Remember the Passionists In Your Will

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By Fr. Rob Carbonneau

People were generous to the Passionists during the Great Depression in the United States (1929-1941). A Proquest database word search of “Passionist” in The New York Times revealed 42 willed money to Passionists; 29 were women, 13 were men.

Receiving money from a will was an answer to Passionist prayers. It went beyond everyday donors who contributed to the local Passionist parish collection, bought a Mass card, or made a contribution at a Passionist retreat house or parish mission.

People in the greater New York City area gave to two major Passionist ministry sites which were home to several related charities. Thirty-four of the forty-two wills were directed to Union City, New Jersey, which was home to The Passionist Fathers, St. Michael’s Monastery, The Passionist Missions, Inc. of Union City, St. Paul’s Benevolent and Missionary Institute, St. Vincent Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Michael’s Passionist Monastery, as well as nearby St. Joseph’s Parish.

The Passionists in Jamaica, Queens, New York was the second site. Established in 1924, right from the start benefactors arranged their estates to support the new venture. During the Depression five wills were probated to The Passionist Fathers, the Passionist Monastery of Jamaica, as well as Immaculate Conception Monastery, Jamaica.

Passionists, One of Many

The New York Times cases show benefactors engaged in a tiered approach to charities when it came to financial planning. None of the 42 New York based donors named the Passionists to be the sole beneficiary of their estate. In every case the Passionists were one of many recipients from the donor.

For example, the New York Times, March 9, 1933, p. C28, announced in Wills for Probate, Kings County, Brooklyn, New York that Annie Murray (February 15, 1933) had died and left an estate valued at “more than $10,000,” a large sum of money during the Great Depression. The Murray public listing read: “To James A. Walsh, friend, 968 St. John’s Pl., and John J. Barry, friend, executor, 189 Montague St., one-half residue each.” For our purposes we pay attention to the fact that the “Passionist Fathers, Jamaica” New York received $1,000. Murray gave the same amount to the Sister Adorers of the Precious Blood, Industrial Home for the Blind, Brooklyn Home for the Blind, Crippled and Defective Children, Institute for the Blind, Crippled and Defective Children [sic], Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and Our Lady of Charity Roman Catholic Church. Murray’s generosity went beyond Brooklyn. She gave $1,000 to “Right Rev. John A. O’Shea of the Catholic Mission, Kanchow, China.” She also left Charles O’Neil “$500 and personal effects; others get small amounts.”

Murray was generous to many causes. Still, our curiosity makes us wonder: what was/is the motivating factor that prompts a donor to give to a specific person or charity?

Thanks to Father Albinus Kane, C.P.

Father Kane was the only Passionist in the 42 cases to directly benefit from a will. It might have been because he was one of three executors of the will. In this case, the New York Times of February 25, 1938, p. 36, reported in Wills for Probate for Queens County that John E. Quinn (Jan 21, 1938) had an “undetermined” estate value. While he was generous to many individuals and priests, one gift stands out: “The Rev. Albinus Kane of the Passionist Monastery in Jamaica, $1,000 to be used in such manner as will best promote the purposes and aims of this monastery and $2,000 for himself.” Quinn also gave Father Kane five paintings and named him as one of those who would get “the residue of the will.”


Probated wills during the Great Depression reveal people who made the Passionists one of many beneficiaries. During that time, the ministry of the east coast Passionists was trying to keep at least eight major monasteries, several smaller mission apostolates, and their vast commitment to the China missions financially solvent. No doubt this reflected the good works of the Passionists, or a special connection to a particular ministry or individual Passionist. Tiered generosity continues in 2007. So yes, it remains true today more than ever that there are numerous ways to remember the Passionists in your will. All you have to do is contact an individual Passionist or Passionist ministry.

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