Acts of the Twenty-ninth Provincial Chapter
of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross
Held in the Retreat of the Immaculate Conception Jamaica, N.Y.
From July 9th to July 17th, 1947.
On the Feast of Saint Paul of the Cross, April 28th, 1947, our Very Reverend Father Provincial, Carrol of Mary Immaculate, issued a circular letter convoking the Twenty-Ninth Provincial Chapter of the Province of Saint Paul of the Cross. The Retreat of the Immaculate Conception, Jamaica, N.Y., was designated as the House of the Chapter and the Capitular Fathers were summoned to assemble there by the evening of July 8th, to be ready for the opening session on the following morning.
Father Provincial conveyed to the Province the regrets of Most Reverend Father General that he would be unable to preside at the Chapter in person, as he had wished to do. The First General Consultor, the Very Reverend Father Malcolm of Mary, was delegated by Father General to preside at the Chapter in his stead.
After instructing the Capitulars as to the documents, etc., to be brought to the Chapter, and providing for the interim local government of the Retreats, Father Provincial proceeded to urge upon all the brethren the great and solemn importance of the coming Chapter. “Although,” he said, “as individual religious we are never without the ways and means to advance in perfection and in the spirit of Saint Paul of the Cross, still we can be helped much by those who are chosen in Provincial Chapter to lead and guide us, and we can be directed into right paths by wise legislation. For the coming Provincial Chapter to accomplish well its serious duty, Divine aid is indispensable.” Accordingly, besides prescribing the customary religious exercises, Father Provincial exhorted all the Brethren to ask Jesus Crucified, frequently and fervently, to bless and guide the Chapter. His Paternity concluded with an expression of gratitude to the Brethren for the kindness and cooperation they had shown him during the years of his administration. He assured them of his esteem for them, and invoked upon them all the blessing of Almighty God.
The Twenty-Ninth Provincial Chapter, then, was opened on July 9th at our Retreat in Jamaica, New York, all of the members being present except the Very Reverend Father Camillus of the Mother of God, Rector of Saint Paul’s Retreat, Pittsburgh, Pa., who was prevented by illness. The assistance of the Holy Ghost was invoked by the recitation of the Veni Creator Spiritus and the other customary prayers. Very Reverend Father Malcolm presented the credential letters delegating him to preside at the Chapter and then addressed the Fathers as follows:
Brethren, I know that you are disappointed that our Most Reverend Father General found it impossible to come to New York to preside in person at your Provincial Chapter. Let me assure you that I share that sentiment with you, and I do not take it as a personal rebuff. Though I am by no means averse to this opportunity of returning to the United States and of being associated with you in so important a work, I dofeel sincerely that it would be more valuable to you and to him if Father General had had this opportunity of knowing first-hand the personnel and problems of your Province. Gladly, therefore, would I have deferred to him, for, after all, it is he who is the chief executive of the Congregation, and it is he who has the grace of that high office, not I. Moreover, a substitute, no matter what his qualifications—and I am honestly diffident about mine—no matter the powers conferred on him, is a substitute still, and the feeling of the Capitulars that they are working through an intermediary is not one best calculated to inspire confidence and to produce results.
Since, however, circumstances beyond his control and ours have brought about this present arrangement, let us accept it in a spirit of faith and confidence in God that all will go well. God, strictly speaking, needs none of us, and He can accomplish His will through any of us if we rightly dispose ourselves. And so let each of us take care to make our interior dispositions such that God can and will work through us for the good of the Church, the Congregation, and this Province.
With the convocation of this Chapter is inaugurated a new and important step in the progress and development of your Province. For several months you and all the religious have looked forward to this day with mixed sentiments of hope and apprehension. Those two reactions are inseparable from impending change. That there will be such changes is inevitable, both from the observance of the canons regulating superiorship, and from the fact that where there is progress, there will likely be at least some minor changes in legislation as well.
Father President then gave the Fathers a clear and practical instruction on the legislative function of the Chapter according to the principles of Canon Law and the norms of prudence. He emphasized, however, the even greater importance of the Chapter’s duty to elect good, conscientious Superiors on whom would rest the duty of enforcing the Holy Rule.
“That this canonically constituted body,” he continued, “has a grave responsibility to God, to the Church, and to our fellow-religious goes without saying. And hence our consciences are charged before God with the decisions we here make.” Urging the Fathers to speak boldly and disinterestedly in the sight of God, he concluded by saying: “Our brethren look to us for positive action in the right direction. We must not let them down! Now, in a spirit of faith, and using all our energies, physical and mental, let us proceed without further delay to the business of these preliminary sessions.”
Having listened attentively to the Father President’s able and earnest address the Fathers next proceeded to the choice of a Guardian of the Chapter Room. Reverend Father Edward of the Infant Jesus was unanimously chosen. He was summoned and, after taking the oath of secrecy, assumed his duties. The Very Reverend Father Xavier of the Sacred Heart was then elected temporary Secretary.
The reports of Administration of our Retreats were then read by the respective Rectors—the Very Reverend Father Master supplying for the Rector of St. Paul’s Retreat—and the reports of the Hospices at Riverdale, Toronto, and Washington were read by the Very Reverend Father Provincial. The reports were then handed in to be studied later in Committee. The Very Reverend Father President then invited the Fathers to submit any propositions they had in mind for possible legislation. After each had spoken in turn, beginning with the last in order of precedence, the proposals were collected by the temporary Secretary to be grouped under headings for later consideration by committees. Father President then announced that, unless circumstances indicated a change in procedure, the time of the morning sessions would be at nine o’clock, and of the afternoon sessions at three. The First Session of the Chapter was then adjourned.
At the Second Session, on Wednesday afternoon, the Very Reverend Father President appointed committees for the study of proposed legislation and the preparation of tentative decrees. He then addressed the Chapter on the seriousness of the next task confronting it: the discussion of the qualifications of religious eligible for the canonical offices of the Province. These qualifications, he said, have no doubt already been occupying the minds of many in the Province, but not all use the same standards in evaluating them. It is our duty to disregard personalities and to adopt objective standards. We must have open minds in our own judgments of men, and in weighing the testimony of others. A Passionist Superior is expected to be a light to others by the soundness of his counsel; a pattern by the example of his life; a support in assisting others in their burdens; a living guide—not a signpost—going before and leading in the right paths; a guardian, keeping the deposit of the regular observance intact, maintaining diligent custody of the Community’s temporal goods, with emphasis on evangelical poverty. Finally, the Superior must be able to rule justly, moderately, and discreetly, and he must have sufficient strength of character to correct when correction is needed. It is indeed difficult tofind men possessed of all these qualities. But if we search sincerely and judge objectively, we will find some who do possess them in sufficiently high degree to warrant our entrusting them with the government of the Province. Such Superiors will rule in the spirit implied in the title given to the Highest Superior in the Church: “The Servant of the Servants of God.” They are not ambitious men nor do they accept office in a spirit of self-glorification, but they are moved rather by an overwhelming sense of responsibility and of loyalty to the Congregation. Let us seek such men with objectivity and for the common good of the Province—for “We are all one: one Faith, one Baptism, and one vocation in Christ Jesus.”
Deeply moved by this address of Father President, and by the solemnity of the moment, the Fathers then took the oath of secrecy, with the right hand on the breast and facing the Image of the Crucified. They then began the discussion of the qualifications of those eligible for office.
THIRD, FOURTH, AND FIFTH SESSIONS
The discussion of the qualifications of possible Superiors continued during the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sessions, held on Thursday morning and afternoon and Friday morning.
Immediately after Vespers on Friday afternoon, the Capitular Fathers, together with the entire local Community, were addressed by the Very Reverend Father Celestine of the Immaculate Conception, Rector of St. Michael’s Retreat, on the solemnity of the duty facing the electors. He spoke in part as follows:
“The eyes of the Province, dear Fathers, are focused upon us. It is not idle curiosity that prompts the Brethren to await with anxiety the results of our deliberations. The welfare, the progress, and the happiness of each religious, of each community, and of the entire Province, for the next few years, depend in great measure upon our present deliberations, our decisions, and their conclusions. If ever the solemn admonition of our Regulations applied to us Superiors it certainly does so at this hour: ‘The Congregation most earnestly exhorts all the Superiors tofulfill their office with the utmost care…’ ” (Reg. 117)
The preacher proceeded to stress the grave responsibility of electing worthy Superiors. “Woe to us,” he said, “if we fail in this matter and thus frustrate God’s designs; by such failure we might well merit the rebuke of Almighty God when He says: ‘My people have been a lost flock; their shepherds have caused them to go astray.’ (Jer. 50-6) We must not be motivated by likes or dislikes, but solely by this salient Christian thought: ‘Is the one under consideration qualified? Has he the necessary ability and virtue to advance and promote the higher interests of the community and the Congregation, and the greater Glory of God?’ ”
Father Celestine then gave a clear and eloquent exposition of some of the virtues most necessary for a good Superior: “humility, without which there can be no solid virtue; which makes a man conscious of his own weakness and limitations, and duly patient with others: prayerfullness, which moves a man to look constantly to God for help—to God, without whom we can do nothing; prudence, which enables a man to make right decisions, and to avoid the extremes of laxity and indiscreet zeal. A man chosen to rule over others must also be characterized by the virtue of justice, so that he is not moved by moods or sentiment, by likes or dislikes, but by objective standards and a constant will. He must be a man of strong character, not afraid of obstacles or influenced by human respect, but fearing only the Divine displeasure. He must be a fatherly and charitable man—charity is the most excellent and the most sanctifying of the virtues. The good Passionist Superior, finally, must be a man who is permeated with the spirit of the Congregation and with love for the Holy Rule—and we must be able to say of him what was said of our Saviour: ‘He began to do and then to teach.’
“Now we have the responsibility of choosing such men to govern the Province for the next three years; let us ask the intercession of our Holy Founder, St. Paul of the Cross, to obtain for everyone of us the light, the courage, and the grace to exercise this duty in such a manner as to advance the true spirit and the glorious Apostolate of our Beloved Mother, the Congregation, and thus fulfill our distinctive mission in the Church of God.”
After listening attentively tofather Celestine’s discourse, the Fathers repaired to the Chapter Room for the Friday afternoon Session. The discussion of merits was concluded at this Session. Father President announced the usual Solemn Mass and other ceremonies would be celebrated on the following morning. The Session then adjourned.
On Saturday, July 12th, at 8:30, the Very Reverend Father President, assisted by Capitular Fathers, celebrated the Solemn Votive Mass of the Holy Ghost pro re gravi in the presence of the entire Community. At 9:30, the Fathers and all the brethren of the Retreat again assembled in the choir. Thence Father President, carrying the crucifix, led them in supplaint procession to the Chapter Room, all singing the Vexilla Regis. The brethren not participating in the Chapter were then dismissed, and the ritual prayers were recited by the Capitular Fathers.
As the time for elections had now arrived, the Very Reverend Father President once more solemnly adjured the Fathers to weigh seriously their grave responsibility. All thought of ambition and glory, he said, should be excluded—and he spoke of the significance of the flax which is burned and consumed amid the solemnities of a papal coronation. He charged the Capitulars in the Name of God and of the ecclesiastical authorities he represented, to avoid every prejudice and to choose only such Superiors as would best serve the Congregation and the greater Glory of Almighty God.
Father President then directed the temporary Secretary to call the roll of those entitled to participate in the Chapter and elections, and the following Fathers responded:
Very Reverend Father Malcolm of Mary, President-delegate
Very Reverend Father Carrol of Mary Immaculate, Provincial
Very Reverend Father Gabriel of the Sacred Heart, First Provincial Consultor
Very Reverend Father Leonard of the Most Holy Family, Second Provincial Consultor
Very Reverend Father John Joseph of the Immaculate Conception, Rector of Saint Mary’s Retreat
Very Reverend Father Celestine of the Immaculate Conception, Rector of Saint Michael’s Retreat
Very Reverend Father Agatho of the Mother of God, Rector of Saint Joseph’s Retreat
Very Reverend Father Benedict of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rector of Saint Ann’s Retreat
Very Reverend Father Xavier of the Sacred Heart, Rector of Holy Cross Retreat
Very Reverend Father Basil of the Mother of God, Rector of Saint Gabriel’s Retreat
Very Reverend Father Canisius of the Mother of Holy Hope, Rector of Our Mother of Sorrows Retreat
Very Reverend Father Jerome of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rector of the Retreat of the Immaculate Conception
Very Reverend Father Berchmans of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Master of Novices
The Very Reverend Father Camillus of the Mother of God, Rector of St. Paul’s Retreat, did not respond, being detained because of illness.
The Very Reverend President then asked the Capitular Fathers present whether they recognized the Chapter as having been legitimately convened, and all answered in the affirmative. The customary acts of humility were then performed, and the ad cautelam Absolution from censures was given by Father President who, in turn, received it from Father Provincial. The Capitular Fathers then signified their surrender of office by coming forward, one by one, and depositing their seals of office and letters-patent on the altar.
The Chapter next proceeded to the election of a permanent Secretary and of the Scrutineers, and in a secret ballot Very Reverend Fathers Xavier, Basil and Canisius, respectively, were elected to these offices. The Scrutineers, together with Father President, then took the special oath of secrecy. Then all the Capitular Fathers before proceeding with the election of the Provincial, took solemn oath to choose, as head of the Province, the man whom, before God, they judged ought to be elected.
The balloting followed, and, on the seventh scrutiny, the Very Reverend Father Gabriel of the Sacred Heart was elected Provincial. He humbly accepted the office, and the Community was summoned to the Chapter Room where all joined the Capitular Fathers to offer the new Provincial their loyal obedience and warm congratulations. Father Gabriel received all with paternal cordiality, assuring the Brethren of his desire to serve the Province to the best of his ability. All then proceeded to the Church where the new Provincial officiated at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament; and a solemn Te Deum was sung.
The Eighth Session was held on Saturday afternoon, and the election of Superiors continued. On the third ballot the First Consultor was elected in the person of the Reverend Father Ernest of the Cross. In the course of the afternoon, Father Ernest was reached by telephone, humbly agreeing to accept the office. On the nineteenth ballot the Very Reverend Father Berchmans of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was elected Second Consultor. Thanking the Capitular Fathers, the new Consultor gave his religious acceptance of the office.
On the fifth ballot for the responsible office of Master of Novices, the Reverend Father Paul Francis of the Blessed Sacrament was elected. The session was then adjourned. Later, the Chapter was happy to receive the humble acceptance of the newly elected Master.
The Venerable Chapter re-assembled at nine o’clock on Sunday morning and proceeded with the election of Rectors. The order to be followed was agreed upon and, according to this arrangement, the choice of a Rector for our Preparatory Seminary of Holy Cross was first undertaken. On the sixth ballot, the Very Reverend Father Carrol of Mary Immaculate was elected and accepted the office.
On the fifth ballot, the Very Reverend Father Camillus of the Mother of God, was elected Rector of Saint Michael’s Retreat. When he had been reached by telephone, he humbly expressed his willingness to be of service to the Congregation in any way within his power, but desired that the Chapter be more fully informed as to the precise condition of his health and re-consider his election. Since there was every reason to expect however, that Father Camillus would be able to keep the full observance within the reasonably near future, the Chapter, by secret ballot, re-affirmed its choice, and the Father acquiesced in its decision.
Ballotting continued, with the Retreat of the Immaculate Conception next to be provided for. On the sixth scrutiny, Reverend Father Caspar of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was elected Rector. The Session then adjourned.
At the beginning of the Tenth Session on Sunday afternoon, the Chapter was informed that Reverend Father Caspar, while appreciating the confidence reposed in him, and having duly weighed all considerations, asked to be excused from accepting the office. Reluctantly accepting his decision, the Capitular Fathers proceeded to another choice, and, on the fifth ballot, Very Reverend Father Leonard of the Most Holy Family was elected Rector of Immaculate Conception Retreat. Father Leonard humbly accepted the office, relying on God’s assistance.
On the sixth ballot, the Reverend Father Gregory of the Child Jesus was elected Rector of St. Paul’s Retreat. Father Gregory, when reached by telephone later in the day, humbly accepted the decision of the Chapter, putting his trust in God.
Saint Gabriel’s Retreat was next to be considered, and on the fourth ballot, the Reverend Father Gordian of Mary Immaculate was elected Rector. Father Gordian was at first reluctant to accept the heavy responsibility of Rectorship, but accepted the Chapter’s decision as a manifestation of the Divine Will.
The Very Reverend Father Canisius of the Mother of Holy Hope was elected on the sixth ballot as Rector of St. Ann’s Retreat, and humbly accepted the office.
On the fifth ballot, the Very Reverend Father Basil of the Mother of God was elected Rector of our Mother of Sorrows Retreat. Father Basil thanked the Chapter for its confidence in him and humbly accepted its decision.
The Reverend Father Alfred of Our Lady of Victory was then elected Rector of St. Joseph’s Retreat; this was on the fifth ballot. The Fathers then adjourned, a special Session being appointed for the evening, so that the elections might, if possible, be concluded.
At the beginning of the Eleventh Session, at eight o’clock on Sunday evening, July 13th, the Capitular Fathers were notified that Father Alfred humbly desired them to excuse him from accepting a Rectorship. Consenting to his decision, they proceeded to another election and, on the second ballot, chose Reverend Father Alexis of the Precious Blood as Rector of Saint Joseph’s Retreat. Father Alexis humbly agreed to accept the office.
The Venerable Chapter elected, on the ninth ballot, as Rector of Saint Mary’s Retreat, the Reverend Father Roger of the Sorrowful Mother. Father Roger, after some hesitation, accepted his election as a manifestation of God’s Will. The Session then adjourned, and the results of the elections were communicated to all the Retreats of the Province and to the Very Reverend Father Provincial of the Western Province.
The Capitular Fathers assembled on Monday morning, July 14th, for their twelfth Session. The Very Reverend Father President proposed that they invite to the Chapter Room the Reverend Father Victor of Saint Nicholas, vice-Provincial of Germany and Austria, and the Very Reverend Father Raphael of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Religious Superior of our brethren in China, to discuss the affairs of their respective territories. The Fathers received this suggestion with enthusiasm, and extended a warm welcome to these apostolic priests.
Expressing his happiness in being able to extend to the Venerable Chapter the respectful greetings of our brethren in China, Father Raphael proceeded to give a clear and eloquent account of conditions in the Diocese of Yuanling. It was especially appropriate, he said, that such an account be given at this time, since this is the Silver Jubilee Year of our Chinese Mission, he being the sole survivor in that Mission of the original band.
“During these twenty-five years,” he said, “the Passionists have left a truly glorious record in China; glorious, because, like true sons of St. Paul of the Cross, they have carried on their work in sorrow and privations and have even given their blood for Christ Crucified and for the souls He died to save. It is a record we are proud of, not because of ourselves, but because it has brought honor and glory to our Mother, the Congregation.”
Acknowledging in warm and gracious words the fatherly encouragement and strong support given our Chinese Missionaries by Very Reverend Father Carrol during his Provincialship, Father Raphael offered in all their names, a special vote of thanks to the self-sacrificing brethren on The Sign for their immense help to the missions. Father Raphael then spoke of several matters connected with the Chinese Missions. First, he mentioned the desirability of a Passionist Religious House being established there. His Excellency, Bishop O’Gara, had proposed this in his address to the Twenty-Eighth Provincial Chapter; and it would certainly be of great advantage to our religious in China to have such a house as a center of study, recollection, and rest. Unfortunately, because of present conditions, it did not appear likely that such a Religious House could be established in the immediate future; but these conditions would change, and it was desirable that this important project be kept in mind.
The subject of possible representation of our Chinese Missionaries at our Provincial Chapters was next discussed, and it was hoped that provision might be made for such representation on the analogy of the provision made in the latest General Chapter for the representation of Vice-Provinces at future General Chapters.
Recognizing that conditions have made it impossible for Father Provincial to conduct a canonical Visitation to China in recent years, Father Raphael urged the desirability of having such a Visitation at least triennially when this might become feasible. He expressed his readiness to supply, for the information of the Capitular Fathers, any data they might wish to have regarding the work in Hunan, the Procure in Shanghai, or the Language School in Peiping.
“Finally,” he said, “let me offer you, Venerable Fathers, the best wishes and prayers of our Chinese Missionaries for the success of the Twenty-Ninth Provincial Chapter of St. Paul of the Cross Province. Our Foreign Missionaries are a wonderful body of men! For zeal and religious spirit they cannot be excelled. In spite of being deprived of many things which, in America, are regarded as necessities, and in spite of the trials and ordeals that are part and parcel of missionary life—the dangers of war, bandits, and the constant menace of the Communists, there have been no complaints, except when their work for souls has been hindered or delayed. They are Passionists after the heart of our Holy Founder! Again, my deepest appreciation to Very Reverend Father President and the Capitular Fathers for the honor and courtesy shown me. And a final word of heartfelt esteem and gratitude to dear Father Carrol for his Paternity’s goodness to me, and his fatherly love, care and solicitude for the Passionists in China. And to our new Provincial, Father Gabriel, heartiest congratulations! The news of his Paternity’s election as Provincial will be good news, and encouraging news, to the Brethren in China.”
At the conclusion of Father Raphael’s able and helpful address, Very Reverend Father Carrol responded in the following words:
Very Reverend Fathers: Certainly it has been a great pleasure for all of us to have listened to the discourse of Father Raphael and to have had such an interesting and inspiring picture of the progress of our missions in China. We are particularly happy to have this story from one who has served so generously and so ably in China—one who was a member of our first band of missionaries to the Far East; a pioneer in this great work of the Passionists; one who, over the long period of twenty-five years, has suffered so much from bandits and floods and famine and other vicissitudes—one who, during the ordeal of the last great war, has shouldered terrific burdens as the Religious Superior and guide of the Brethren through almost insurmountable difficulties. It is a privilege and an honor to listen to such an account from the lips of so eminent a missionary and so apostolic a Passionist.
The report of Father Raphael brings into sharp focus the magnificent record of accomplishment by the Passionists during this long period. The Superiors and all the Religious of the Province have the greatest admiration and the most profound esteem and love for those who have so generously sacrificed themselves in this heroic work. They have been true disciples of the Crucified, true Passionists, true sons of St. Paul of the Cross. They have written a glorious Chapter in the history of our Congregation.
In a short time, dear Father Raphael, you will be journeying back to the mission field. May we ask you to convey to His Excellency, Bishop Cuthbert, and to all the Priests and Sisters in our missions, the gratitude of the Province. We beg you to bring to them our heartfelt good wishes, the assurance of our prayers and the pledge of our fullest support.
The new Provincial, Very Reverend Father Gabriel, also responded tofather Raphael’s address, approving all that Father Carrol had so eloquently spoken. Father Provincial spoke of his own knowledge of and interest in the work in China, occasioned especially by his Consultorship. He expressed his ardent hope for improved conditions there, and pledged his support and that of the Province to all our brethren in China.
A general discussion of the conditions and status of our Chinese missions followed, all the Fathers manifesting the greatest interest in this great field of apostolic activity. Father Raphael replied to their questions with his customary clarity and wealth of illustration. At the conclusion of this discussion, Very Reverend Father President cordially thanked Father Raphael for his magnificent contribution to the Chapter. This good missionary’s discourse, together with a most helpful and informative letter from His Excellency, Bishop O’Gara, to the Fathers of the Chapter, gave a clear picture of the state of the Chinese missions, and was of immense value to all the Capitulars.
Very Reverend Father Victor then addressed the Capitular Fathers on the subject of his charge in Germany and Austria. He said in part:
Very Reverend Father President and Very Reverend Fathers of the Venerable Chapter: In the first place, I wish to thank you for permitting me to speak to you on this occasion and lay before you the needs of our Vice-Province in Germany and Austria. It was this, and only this, that could induce me to undertake the long trip to the States. I will be as brief as is consistent with the interests and importance of my mission.
Thank God, none of our monasteries was destroyed in the general destruction of the late war, although two of them suffered very severely. The worst damages have been repaired. We have two monasteries in Germany, and one in Austria…but we are sorely in need of men for these monasteries. Our need of men is very acute. We have reached a crisis. We need men for our Preparatory College, our Novitiate, and our House for Professed Students… For these three monasteries we have only nine priests. The demands upon these men are so heavy and continuous that they cannot be engaged on missions and retreats and thereby become better known. There is a big demand for our services in this field but we cannot undertake them. We have come to this crisis through no fault of our own. Because of the Nazi regime and the war all our priests from the States, excepting myself, were forced to return to this country. Our Preparatory College was closed. Four of our theological students were killed in the war. Two of our priests are still imprisoned in Russia. Our present postulants are studying at a public gymnasium. Our two professed students are in the Jesuit Institute. We want to re-open our Preparatory College, our Novitiate, and our House for Professed Students as soon as possible. And we need Passionists to train our postulants, novices, and students. This is the most urgent and immediate need of our Vice-Province. May I appeal to you, then, as the representatives of this great Province, to give to our young and struggling Vice-Province the men that are essential to our growth and progress.
To a certain extent I am still a member of this Province…and this was graciously recognized by the kindness shown me by all, especially by Father Provincial who, with the Rector of St. Michael’s Monastery, waited at the airport for nearly nine hours lest he miss me upon my arrival. I deeply appreciate and I am very grateful for all these kindnesses and I am encouraged by them to ask again: ‘Help us in our dire need!’ Our work is the work of the Congregation. And I think I voice the sentiments of most, if not all, here when I say that it is the work of this Province, the Province to which is due the honor of having established the German Province.
When I wrote to Most Reverend Father General about coming to the States and getting help for our Vice-Province, the President of this Chapter, the Very Reverend Father Malcolm, replied: “Father General says to tell you that he is heartily interested in Germany and wants to see it progress… You are quite free to tell the Provincials that Father General gives in advance his approval to their giving you whatever they are disposed to sacrifice for the coming German-Austrian Province.”
Very Reverend and dear Fathers, we are sons of the same Mother, the Congregation of the Passion; we are brothers of the same Province, bound not by bonds of flesh and blood but by the stronger bonds of fraternal charity… So, dear Fathers, even though it should be a big sacrifice to the Province to give us the men whom we may be able to interest in our work and who would be willing to return with me, we beg you to make this sacrifice because our need for help is desperate.
Very Reverend Father Victor than expressed his warm gratitude to Very Reverend Father Carrol and to all the other Superiors of the Province for the help they had already given him and the German-Austrian Vice-Province.
On the initiative of Very Reverend Father Carrol, the Capitular Fathers accorded a rising vote of thanks to the zealous and venerable Vice-Provincial for his presence and his able address. The keenest interest was displayed in its subject matter and, beginning with Very Reverend Father Gabriel, the newly elected Provincial, the Fathers made many inquiries of Father Victor as to the situation and prospects of his territory, the number of Religious needed there, and other pertinent matters.
The Father Vice-Provincial explained that he considered that about ten recruits for his mission would supply for its immediate needs. He did not expect that they necessarily volunteer, but that they should express their willingness to undertake these apostolic labors if Father Provincial chose to send them. He himself had gone to Germany as an act of obedience and, in spite of the many hardships he had undergone, he considered that his years there had been the happiest of his life.
As to present conditions in Germany and Austria, he regarded them rather optimistically despite the somewhat discouraging appearances. The field is very fertile for Passionist activity. He had reason to believe that a more liberal policy on the part of the United States Government would make it possible for our Religious to leave for Germany in the near future, perhaps by the middle of September. Provision would be made for their acquisition of German as speedily as possible.
Very Reverend Father Victor took occasion to speak of one difficulty which does cause special concern everywhere in Germany and Austria—the shortage of certain foods, especially of fats. Pointing out that the Province of St. Paul of the Cross has nine Retreats and his Vice-Province only three, he suggested that if each of our houses send a package a month over there, this would mean that they could each count on receiving three packages every month. Although such packages cost only about ten dollars each, this assistance would be most substantial to our brethren in Germany and Austria.
On the conclusion of this discussion, the Venerable Chapter again displayed its sympathetic appreciation of Father Victor and of his apostolic collaborators. The Very Reverend Father President then briefly recapitulated the discourses of Fathers Victor and Raphael, pointing out the immense value of such information as they had contributed for the enlightenment of the Chapter. The session then adjourned with prayer.
There was no meeting of the Chapter on Monday afternoon, but on Tuesday morning, at the usual hour, the Capitular Fathers assembled for the Thirteenth Session. Preparatory to the consideration of proposed legislation, the Very Reverend Father President explained, clearly and briefly, the nature and extent of the powers of a Provincial Chapter as a canonical legislative body and the procedure to be followed in proposing and deciding legislation. He then called upon the chairmen of the various committees to submit their reports. The proposals of the Committee on Observance were discussed carefully and thoroughly at this and the following Session. In several instances, it was agreed that the matters in question should not be the subject of decrees, but might best be handled administratively by the Provincial Curia or by the local Superiors. The Session adjourned with prayer.
The discussion of matters pertaining to the Holy Observance continued during the Fourteenth Session which was held on Tuesday afternoon. At this Session the Capitular Fathers agreed upon the following resolutions:
The Venerable Chapter, mindful of the growing practice of granting the Community excessive dispensations from the Observance and the consequent threat to the Passionist life, reminds Superiors that, by virtue of Paragraph 19, Chapter 3, of our Regulations, such dispensations are to be granted only for a real, momentary, and extraordinary necessity.
Another important matter concerning Observance being left for decision at a later Session, the subject of Missions occupied the Capitular Fathers for some time, and the following recommendations were voted:
Fully aware of the pre-eminence of missions and retreats among the activities by which the Congregation promotes the sanctification of others, the Venerable Chapter recommends that the Provincial Curia study and adopt a program which will increase our prestige and effectiveness in this all-important ministry.
The Venerable Chapter recommends that the tenure of office of Parish Priests, Retreat Directors, and Chaplains ordinarily be limited to a period of six years.
The Venerable Chapter calls the attention of local Superiors to the advisability of notifying absent religious of the Community of the deaths of brethren and of relatives.
This Session, like all the others, concluded with prayer.
On Wednesday morning, July 16th, the Chapter after thorough and prayerful discussion, agreed upon the following:
Recognizing an existing abuse against the spirit of poverty, temperance, and the normal asceticism proper to Passionist life in the unnecessary daily use of spirituous liquors, the Venerable Chapter calls upon the Religious of the Province, and especially the Superiors, for full co-operation in meeting this danger. When deemed appropriate or, in certain particular cases, even necessary, spirituous liquors shall ordinarily be dispensed privately by the Superior, and at all times with due moderation. The Venerable Chapter earnestly exhorts the Provincial Curia to keep a vigilant watch over this matter and if necessary, make specific regulations to enforce the letter and the spirit of this recommendation.
The Venerable Chapter, unanimously favoring in principle the admission of delegates to Provincial Chapters in addition to the canonical Superiors mentioned by the Holy Rule, decided:
That the Provincial Curia study this matter in all its aspects and prepare, in due time, a petition to the Holy See that such a concession be made for the benefit of this Province.
The conclusion reached after discussion of another matter was formulated as follows:
The Venerable Chapter respectfully suggests that in order to promote uniformity of practice throughout the Province and to consider problems which may have arisen, the Father Provincial, when he may deem it expedient, assemble the Superiors of the Province for general discussion.
The following DECREES were made during this Session of the Chapter:
1. To remedy inconveniences occasioned by our present horarium and also for the physical benefit of our Religious, the Venerable Chapter decrees that the following revised horarium be observed in all monasteries of the Province:
|2:15 P.M. Vespers and Spiritual Reading.||2:15 P.M. Vespers and Spiritual Reading.|
|2:45 P.M. Study||2:45 P.M. Prayer|
|5:00 P.M. Solitary Walk||3:45 P.M. Study|
|5:30 P.M. Prayer||6:00 P.M. Solitary Walk|
|6:30 P.M. Supper||6:30 P.M. Supper|
|7:00 P.M. Recreation||7:00 P.M. Recreation|
|7:45 P.M. Compline & Night Prayers||8:00 P.M. Compline & Night Prayers|
|8:20 P.M. Study||8:35 P.M. Study|
|9:00 P.M. Retire||9:00 P.M. Retire|
Visiting Religious, as well as those who by reason of their position follow a mitigated observance, must take meals with the Community.
2. At least three months before the Provincial Chapter, the Father Provincial shall send a circular letter to all the Monasteries and Hospices of the Province inviting the Religious to submit to the Provincial Curia, either directly or through the local Superiors, such proposition as they deem worthy of consideration by the Chapter. The Provincial Curia shall draw up a complete list of such proposals and send it to those who are to participate in the Chapter for their consideration.
The Chapter did not assemble on Wednesday afternoon. The Sixteenth Session was held in the evening of that day, July 16th. At this time the Venerable Chapter, re-capitulating the many encouraging and edifying matters which had been brought out in the course of previous discussions, expressed its gratification at the progress which had been made in the Province in recent years. The Capitular Fathers spoke in warm appreciation of the zealous and edifying lives of our Religious generally, and referred to the innumerable instances of charity and of self-sacrifice evidenced by our brethren in their various fields of activity. It singled out for special commendation of the heroicity of our brethren in China and the able and devoted labors of our Fathers on The Sign in supporting them. The self-sacrificing devotion of the brethren in the Southern Mission field was also singled out for warm and special praise. The Venerable Chapter urged that all our Religious renew and intensify their devotion to Jesus Crucified and their loyalty to our beloved Mother, the Congregation: that the Passion of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, be ever in our hearts.
The Sixteenth Session of the Chapter then adjourned.
The labors of the Chapter being now nearly completed, a final Session was held on Thursday morning, July 17th, at ten-thirty o’clock. The Father Secretary read the Acts of the Chapter; they were discussed and approved by the Capitular Fathers.
The Very Reverend Father Carrol, retiring Provincial, then addressed the Very Reverend President of the Chapter as follows:
Very Reverend Father President: In behalf of all the Capitular Fathers, may I express profound gratitude and sincere appreciation for your untiring and unselfish labors during the course of this Twenty-Ninth Provincial Chapter of the Province of Saint Paul of the Cross. I am sure that it is the sentiment of all of us that Your Paternity has presided over these sessions with marked efficiency and with a spirit of charity and patience that has been truly admirable. We have every reason to feel assured that these deliberations, which you have so wisely and prudently directed, will mean much to the future welfare of this Province.
As your Paternity knows, we had hoped to have Most Reverend Father General with us at this Chapter. Shortly after the last General Chapter in Rome, Father General spoke with joy of his coming journey to the United States and of his longing to visit with all the Brethren over here. It was a keep disappointment to all of us, therefore, to learn that, because of the pressure of other very important business, Father General would not be able to come himself. We know, however, that he is deeply interested in our work at this Chapter and that he has been following us with his fervent prayers.
Father General could not have selected as his representative to preside at this Chapter one more agreeable and satisfactory to all of us—one more familiar with our particular problems—one who could be more anxious to assist us in every possible way. For all of this we are deeply and sincerely grateful.
May we ask you, Very Reverend Father President, to convey to Most Reverend Father General the sentiments of profound esteem and filial devotion expressed here in the name of all the Superiors and Religious of the Province of Saint Paul of the Cross. Please tell him of our hope that, in the not too far distant future, we may have the joy of welcoming amongst us the successor of our beloved Father and Founder, Saint Paul of the Cross. We beg to assure Father General of our constant prayers that God may ever bless and help him as he shoulders the heavy burden of the government of the Congregation.
Very Reverend Father President humbly and warmly reciprocated this expression of esteem. It was with some diffidence, he said, that he had at first accepted this assignment but this feeling rapidly disappeared as he experienced the kindness and the confidence of all the Fathers of the Chapter. He had been happy to cooperate in this important work for the benefit of the Province of Saint Paul of the Cross and of the Congregation, and he was encouraged to believe that this association would serve to strengthen the bonds between the two American Provinces and between this Province and the General Curia. He would always be happy to do anything he could for our Province and for its members.
Inquiring, then, as to whether any further matters remained to be brought before the Chapter and receiving a negative response, the Father President declared the formal closing of the Twenty-ninth Provincial Chapter of the Province of Saint Paul of the Cross.
The Reverend Father Edward of the Child Jesus was then invited to the Chapter Room and warmly thanked by the Father President and all the Capitulars for his kindly and efficient performance of his duties as Custodian.
The signing of the Acts of the Chapter and other canonical formalities were then observed; and the Very Reverend Father President confirmed the decrees and the elections of the Rectors and of the Master of Novices.
The Capitular Fathers of the Twenty-ninth Provincial Chapter of Saint Paul of the Cross appended their signatures as follows:
Malcolm of Mary—President-Delegate
Carrol of Mary Immaculate—Provincial
Gabriel of the Sacred Heart—1st Provincial Consultor
Leonard of the Most Holy Family—2nd Provincial Consultor
John Joseph of the Immaculate Conception—Rector of St. Mary’s Retreat, Dunkirk, New York
Celestine of the Immaculate Conception—Rector of St. Michael’s Retreat, Union City, New Jersey
Agatho of the Mother of God—Rector of St. Joseph’s Retreat, Baltimore, Maryland
Benedict of Our Lady of Perpetual Help—Rector of St. Ann’s Retreat, Scranton, Pennsylvania
Basil of the Mother of God—Rector of St. Gabriel’s Retreat, Brighton, Massachusetts
Xavier of the Sacred Heart—Rector of Holy Cross Retreat, Dunkirk, New York
Canisius of Our Mother of Holy Hope—Rector of Mother of Sorrows Retreat, W. Springfield, Mass
Jerome of Our Lady of Perpetual Help—Rector of Immaculate Conception Retreat, Jamaica, New York
Berchmans of the Immaculate Heart of Mary—Master of Novices
Immaculate Conception Retreat
Jamaica, New York.
July 17th, 1947.
Xavier of the Sacred Heart,