Brothers in Holy Cross Province

Priests, students and brothers have lived the Passionist life together. In this essay I want to recall with you the lives and activities of many of our Passionist Brothers these seventy-five years. On our Diamond Jubilee we give thanks for the contributions of Brothers in our Province.

In July of 1906, when Holy Cross Province was organized, there were twenty Brothers among the eighty-nine religious making-up the membership. Among the novices, there were also two Brothers who had begun their novitiate in Pittsburgh. According to Province records (which I have been working with recently) during these seventy-five years one hundred and fifteen men have been professed as Brothers, making-up altogether one hundred and thirty-five Brothers in the Province. Of these thirty-six are deceased, twenty-seven are presently members of the Province, one transferred to the Argentine Province and seventy-one left the religious life.

In the early years of the Province Brothers were responsible for the various domestic duties in the monasteries. In each monastery the basic duties were those of the cook, porter, tailor, infirmarian, refectorian, gardener or farmer, maintenance man, boiler man, etc. One Brother fulfilled one or more of these tasks or “offices” as we called them. For example, one Brother usually would be porter, tailor and infirmarian. The Brother who took care of the boiler during the winter would also be in charge of the garden during the summer and general maintenance throughout the year. In one or other of the larger monasteries and at the preparatory seminary two Brothers were assigned to do the cooking.

From the very beginning the training and formation of future Brothers occupied the attention of the Superiors of the Province. Since much of the training took place during the postulantship and novitiate, the assignment of Brothers to the novitiate was of prime importance. I am told that the Brothers considered it an honor to have been appointed as cook in Louisville. The Brothers there had the responsibility for training the young men joining the community as Brothers. Brothers Paul Quino, Gabriel Redmond, Romauld Reuber, among others, excelled in the early training of Brothers.

In the 1930s the Provincial assigned Brother Daniel Smith to the novitiate to work-out with the Master of Novices a regular training program for the various offices the Brothers would be expected to fulfill. Brother Simon West in the Eastern Province was developing a Brothers’ formation program at the same time and worked with Brother Dan. Brother Dan’s program continued in the novitiate for many years.

In the early 1960s a postulancy was formed at our Detroit monastery for the training of candidates to the brotherhood. This program continued for several years. In the mid-1960s in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council a formal Brothers’ program was set-up at our Louisville college seminary. Brother Robert Baalman was appointed Brother-Director of the program. The junior Brothers pursued regular college programs at Bellarmine or professional programs at one or other institute in the area.

Over the years the Brothers followed the regular daily schedule of the priests and students as regards prayer and observance. However, Brothers did not chant the daily Divine Office, but recited certain vocal prayers assigned to the various hours of the day by the Holy Rule. In the 1950s as the liturgical movement began to manifest itself in this country, Brothers were given the option of reciting the traditional prayers of the Rule or the small Breviary in English. When, after the Council, the vernacular was used for the choral office and the Mass, Brothers began (if they wished) to recite the Office with the other religious.

Brothers always shared in the common recreation each day – the younger Brothers with the students and the older or “professed” Brothers with the priests. This is a tradition that goes back to St. Paul of the Cross – a tradition that differed from other religious Orders of his time. It was during the 1960s that the Brothers began to participate in community dialogues, local Chapters and finally the Provincial and General Chapters.

I have mentioned that in the early decades the Brothers were responsible for the regular domestic offices of each monastery. We must not, however, think of these domestic offices as simply doing the same chores day after day. From the very beginning these domestic offices challenged the competencies of the Brothers and offered opportunities for diversification. For example, the cook not only prepared daily meals but also spent time “putting-up” or preserving fruits and vegetables. Many Brothers became quite expert at “preserving” stewed apples, peaches, apple sauce and apple butter, etc. Later when deep freezes came into use, Brothers would preserve meats and fresh vegetables.

There are other examples. For example, Brother Anthony Blakemeyer, as a tailor, began to sew beautiful, “liturgical” vestments for the preparatory school at Normandy. Brother Columban Gauspohl, Brother Richard McCall, Brother Gabriel and others excelled in making wine. Brother Wendelin Loeb for many years had a very excellent vegetable garden at Chicago. Brother Romauld Reuber excelled in farming in Kansas as did Brother Louis Hockendoner in the raising of chickens.

Many other Brothers with special excellencies could be recalled. Brother Denis Kelly deserves special mention. He had spent some years in Mexico and acted as interpreter for the Provincial, Father Jerome Reutermann. In Mexico he had observed the practice of the native women in using special herbs for the care of the sick. He learned their secrets, and on his return to the United States imported Mexican herbs and extracted from them healing medicines. He developed a salve for skin cancer, an antidote for bleeding and a tonic for colds and other ills. Brother Denis became quite famous with his “medicines” and was written-up in daily papers from time to time. After his death Father Benedict Hanley took over this “healing ministry” until the end of the 1940s.

The Brother porter always played an important part in the community. In many ways he was the public relations man for the entire community for he was the one whom people met at the door and from him many gained their impression of the monastery. In fact, some Brother porters became identified as representing a particular community. One thinks, for example, of Brother Columban Gausepohl at Cincinnati. For years he took care of the front door and distributed Lourdes water, especially for the Good Friday pilgrimage. Brother Gabriel Redmon became identified with Louisville in a similar way. He worked diligently for the observance of St. Paul’s Day there, the Confraternity of the Passion and began the annual card party for the Passionist Nuns of Owensboro.

In the first several decades almost all of the monasteries of the Province had a vegetable garden, orchard and several had full farms. The farms would include milk cows and chicken, corn, hay and potato fields, fruit orchards and vineyards. There was a farm at Kansas, at Louisville, and in Chicago. Interestingly, we read in the book of Local Chapters for the Chicago monastery that on December 25, 1919, “the local councilors convened to consider buying two cows, both of which will be fresh soon – one in February and the other in March. The owner, Mrs. May Dunlake, asks $150.00 for the two and in case we buy them will let us have the hay she has on hand, about three tons. Being decidedly a big bargain and as we need more milk, the councilors, by secret ballot, approved the purchase” (p. 40). Earlier in May of that year the community had bought a team of new horses for $350.00 for “Bess the mare was so crippled that she could not be used to haul coal or to do any hard work” (p. 37).

In 1956 we opened a large Black Angus cattle farm on the large properties at the seminary in Warrenton, Missouri. Brother Robert Baalman and Brother Norbert Friedel were in charge of the farms and gardens. There was a large olive grove on our Sierra Madre properties but much of this was destroyed by the U.S. Army when it took our land for a rifle practice range during the Second World War. In the 40s and 50s the farms were abandoned in Louisville, Chicago and Kansas.

In the period after the Second World War further specialization took place. For example, as we established separate retreat houses for this ministry, the Brothers took over the responsibilities of the kitchen and the general maintenance of the retreat house. As time went on lay people and Sisters were employed to do some of this work. The Brothers assumed the responsibility of supervising the working staffs. The first Sisters were employed in the Province to work in the kitchens of the seminary and retreat house at Warrenton.

The specialization of the earlier times and the pressing demands for professionalism, together with the Second Vatican Council’s stress on the laity (and hence laity in the religious life also) led Brothers into new ministries and activities. Two Brothers have served as Vicars in our stateside communities, two have been local Coordinators, one is a canonically elected local Superior and one is a Provincial Consultor. Three Brothers have taught at high schools. Several Brothers have been active on retreat house teams, and on parish staffs. Brothers have also received degrees in nursing, in religious education and other degreed programs. Brothers have also accompanied priests on missions and on retreats.

With the foundations in Japan and Korea, Brothers have entered upon a further specialization and professionalism. Presently in Japan there is one professed Brother at Tokyo and two Brother-novices in the Fukuoka novitiate. In Korea we have three finally professed Brothers, two being Koreans. In Korea a Brother has been Regional Consultor, Treasurer and Retreat Director. The Brothers are also active in teaming-up for retreats.

It would have been a pleasure to have named more of our Brothers by name, but I hesitate to do this. We have had many excellent and wonderful men. And Holy Cross Province would not be what it is today without the Brothers who served in our Province.

Very Rev. Roger Mercurio, C. P.
Provincial Superior
September 24, 1981

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