “beyond the seas” or at least beyond the borders of the United States. Some of the first religious in our Province had served in Mexico or Argentina.

It was natural, therefore, when in 1921 the Province of St. Paul of the Cross opened a mission in China that religious from our Province would volunteer to join them. And this they did for several decades. The story of the Passionists in China – first told in the pages of The Sign – has been a glorious one for both Provinces. We in the west are proud of our men who went to China. We celebrate the memory of Father Walter Coveyou, who was killed by bandits in 1929. We are honored by the spirit of our China veterans now residing at Daneo Hall, Father William Westhoven, Father Anthony Maloney and Father Harold Travers. We revere the memory of those who have died. We give special esteem to the last two Holy Cross Passionists who went to China in 1948, Father Carl Schmitz, now in the Philippines, and Father Paul Placek in Japan.

Just as Holy Cross Passionists joined the Eastern brethren in going to China, so also they joined Eastern brethren who were making another foundation “beyond the seas” – this time in post World War I Austria and Germany. Father Leonard Barthelemy (now residing in Daneo Hall) is a veteran of the very first years of the Austrian-German foundation. Father Fidelis Benedik, golden jubilarian this year, is a veteran of the 1930 period in Germany. Father Kyran O’Connor has served twice in Germany in more recent years.

Religious of our Province have also served in “mission areas” even though not “beyond the seas.” I am thinking of our men among the Blacks of Birmingham and our more recent ventures into Mexico, especially Tijuana. Hopefully, both stories can be related later on during this jubilee year.

It was during the Passionist American centenary year of 1952 that the Provincial, Father James Patrick White, announced that Holy Cross Province would be sending religious to Japan. The original Superior was Father Julius Busse. As he was preparing to leave he was stricken with deadly cancer and was replaced by Father Matthew Vetter. Father Matthew Vetter, accompanied by Father Carl Schmitz, and shortly afterwards by Father Paul Placek and Father Clement Paynter, laid the foundations of the Passionists in Japan. There we have two retreat houses, one at Mefu near Osaka, and the other at Fukuoka. We have a student house in Tokyo and a parish in Ikeda.

Just this week I received word that we are founding a second parish at Kawanishi in the Archdiocese of Osaka and also not too distant from our Mefu community. Father John Patrick Day will be the founding pastor. The Passionist Nuns have a convent and retreat house in nearby Hibarigaoka. There are presently seventeen religious in the Japanese Vicariate. Six of these are Japanese. There are also two Japanese novices.

A second foundation “beyond the seas” was begun by Holy Cross Province in 1964. Once again the Provincial, Father James Patrick White, inaugurated the foundation in Korea. Father Raymond McDonough, Father Patrick O’Malley and later Father Justin Bartoszek were the original members of the Korean foundation. By 1969 a retreat house was opened at Kwangju. That same year a foundation was made at the capital city of Seoul. A large retreat house was built in Seoul in 1977. There are presently nine Passionists in Korea, five of whom are Koreans.

In sending missionaries to both Japan and Korea, the Provincial and the Province had the intention of establishing formal canonical foundations in both countries in the hope that one day each would become a Vice Province and eventually an independent Province. From the very beginning in both countries vocations were sought. Also from the very beginning the religious engaged in our specific Passionist ministry of preaching to the faithful. Our men conducted many parish missions, offered retreats to the religious and clergy and set about establishing retreat houses. The non-Catholic population was not neglected but from the very beginning we concentrated on the faithful . Even before Vatican II we were concerned to make apostles and “missionaries” of the laymen and laywomen of both countries. The happy results of these efforts are evidenced by the solid foundations established in both countries of the Far East.

Holy Cross Passionists are also working with our Eastern brethren in another country of the Far East, namely the Philippines. Father Anthony Maloney was among the pioneers in Mindanao. Father Malcolm LaVelle, our revered former General Superior, served in the Philippines for five years on two different occasions. Presently Father John Aelred Torisky and Father Carl Schmitz are in the Philippine Vicariate.

Before we leave the Far East of Japan, Korea and the Philippines, we should also mention that since the 60s religious have gone to these countries to conduct retreats and workshops for the English-speaking missionaries. We recall Father William Westhoven, Father Barnabas Ahern, Father Carroll Stuhlmueller, Father James Busch, Father Donald Senior, Father Thomas More Newbold, and many, many others who have conducted retreats and workshops over the years. These men, too, have served in the lands “beyond the seas.”

And now as we celebrate our seventy-fifth jubilee we pay special homage to Father Walter Kaelin who has volunteered to go to India and who has been appointed First Superior of the newly organized Indian Mission-foundation. While this is not a Holy Cross Mission, we are proud that one of our own, who served us as Provincial, is now serving the Congregation in the establishment of our community in India.

Finally, while celebrating our ministries “beyond the seas” we must give special mention to Holy Cross Province’s most recent “missionary” to the lands “beyond the seas.” I am referring to our Superior General, Father Paul M. Boyle. Father Paul has journeyed by land, sea and air to all the missionary areas of the Congregation. He has reached the farthest outpost in the heights of the Andes and along the Congo. It is true to say that wherever there is a Passionist missionary, Father Paul has gone to welcome him and support him. He has also held meetings and conferences for the Superiors and Vicariates of Africa, South America and Asia. In so many ways he has furthered the Passionist mission endeavors in the lands “beyond the seas.” It is no surprise that our Holy Father has appointed Father Paul a Consultor to the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of People. Father Barnabas Ahern is also serving “beyond the seas” as a Consultor to the Sacred Congregation of Christian Doctrine.

We Passionists of Holy Cross Province have much to be proud of, much to be grateful for. We have a wonderful missionary heritage which each of us must strive to continue in the years ahead.

Very Rev. Roger Mercurio, C. P.
Provincial Superior
November 11, 1981

Please contact Fr. Rob Carbonneau, C.P. at [email protected] if you have any comments. Permission of Archives needed for publication.