Acts of the Tenth Provincial Chapter
of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross
Held in the Retreat of St. Paul of the Cross, Pittsburg, PA.
From August 25th to 29th, 1890.


Passionist Fathers at Tenth Provincial Chapter - 1890
Passionist Fathers at Tenth Provincial Chapter – 1890. Seated L to R: Guido Matassi, Benedict Murnane, Sebastian Stutts, Paul Hyacinth Greco (Toluca, Mexico), Charles Lang, John Thomas Stefanini, Thomas O’Connor (President). Standing: Andrew Kenny (Guardian), Frederick Lang, William Geagan, Stephen Kealy, George Basel, Boniface Sotter (Rector-elect of Pittsburgh), Aloysius M. Blakely. Click image for larger view.

The first decade of our Provincial Chapters in the United States is an accomplished fact. Full twenty-seven years ago, on the 29th day of July in the year of our Lord 1863, the first of these to us memorable and all-important assemblies was convened within the walls of this self-same Retreat of St. Paul of the Cross, and was composed of all the priests of our Order in this country who had passed ten years in the Congregation. These were but eleven in number, and it was in virtue of a Papal rescript, granted by the Holy See for that time only, that they exercised the right of suffrage.

Several of these pioneer capitulars are numbered with the dead. Some still survive; and as they look back today upon that first Chapter of our then infant Province, fervent tributes of gratitude to God must needs well up from their hearts on beholding their brightest anticipations and proudest hopes for its progress and welfare abundantly realized.

This is not the place to touch even cursorily upon the deliberations of that first electoral and legislative body of our Congregation in America. But it may be permitted us to remark that in comparison with later assemblies of a like nature its labors were neither arduous nor extensive. For, as our first Provincial and his Consultors had already been elected by the preceding General Chapter, only a Master of Novices and a Rector for each of the humble Retreats then in existence, called for its action in the matter of providing Superiors. Yet justice requires the admission, which is hereby made, that the anxieties of those venerated Fathers, who composed the maiden Chapter, exceeded by far the severe material work that devolved upon them. The harvest was great, the laborers few, and these were strangers in a strange land. The task before them viewed in juxtaposition with their resources, was herculean; the difficulties to be encountered in its execution were as numerous as they were novel. Nevertheless, the history of their deliberations, as we find them recorded in the Acts of that first Chapter, leaves no room for question as to their ample knowledge of what would be expected of them by our holy Mother the Congregation, or as to their fixed purpose of sparing no pains to further the interests of the sacred trust which she had confided to their keeping. Let it be added here that time has shown that their words were no empty boast, but, on the contrary, a pressage of the great achievements which were afterwards realized for the thorough establishment and perpetuity of the Province, whose foundation stones they are. And it is with unfeigned joy that we note the pleasing fact that he who was the youngest in age of that body and whose honored name stands last upon the roll call to which its members responded is now in the midst of us, charged by our Most Reverend Superior at Rome, with the high office of Visitor General for this Province. How changed the scene which now meets his gaze! No less than nine Retreats in the United States and Mexico, inhabited in all by one hundred and thirty-seven professed religious, to say nothing of eighteen novices and a flourishing Alumnial, await his coming; which facts prove beyond a doubt that the Most High has blessed his labors and those of his venerated companions and caused them to fructify a hundred fold.

As may be inferred from the concluding words of the foregoing resume, the Chapter just closed presents a striking contrast to that upon which we have been dilating, and the interesting reminiscences awakened by a comparison of the present with the past must plead our excuse for this somewhat lengthy introduction.

On the 1st of July 1890, our Very Rev. F. Provincial, Benedict of St. Francis, with the consent of our Most Rev. F. General Xavier of the Sorrowful Virgin, issued the canonical letter convoking the tenth Provincial Chapter of the American Province, assigning the 25th day of August for its formal opening, and the Retreat of St. Paul of the Cross, Pittsburg Pa., as the place where it should be held. In obedience to this call, all those whom it concerned met in the house named, and on the 22nd inst., entered upon the customary preliminary meetings which took place on the mornings and afternoons of the 22nd, 23rd and 24th respectively.

At the first of these a credential letter from our Most Rev. F. General, appointing the Very Rev. F. Thomas of Holy Mary, President of the Chapter, was read by the Very Rev. F. Visitor John Thomas of the Sacred Hearts, and the Fathers hailed with acclamation the tidings thus conveyed.

The election of a temporary Secretary was now proposed by the Very Rev. F. President, who suggested Very Rev. F. Aloysius of the Passion. This nomination was immediately confirmed by the unanimous vote of the capitulars. The Very Rev. FF. Rectors and the Master of Novices now delivered up their seals of office, and the former handed in their Litterae Patentes together with the other documents required by Canon Law. Each in his turn read the financial statement and inventory of his Retreat, which being concluded, the Very Rev. President proposed divers matters to be treated of and invited his fellow capitulars to do likewise. In response several of the latter laid various matters before the assembled Fathers, all which were duly noted. The oath de secreto servando was administered and all of the canonical requirements complied with. Hereupon the first preliminary meeting terminated with the usual prayers.

The 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th preliminary meetings were held in the mornings and afternoons of the two following days more solito, and on the 24th inst., after Vespers had been recited in choir, the usual discourse to the capitular fathers was delivered by the Master of Novices, Very Rev. F. Frederick of St. Michael. This was an exhaustive treatise on the requisites indispensable in a worthy Superior and a forcible presentation of the duties of the electors.

At the last preliminary meeting, which was held the same afternoon, the views of the Fathers were given in relation to matters of importance to the Province, and the discussion of the merits etc. of those of our brethren eligible to office having been concluded, it was closed with prayer.


The 25th inst, the day appointed for the formal opening of the Chapter, dawned auspiciously, and at 8 o’clock the Solemn Mass De Spiritu Sancto was sung by Very Rev. F. Benedict, Provincial, assisted by several of the capitular fathers in accordance with the custom observed amongst us. One hour and a half later, the fathers capitular, accompanied by the entire religious Community, assembled in the church and went in procession to the Chapter room, headed by the Very Rev. F. President bearing aloft the crucifix, all meanwhile chanting the Vexilla Regis. Upon the conclusion of this inspiring hymn, the usual prayers were sung by the F. President, who then commanded those not de gremio capituli to withdraw, which was immediately done; and the Chapter room being now closed to all outside its precincts, the custodian, Rev. F. Andrew of the Sorrowful Virgin, entered upon the duties of his position.

The moment for the first session of the Chapter having come, the members took their seats in the order prescribed. Everything being now in readiness, the Very Rev, President arose and addressed to the Fathers a brief but pithy allocution in which he called their attention to the serious nature of the work in hand. They had been called together, he said, for the purpose of choosing fit men for the responsible post of Superiors. These, he continued, ought to be models upon which those committed to their guidance might be formed. He then adverted to the rapid influx into our Novitiate, of a class of desirable young men after a prolonged period of comparative sterility, and spoke of the wide mission field before us in this country, ever increasing in extent. The molding of these youths according to the spirit of our Institute, and their training for the work referred to would devolve largely upon those in authority. In fact the honor and prosperity of the entire Province lay in their hands. Hence much good or evil correspondingly great, depended upon the choice about to be made. Finally he besought the Holy Ghost to enlighten the minds of the capitulars and to conform their acts to the divine pleasure. Papal blessing.

The discourse ended, the Secretary pro tem., called the roll and the capitulars responded to their names in the following order:

Very Rev. F. Thomas of Holy Mary, President of the Chapter.
Very Rev. F. Benedict of St. Francis, Provincial.
Very Rev. F. John Thomas of the SS. Hearts, first Provincial Consultor.
Very Rev. F. Sebastian of the Mother of Mercy. second Prov. Consultor.
Very Rev. F. Guido of St. Joseph, Rector of St. Paul’s Retreat, Pittsburg, Pa.
Very Rev. F. Stephen of Holy Mary, Rector of St. Mary’s Retreat, Dunkirk, N.Y.
Very Rev. F. William of St. Peter, Rector of St. Michael’s Retreat, West Hoboken. N.J.
Very Rev. F. Charles of Holy Mary, Rector of St. Joseph’s Retreat, Baltimore, Md.
Very Rev. F. George of St. Michael, Rector of Holy Cross Retreat, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Very Rev. F. Aloysius of the Passion, Rector of Sacred Heart Retreat, Louisville, Ky.
Very Rev. F. Paul Hyacinth of St. Joseph, Rector of Holy Mary’s Retreat, Toluca, Mex.
Very Rev. F. Frederick of St. Michael, Master of Novices.

The Veni Creator was now sung with the prescribed prayers, whereupon the Very Rev. President asked the capitulars whether they considered the Chapter lawfully and canonically convoked, etc. All answered affirmatively, and then made the required protestation of not excluding the worthy or admitting the unworthy etc. The usual acts of humility having been performed, the President imparted the absolution a censuris; the Secretary read the decree of the Holy Office and the sixth chapter of the Council of Trent de Regularibus; and the Chapter then proceeded with the election of a permanent Secretary, which resulted in the unanimous choice of the Very Rev. F. Aloysius of the Passion. Two Discreets were next chosen as was the Secretary, viz. by secret ballot, to wit, Very Rev. FF. Stephen and Charles, both surnamed of Holy Mary.

All the canonical requirements having thus been duly complied with, nothing remained but to enter upon the important task of voting for those to whom the government of the Province should be confided during the ensuing three years. First in order came the choice of a Provincial; and on opening the ballot box after the first scrutiny it was found that the Very Rev. F. Benedict of St. Francis was destined a second time to fill that high office. Having asked and obtained the placet of the capitulars, the Secretary read the decree of election as follows “Ego Aloysius a Passione, nomine meo et omnium eligentium mihi consentientium, invocata gratia Spiritus Sancti, eligo in Praepositum Provincialem, Provinciae Sancti Pauli a Cruce, Septentrionalis Americae, Adm. Rev’um Patrem Benedictum a S. Francisco, et electum pronuntio et coram vobis publico. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.” Despite the representations of Very Rev. F. Benedict which followed hereupon and which bore evident marks of deepest conviction and sincerity, the capitulars steadily refused to reconsider their action and he was accordingly forced to submit. The fathers capitular now paid their homage to the newly elected Provincial, but it was judged best to proceed to the election of a first Consultor at least before summoning the Community for the same purpose. This was done, and the lot fell upon the Very Rev. President of the Chapter at the first ballot, the vote being unanimous. The Very Rev. Father strove most earnestly to induce the capitulars to reconsider their action in his regard and brought forward reasons which he believed abundantly weighty to change their opinion of his fitness for the position to which they had just elevated him. It was all to no purpose, however, and his reiterated protestations and his assurances that he had not accepted the office, the Secretary published the decree of his election.

The first session was brought to a close at this juncture, and the Brethren of St. Paul’s Retreat were called to give their obedience to the Provincial, after which all went to the church, where, in conformity with our ritual a Te Deum of thanksgiving was sung and Benediction imparted.


The second session was held in the afternoon of the same day and was occupied in balloting for a second Consultor. As, however, the time for closing arrived without any result having been reached, it was adjourned with prayer until the following morning.


On Wednesday forenoon, 26th inst., the third session was opened in the usual form, and the election of a second Consultor, to wit Very Rev. F. Sebastian of the Mother of Mercy, and of a Master of Novices for the United States and Mexico in the persons respectively of the Very Rev. FF. Frederick of St. Michael and Guido of St. Joseph, rewarded the efforts of the capitulars. F. Sebastian thanked the Ven. Chapter and accepted in a few chosen words. F. Frederick stated that the office to which he had now been elevated for the second time, was not at all to his taste, humanly speaking, but added that as the office must be filled by someone, he would not trouble the capitulars to look for another, but would bear the burden as best he could with God’s assistance. F. Guido in his turn rose and declared that the choice of the capitulars in his case had bewildered him; yet he said that though of all positions he felt himself least fitted for that of Novice Master, he was loth to make any remonstrance to what might be the Divine Will. After each of the above recorded elections, the Secretary formulated the customary decree.


This session occurred in the afternoon of the same day and was gratifying in the extreme, in as much as, prior to its close all our Retreats in the United States and Mexico, were provided with Rectors in the order subjoined: Retreat of St. Paul of the Cross, Pittsburg. Pa., Rev. F. Boniface of Jesus; Retreat of St. Mary, Dunkirk, N.Y., Rev. F. John Baptist of the Nativity of the B. V. Mary; Retreat of St. Michael, West Hoboken, N.J., Very Rev. F. Aloysius of the Passion; Retreat of St. Joseph, Baltimore, Md., Very Rev. F. Charles of Holy Mary, Retreat of the Holy Cross, Cincinnati, Ohio, Very Rev. F. George of St. Michael; Retreat of the Sacred Heart, Louisville, Ky., Rev. F. Felix of St. Joseph; Retreat of St. Mary, Toluca, Mexico, Very Rev. F. Paul Hyacinth of St. Joseph. Those of the elected who were de gremio capituli expressed themselves grateful for the goodwill of their confreres and severally accepted the positions conferred on them. The Secretary published the decree subsequent to each election except in his own case, Very Rev. F. Stephen, first Discreet, acting for him in this instance. Giving fervent thanks to God, the Fathers ended the session with prayer. The Secretary notified the newly chosen Rectors of Pittsburg, Dunkirk and Louisville, by letter of the action of the Chapter in their regard, and sent lists with full account of results to all our houses in this Province.


This session opened and closed on the morning of the 27th inst., in the usual way and was distinguished by the renunciation on the part of Very Rev. F. Guido of the office to which he had been elected on the previous day. He explained that he had taken counsel with the Higher Superiors, and that having stated to them the fact that he had invariably suffered from severe lung-trouble in high altitudes, that encouraged him to hope for a, reconsideration on the part of the Chapter, wherefore he now appealed to that venerable body. Toluca, the seat of our Novitiate in Mexico, he said, being about 9000 feet above the level of the sea, he felt it would be impossible for him to enjoy the health indispensible for the proper discharge of the duties incumbent upon him in virtue of the Mastership. The Fathers concurred in his opinion, and the question as to whether he should be released having been put to the ballot, it was found that his petition was granted. Hereupon he thanked the Ven. Chapter for its action and edified all present by declaring that had it decided otherwise, he would have recognized the workings of Providence and would have accepted regardless of the consequences. A new election was now ordered, and resulted in the choice of Very Rev. F. Liberatus of St. Francis. The decree of election was published by the Secretary and the fifth session was over.


The attention of the Fathers was called by the Very Rev. President in this session to the decree of the late General Chapter, by which all personal permissions granted hitherto for the acceptance of alms for the weekly free Mass or otherwise keeping or using money have been recalled. Several matters which had been proposed for future discussion during the preliminary meetings were now treated of. In this way the hour for adjournment arrived and the session ended more solito.


As the result of the previous session’s debate, the following document having the force of a capitular decree was presented by the Very Rev. President, who had been requested by the Chapter to draw it up, and on being duly weighed by the Fathers and put to the vote it was unanimously approved of through that medium and formally adopted. Decree: “In view of the evils caused by the vice of intemperance in this country the Ven. Chapter highly approves of the action of those religious of our Province who abstain entirely from the use of intoxicating beverages, and recommends this form of mortification as possessing special claims on the sons of the Passion, whereby to honor the sacred thirst of our Lord upon the Cross. To eliminate any abuses that may exist among us in this matter and to hinder them from creeping in, it is ordained hereby that no ardent spirits be kept in any of our Retreats or their dependencies, and Rectors are strictly enjoined not to allow any of their subjects the regular use of wines or malt liquors out of meal time, except for a well investigated reason approved of in writing by the Provincial.”


No sitting was held in the afternoon of the 28th, the Fathers desiring to afford the Secretary time to prepare the Acts of the Chapter. A committee which had been appointed by the Very Rev. President, nomine Capituli, to consider and report upon the best means of keeping our parish-accounts etc., met in the Chapter hall and conferred with one another upon this matter.


On the morning of the 29th the capitular fathers assembled again and the V. Rev. President confirmed the elections of the Rectors and Masters of Novices. The discussion of different topics still to be treated of was now resumed. The Fathers listened also to the report of the committee on parish-accounts etc., and finding the same eminently satisfactory, adopted it without a dissenting voice. The Acts were then read by the Secretary and approved by the Chapter, and thus the session terminated.


On the afternoon of the same day the Fathers convened in the Chapter room for the last time, and on being asked by the Very Rev. President whether they had anything further to propose, all answered in the negative. The newly elected now made the profession of faith. Whereupon the President declared the Chapter closed and the Fathers proceeded to affix their names to the Acts in the following order:

Very Rev. F. Thomas of Holy Mary, President of the Chapter.
Very Rev. F. Benedict of St. Francis, Provincial.
Very Rev. F. John Thomas of the SS. Hearts, first Provincial Consultor.
Very Rev. F. Sebastian of the Mother of Mercy, second Prov. Consultor.
Very Rev. F. Guido of St. Joseph, Rector of St. Paul’s Retreat, Pittsburg, Pa.
Very Rev. F. Stephen of Holy Mary, Rector of St. Mary’s Retreat, Dunkirk, N.Y.
Very Rev. F. William of St. Peter, Rector of St. Michael’s Retreat, West Hoboken, N.J.
Very Rev. F. Charles of Holy Mary, Rector of St. Joseph’s Retreat, Baltimore, Md.
Very Rev. F. George of St. Michael, Rector of Holy Cross Retreat, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Very Rev. F. Aloysius of the Passion, Rector of Sacred Heart Retreat, Louisville, Ky.
Very Rev. F. Paul Hyacinth of St. Joseph, Rector of Holy Mary’s Retreat, Toluca, Mex.
Very Rev. F. Frederick of St. Michael, Master of Novices.

Aloysius a Passione
Secretarius Capitularis.