Dedication to the Founder

The men who formed the new Province of Holy Cross brought with them from the mother province a deep dedication to the Founder. In fact, the original Italian Founders had forged this dedication to St. Paul in the hearts of the first American Passionists. They had named the first house in Pittsburgh in honor of Blessed Paul of the Cross. There in the monastery of St. Paul American Passionists had been formed into the spirit of the Founder. The newly organized Province in 1863 was given St. Paul as its special patron. All through those early years, each American Passionist was deeply devoted to St. Paul of the Cross.

It is this heritage that the religious who formed the new Province of Holy Cross carried with them in 1906. This dedication to the Founder was manifested in various ways. For example, in April of 1907 at the new Louisville monastery, the religious invited the diocesan priests, religious and the laity to celebrate the Holy Founder’s Feast Day in a very special way. I remember Father Alexis recalling that the Master did not like the external celebration of that first St. Paul’s Day at the new Sacred Heart Retreat. He forbade the novices (including young Alexis Quinlan) to mingle with the crowds who picnicked on the grounds of the monastery after the Solemn Mass! In many of the houses, from time to time, St. Paul’s Day was observed with special external celebrations. I remember in 1939 when we invited the local clergy to the Detroit monastery of St. Paul of the Cross for the Founder’s Feast Day.

The dedication to St. Paul of the Cross was also observed by the efforts of our religious to promote not only the annual Novena before the Feast of St. Paul of the Cross, but also weekly novena services in honor of St. Paul and St. Gabriel. Devotions to St. Paul of the Cross were from time to time part of our Sunday afternoon Benediction services or special services on Monday.

Another form that the dedication to the Founder took was naming religious institutions in his honor. We think of Father Augustine Scannell riding on horseback to the new parish that he was forming in Park Ridge and to which he gave the name St. Paul of the Cross. In fact, earlier our religious had given the name of St. Paul to Osage Mission, Kansas, even though the monastery remained dedicated to St. Francis Hieronymo. It was in 1930 that the newly constructed monastery in Detroit was dedicated to St. Paul of the Cross. The first house in Korea was also dedicated to St. Paul of the Cross.

A second important element in the Province’s dedication to the Founder began to emerge in the 1920s. It was at this time that throughout the entire Congregation interest manifested itself in the study of the spirituality, teaching and history of St. Paul of the Cross. The Generalate led the way through the publication of the Bollettino with its many historical articles. In 1924 the four-volumes of the letters of the Founder were published at Rome. The General Superiors of this time also wrote very important letters on the spirit and work of St. Paul of the Cross. It was the Belgian Passionist, Father Cajetan, who from the processes of canonization published several very important monographs on the life and work of St. Paul of the Cross. In the United States Father Felix Ward published the first history of the Passionists in this country and on almost every page indicated the dedication of the early American Passionist to the Founder. It was also in the 1920s that Father Harold Purcell began the publication of the Sign Magazine and during his editorship it was truly a Passionist monthly.

In our own Province this commitment to the scholarly and serious study of St. Paul of the Cross was definitely furthered by Father Vincent Mary Oberhauser, who brought from Rome and Germany a deep attachment to St. Paul. As Novice Master he began the Passionist Bulletin and then in 1948 The Passionist as a quarterly periodical. Many articles continued to be published in the following years as religious of both Provinces and the Passionist Nuns of the several convents contributed translations and studies on St. Paul of the Cross.

This serious study of St. Paul of the Cross continued during the years of preparation for the revision of the Rule in 1959 and then the dialogue years of the middle 1960s, leading up to the important Provincial Chapter of 1968 and the Extraordinary General Chapter of 1968 and 1970.

In the 1970s Heritage Workshops were held annually for the novices of both Provinces and in the Bicentennial year of St. Paul’s death were extended to the professed of both Provinces. Father Cassian Yuhaus published Compelled to Speak giving us an authentic history of the American Foundation. I was privileged to participate with Father Silvan Rouse and Father Edmund Burke of holy memory in the publication of the first volume of St. Paul’s Letters in the fall of 1976. Once again our Province began the annual publication of The Passionist.

Besides the external observances and celebrations in honor of St. Paul, over and above the serious study of the life and spirituality of St. Paul, this dedication to the Founder is manifested in the interior living of his spirit and in the sharing of his charism by the religious of Holy Cross Province these seventy-five years.

It is certainly difficult to pinpoint this deeper dedication to the Founder. Yet it manifests itself in the complete commitment to the service of the community on the part of so many of our religious Brothers as we have indicated in an earlier essay. It is also manifested in the commitment to the service of the Province on the part of our Superiors, our Lectors and the many religious whom we used to call “Sext and Noners.” These men have done so much to foster and further the spirit of St. Paul of the Cross among us.

This interior dedication is also manifested in the labors of so many of our missionaries who have preached the Message of the Cross throughout the vast areas of the United States. It is this same dedication that has inspired the religious who have staffed our parishes and especially our retreat houses. We also find this dedication in the lives of those who have given-up their own fatherland to bring the Congregation of St. Paul and his spirit and his ministry to China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Austria, Mexico, and the Philippines.

This interior dedication is most mysteriously manifested in the sufferings, the sorrows, the sickness and even the deaths of so many of our religious who like St. Paul of the Cross have lived the hours of the Passion and tasted of the bitterness of the chalice that does not pass away. I believe that this spirit of St. Paul of the Cross has lived on in the hearts and souls of those who have found the “renewal and adaptations” of the past twenty years a “dark night” which calls for faith and trust and charity. Yes, many religious of Holy Cross Province have shown their dedication to the Founder by bearing the anguish, the uncertainty and the suffering of founding and re-founding and maintaining the Congregation he loved so much.

As we in Holy Cross Province celebrate this Diamond Jubilee of our history, we pay homage to those Passionists who have honored St. Paul of the Cross these many years, who have furthered the knowledge of him in our hearts and who have especially shared in his charism of service to the brethren, of preaching the Passion, of suffering in behalf of his Congregation.

Very Rev. Roger Mercurio, C. P.
Provincial Superior
October 19, 1981
Solemnity of St. Paul of the Cross

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