Holy Cross Province Parish Ministries

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For various reasons, from the time of St. Paul of the Cross himself, the care of parishes was not considered a proper ministry for Passionists. Nevertheless, during the century and a quarter that the Passionists have been in the United States, we have accepted the responsibility of parish ministry.


In 1906, when Holy Cross Province was established, we had charge of the following parishes: Holy Cross and Immaculata in Cincinnati, St. Agnes in Louisville, St. Anne’s in St. Louis, St. Francis in St. Paul, and the newly begun parish of the Immaculate Conception in Chicago. The Immaculata was two blocks away from the Holy Cross Monastery and St. Anne’s was about a mile away from the Mother of Good Counsel Monastery in St. Louis. The other four parishes were attached to the monastery and could be considered monastery parishes.

For some years the rector of the monastery was also the canonical pastor of the annexed parish. The Provincial Chapter of 1914 decreed that the rectorship and pastorship were two distinct offices and should be fulfilled by two individual religious. In the Provincial Chapter of 1917 the rector again became pastor. In the Provincial Chapter of 1926 the two offices were once again separated. In October of 1929 the Provincial Council issued a letter on the relationships between the pastors and the rectors and this letter was approved by the Chapter of 1932 and again by the Chapter of 1938.

At an early date, it was found necessary to have a parish school connected with the various parishes. While Catholics in the United States, at the turn of the century, discussed the appropriateness of Catholic schools, the Passionist parishes in the midwest very soon all had parochial schools. Besides the day-by-day care of the spiritual life of the parishioners, the pastor was occupied in supervising the school, in constructing school buildings and appropriate Church buildings and, more particularly, raising money to do all these things. By the 1930’s all our parishes had also an assistant, except the Immaculata Parish in Cincinnati. Also, from St. Francis Parish in St. Paul, a parish was formed at South Mound, Kansas. Similarly St. Paul of the Cross Parish was founded by Father Augustine Scannell, C. P., at Park Ridge, Illinois.


In the 1920’s and 30’s as we expanded into new locations, two tendencies are evident. When we went to Des Moines and to Detroit we made a canonical foundation with a monastery, but not with the responsibility for a parish. On the other hand, in 1923, when we went to Los Angeles, we did take the parish of St. Rita’s in Sierra Madre. However, this parish was not strictly a monastery parish.

In 1938, when we established the mission among the Blacks in Alabama, it was understood that this would entail the responsibility of parish ministry. From the very beginning we established Holy Family Parish at Ensley, and a few years later we established St. Mary’s Parish in Fairfield. It seems that one of the ideas of the Alabama “mission” was to establish three or four parishes serving the Blacks in the various segregated areas of Birmingham. Since this was considered a real “mission” there was no question about the appropriateness of Passionists taking the responsibilities of a parish. Wherever we had entered into “mission” work we had parish responsibilities. American Passionists at this time were very much aware of this as a result of the Chinese missions.

After the Second World War we made two further foundations in the United States, one at Houston and the other in Sacramento. At neither foundation was there the responsibility for the care of a parish. In 1947 we returned St. Anne’s Parish in St. Louis to the Diocese and in 1951 we gave-up St. Rita’s in Sierra Madre. It will be noted that neither of these parishes was attached to the monastery. However, at the same time in 1948 we accepted the responsibility for a parish in Detroit, that of St. Gemma, adjacent to the monastery.

In foundations outside of the United States, we accepted a parish in the Diocese of Osaka in Japan at Ikeda, but later in the 1960’s we did not take a parish in Korea. The foundation in San Francisco in the early 1960’s did not include a parish either.

After the Second Vatican Council the discussion about parishes continued. The Provincial Chapter of 1968 did recognize the appropriateness of parish ministry for Passionists. This was stated even more clearly in the Provincial Chapter of 1975.


In the last fifteen years several new developments have taken place in regard to our parishes. Separate parish houses or residences have been built for the parish staff, at St. Agnes in Louisville and St. Gemma’s in Detroit. Also the pastor at St. Francis in St. Paul began to use the former convent building as the parish residence. Earlier the former convent of the Immaculata had become the residence for the pastor of the Immaculata Parish. When Holy Cross and Immaculata were joined together as one parish, both church buildings were used for some years. Later Holy Cross Church was closed and the Holy Cross-Immaculata Parish was established at the Immaculata Church building. When the monastery was closed in 1977, the Holy Cross community (greatly reduced) took up residence at the Immaculata and is now really “a parish community” open to the people of the parish.

Thus we have in the Province today Passionists engaged in parish ministry who are resident with the entire monastery community as in the Immaculate Conception Parish in Chicago, or who are resident in parish houses as in Louisville and Detroit, or as in Cincinnati, where the members of the community, even though not assigned to the parish, are living very closely in a “parish community.” This is also the case at Holy Family in Ensley.

We have also retained, not as a Province commitment but on a personal assignment policy, the parish of St. Francis at St. Paul and the nearby parish at Erie-South Mound. We also have two religious in parish ministry in Baja California and a religious in a parish in Appalachia and in the Boothill of Missouri.

Military chaplains have the duties and responsibilities of a parish priest. We have two religious presently serving as military chaplains. Also the religious at Carbondale are engaged in parish ministry at the Newman Center. Sometimes, however, we do not think of military chaplains or Newman chaplains as fulfilling parish ministries.

Another development of parish ministry for us is the presence on the parish staff of permanent deacons and religious Sisters. We have always had Sisters working with us in the educational ministry of the Catholic school. Now we have Sisters working with us as parish ministers in a stricter sense of the word, e.g., at Detroit, Ensley and Cincinnati. Brother James Griffith, C.P., is the only Brother who has been part of a parish staff. He is presently resident at St. Gemma’s and is seeking ordination to the Permanent Deaconate. Brother John Monzyk is a member of the parish community at Ensley, with an assignment as a teacher at the Holy Family High School.

Since 1975 the Passionists and those on Passionist parish staffs have been participating in an annual meeting of our parish ministers. The religious in this ministry did not wish to form a Board or organizational structure. They have preferred to hold an annual meeting to discuss among themselves their own Passionist parish ministry.

It is not clear just what path this ministry will take for Passionists in the years ahead. Presently several diverse possibilities lie before us.


Our parishes can become centers of prayer and spirituality with a mission outreach to the neighborhood as at Holy Cross-Immaculata in Cincinnati. The parish may become a large fellowship of dedicated Catholics with a social out-reach as with our parishes of St. Agnes, St. Gemma and Immaculate Conception. The parishes may be the instrument we use to reach a minority people with the message of Catholic faith and social justice as in Birmingham and Appalachia.

Parish ministry may also serve as a means of reaching the neglected or the minimally served Catholics of Hispanic origin, as in Baja. Parish ministry may also be a means of reaching rural America, as in southern Missouri and eastern Kansas. Passionists in Japan and Korea will have to assess in the years ahead to what extent we should make use of parish ministries in these countries.

Another aspect of parish ministry which is vital for every Passionist engaged in this ministry is that of community life. What forms of community life will develop for those Passionists engaged full-time and busily in parish ministry? Will parish ministers be members of a larger community or will they become a small vital Passionist community in a parish house or will they become a more “open” community with the larger parish family?

These are the possibilities and challenges for the future. Their solution will flow from the same spirit that has animated Passionists in parish ministries these past seventy-five years.

Very Rev. Roger Mercurio, C. P.
Provincial Superior
April 6, 1981

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