Acts of the Twenty-seventh Provincial Chapter
of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross
Held in the Retreat of St. Paul of the Cross, Pittsburgh, Penna.
From September 9th to September 17th, 1941.


Passionist Fathers at Twenty-seventh Provincial Chapter - 1941
Passionist Fathers at Twenty-seventh Provincial Chapter – 1941. Seated: Edward Goggin, Colman Byrne, Bonaventure Oberst (General Consultor and President), Caspar Conley, Carrol Ring. Standing: Leonard Gownley, Conran Kane, Ernest Welch, Gabriel Gorman, Herbert Young, Berchmans Lanagan, Adelbert Poletti, Frederick Harrer, Leander Delli Veneri (Guardian). Click image for larger view.

On the Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross, May 3, 1941, a circular letter was issued by the Very Reverend Father Colman of the Immaculate Conception, Provincial, announcing that the Superiors of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross would soon be gathered together for the twenty seventh Provincial Chapter. The exact date of the Chapter would be made known as soon as word was received from Father General.

In his letter, Father Provincial emphasized that, while all Provincial Chapters are important, the approaching Chapter is one of the most important in the history of the Province because of conditions throughout the world and especially because of what threatens for the future. Now, more than ever, we need God’s help if we are to have the type of government and legislation needed for the critical years immediately before us. Exhorting all the Religious fervently to recommend the matter to God, Father Provincial prescribed that the customary prayers be recited in all the houses of the Province and that the Solemn Triduum take place on the days immediately preceding the opening of the Chapter.

On July 25, Father Provincial sent a second circular letter announcing that the Provincial Chapter would open in St. Paul’s Retreat, Pittsburgh, Pa., on September 9. The Capitular Fathers were instructed to be present in the Retreat on the evening of September 8. Father Provincial expressed the happiness of the Brethren on learning that the Very Reverend Father Bonaventure of the Assumption, General Consultor, had been delegated by Very Reverend Father General to preside at the Chapter.

The world today is in a state of confusion and chaos. Two large and dangerous movements, which have gathered shape and momentum during the past few years, are now threatening to undermine Christian civilization: Totalitarianism on the one hand and Anti-Christian philosophy of life on the other. The one is an organized movement relentlessly opposed to every institution that stands in its path, and manifesting contemptuous and intolerant disregard of every opinion at variance with its own. The second movement, at variance with Christian thought and conduct, is unorganized and less obvious, but none the less it does its deadly work. Under guise of learning, of scientific thought, it generates in the minds of youth suspicions, doubts and open rejection of Christian doctrines and the fundamental principles underlying Christian morality. It is no wonder, then, that these times are indeed critical.

The most urgent need of the present day is the energetic and timely application of remedies which will effectively ward off catastrophe. Our Holy Father strongly emphasizes the necessity of bringing God back into His rightful place in human society. He has pointed out again and again that Christian principles and ideals must permeate every department of life if society is to be reconstructed and peace and order established among men.

Here is evident at once the position which the Religious Life must hold and the influence which it must exert in the trying days to come, for the Religious Life is the embodiment and the perfect fulfillment of the teaching of Jesus Christ. It has a divine remedy for the social crisis in its obedience, a remedy for the economic crisis in its poverty, and a remedy for the moral crisis in its chastity. It is a direct antithesis to the evils of the day. It protects the rights of God and safeguards the rights of man. In place of doubt, it offers faith; in place of despair, it gives hope; instead of hatred, it prescribes charity. It points to that “Lasting City” which is the perfect fulfillment of all man’s aspirations and toward which he must ever tend.

Experience, however, proves that the purpose of the Religious Life is best attained and that its influence is felt in greatest measure when its leaders are vitalized by its spirit. It is the common sentiment of spiritual masters that the good or evil of a religious community depends in great measure upon those who are appointed for its government.

Deeply conscious of these truths, the Venerable Capitulars of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross met for the Twenty-seventh Provincial Chapter.


On the morning of September 9, 1941, the Capitular Fathers assembled in the Retreat of St. Paul of the Cross, Pittsburgh, Pa., for the opening session of the Twenty-seventh Provincial Chapter.

The first Session of the Chapter opened at nine o’clock. The Very Reverend Father Provincial, Colman of the Immaculate Conception, read a letter from Most Reverend Father General, Titus of St. Paul of the Cross, addressed to Very Reverend Father Bonaventure of the Assumption, Second General Consultor. The letter read as follows:

Being ourselves obliged by the prescriptions of our Holy Rule, Chapter XXX, to preside personally at the Provincial Chapters, or to deputate another to take our place in case of impediment, we being legitimately impeded from going to America by reason of the present circumstances of the war, by this present document elect and deputate you to preside in our name at the Chapter to be held in the Province of St. Paul of the Cross, in the United States of America, with the right of voting and also of confirming in our name the Master of Novices and the Rectors who shall be elected. In case the Capitular Fathers deem it convenient to make any decrees for the welfare of the Province, such decrees, in conformity to the prescriptions of our Holy Rule, shall not have force of law until they have been confirmed by us.

Given in this Retreat of Sts. John and Paul, on June 13, 1941.

Superior General.”

After the above letter was read, the President of the Chapter, the Very Reverend Father Bonaventure of the Assumption, intoned the “Veni Creator” and recited the customary prayers. He then briefly addressed the Fathers in the following words:

We are assembled this morning, my dear Brethren, to open the preliminary sessions of the Twenty-seventh Provincial Chapter of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross.

I would that yours were the happiness of having with you our Most Reverend and dearly beloved Father General. The terrible and terrific war has made it impossible for him to preside in person at this Chapter. However, though he be far away in person, he is with you in spirit. He is praying God to bless this Chapter and its work, so that you may elect good and prudent Superiors and by your deliberations promote the welfare of one of the most important Provinces of our Congregation.

Father General asks me to give the assembled Capitular Fathers the glad tidings that our Holy Father, Pope Pius the XII, sends His blessing to you. With joy I now read the communication sent to you by our Most Reverend Father General :

To the Very Reverend Capitular Fathers of St. Paul of the Cross Province:

In spiritual union with you, I communicate most heartily to you the Holy Father’s Blessing, which I asked him in your favor during the last audience that he kindly accorded me, and I implore upon all of you an abundance of light and assistance of the Holy Ghost, so that directed and illuminated by Him, you may elect good and prudent Superiors and at the same time promote the welfare of the Province with sage ordinations for God’s greatest glory, for the advantage of the faithful and for the honor of our Mother the Congregation.

Rome, Sts. John and Paul, June 13, 1941.

(Signed) TITUS of ST. PAUL of THE CROSS,
Superior General, C.P.

Brethren and Venerable Capitular Fathers, I need not impress upon you the importance of the work that is ahead of us. For months the Religious of the Province have been storming Heaven to bless this Chapter. And now our Congregation and this Province of St. Paul of the Cross relies upon you, its representatives, to provide Superiors according to the heart of our Holy Founder, who, for the coming three years, will direct the activities of the Province in the spirit of our Congregation and lead the Brethren by word and example in the paths of religious happiness and perfection.

God and our Congregation look to us to fulfill faithfully the grave task that is before us, and one day we shall have to render an account to God our judge, for the manner in which we shall have acquitted ourselves of the work entrusted to us.

With the vivid realization that the eyes of God and of our Holy Founder and of the Religious of this Province and of our beloved Congregation are upon us, let us now enter wholeheartedly upon the work of this Chapter.

Father Leander of Jesus and Mary was unanimously chosen Guardian of the Chapter Room. The Father was called, took the oath required of him, then left the room and assumed his duties.

A temporary Secretary to the Chapter was then chosen in the person of the Very Reverend Father Frederick Joseph of the Heart of Mary.

The first order in the way of business was the reading of the Reports of the Administration of the various Monasteries and Hospices of the Province. Father President then turned these reports over to a special Committee for review.

The President of the Chapter now called upon the various Fathers to submit freely any new proposals they wished to make for the welfare of the Province. These proposals were made and carefully noted. They were then grouped under separate headings and the President appointed special Committees to consider them carefully and to report on them at a later time.

Father Provincial now read the following cablegram received from the Very Reverend Father Raphael Vance, C.P., the Religious Superior of our Brethren laboring in China, making a report of the work accomplished by the Fathers in that mission field:

Dispensary Treatment 475,984; Refugees 2,100; Baptisms (Adults) 1,036, (Infants) 138, in articulo mortis 1,895; Confessions 39,890; Communions 135,515; Confirmations 728; Marriages 49; Extreme Unctions 153; Catholics 5,006; Catechumens 11,500; Mission Damage by Bombings 75,000 dollars American currency.

At 4:00 o’clock of the Second Session, the “Improperium” began, that is, the merits of those Religious eligible to canonical office were discussed frankly and conscientiously.


The discussion of merits was continued throughout these Sessions. On Thursday afternoon the President of the Chapter introduced the Reverend William Westhoven, C.P., one of our Chinese missionaries on temporary furlough. This Father was received with applause and then addressed the assembled Fathers as follows:

Very Reverend President of the Chapter and Venerable Capitular Fathers: In the name of our Missionaries in China I wish to express our thanks to Very Reverend Father Provincial, and through him to the Province of St. Paul of the Cross, for the kind invitation to address this Venerable Chapter on behalf of the Passionists’ China Mission.

The Venerable Fathers will readily understand that I am in no official position to give a detailed statistical report on the various mission activities in Hunan during the past three years. Kindly allow me, then, to confine my few words to (1) the Mission work (2) the spirit with which this work is done (3) the price paid by our missioners (4) a word of thanks and an appeal.


The fundamental and basic principle underlying our China Mission work is this: the Mission and its work have been entrusted to us American Passionist Fathers by Holy Mother the Church, i.e., by Christ Himself. Apart from this we have no business in China. By our vocation to the Mission our lives are consecrated to the salvation of souls. Within this orbit we function, and gladly undertake anything and everything. Briefly, our work is the fulfillment in our missionary lives of the commission Christ gave His Apostles to “Go forth, teach all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. The final goal of all Mission work is to make a Christian world.

Mission work makes for an extraordinarily active life; it necessarily implies a “going forth”; it means leaving one’s native land. The missionary departs bodily from his monastery, though not spiritually. Mission life requires a reorientation of our mode of existence to meet the requirements of living among pagans. All problems that arise, all questions—and they are many—that give cause for dispute and difference of opinion must be discussed and decided in the light of this greater principle, viz., the salvation of souls. This great objective must be kept in view and we must be prepared mentally and spiritually to meet every situation that arises, trusting that whatever call God presents in the course of our work is an opportunity to further and strengthen the Mission cause. Mindful of this Mission principle the Congregation of the Passion rightfully looks to her sons on the China Mission to fulfill her most cherished hope of one day establishing the Passionist religious life among the Chinese. Holy Mother the Church knows from experience in evangelizing pagan nations that Passionists living their religious life in monasteries will, in some future day, exist in China…and these Passionists will be Chinese.

Mission life demands work on the part of the missionary. He is gravely bound to “teach all nations.” Practically all our religious work on the Mission is catechetical. We teach catechism from A to Z, day in and day out, throughout the year. Work not directly religious has religion, nevertheless, for its inspiration, its motive, its ultimate purpose. We purchase a piece of property, we build a school, we entertain persons of influence, we talk with the coolie, we feed war refugees, we open hospitals, we tramp the hills, we carry on a burdensome correspondence with friends and benefactors back here in the U.S.A.… These things are done with one thought in mind, viz., to be able to teach MORE catechism to MORE Chinese…to save MORE souls.

This is the central aim in all we do. Mission work is many-sided and the possibilities in Mission work are as wide as the heavens. Anything and everything that contributes to the specific objective of building up the Kingdom of Christ in souls falls within the scope of Mission work. Many of us, even we missionaries, are inclined to think of Mission work chiefly in some of its details; but we should continually remind ourselves that Mission work is truly present in every detail that can in any way contribute to its success. Only thus can we be happy and contented in the work assigned us to do on the Mission by our Superiors and only thus can we arrive at a true evaluation of things pertaining to Mission work. It is, indeed, Mission work to catechize prospective converts and to prepare them for Baptism; yet it may be equally good Mission work to climb half a dozen mountains on a sick call or to present a picture of an angel of mercy and charity to war refugees.

Again, it may be even more missionary to labor, as the staff of The Sign magazine is doing so heroically, to support the Mission itself. Who are we to say which individual item of Mission work contributes more to the final success of the work? The glorious example of Fathers Walter, Clement and Godfrey, giving their lives in violence, out on the barren hills of Western Hunan—the first American priests to give such example—may have accomplished more for the Mission cause than another whose work has been visibly successful in the actual conversion of numberless souls.

The principle is this: we must believe that every item of mission work furthers the cause when that work, however small it may be, is done in the line of duty and with the purpose of establishing the Kingdom of God in souls. Mission work is essentially religious and corporative; religious because we baptize; corporative because through baptism and in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, souls are brought into the one true Fold of Jesus Christ.


Two outstanding and distinctive characteristics mark the true missionary and his spirit—his faith and his zeal. The task of a missionary is limitless. To comprehend it in its entirety, to evaluate it rightly, to live it fruitfully a deep, abiding spirit of faith is indispensable. No missionary is, or can be, a failure as long as he maintains faith in his calling, in his work, in the ultimate victory of God’s word over the perverseness of pagan hearts. On the Mission our faith is constantly under attack, both directly and indirectly—always most insidiously. In our Catholic challenge to paganism we must look with the eyes of faith beyond the years of this generation and the next if we would discern the fruits of our labors and sacrifice. We must include within our missionary vision—again ’tis one of faith—not only the populous, tortured countries of the Orient but also the turbulent Moslem world, the islands of Oceania, and the lands of darkest Africa. As missionaries we must have an eye for every soul in need of spiritual help. Mankind is one in Christ.

Without faith there can be no religious zeal. With a strong, lively faith the missionary has the zeal to live courageously, to speak bravely, and to die humbly that Christ may live in souls. It is zeal that takes a man out of the class of plain missionary and makes him an apostle. The missionary, because of his zeal, explores every possibility of his calling. As boundless as the needs of his adopted people are the ways and means the apostolic missionary devises to help them. He does not merely pass his days in doing various Mission work, he does more, he adds to that work the vital spark of apostolic zeal that ever seeks new forms and better methods to improve his Mission work.

Human wisdom, even the most brilliant, is not sufficient for one day of successful missionary labor. The missionary is not long in the Orient, where black is white and yes is no, when he finds himself forced to his knees in humble supplication to the Infinite Wisdom for light to see the road ahead, forced to his knees in prayer to the Infinite Power for strength to stand up and walk, forced to his knees in petition to the Infinite Goodness for grace to keep going forward for the greater honor and glory of God and the salvation of souls. It is this conviction of absolute dependence upon God, so easily and quickly arrived at deep in the soul (if one is sincere in his vocation) that makes missionary life profitable to one’s own soul and fruitful to other souls. This is the source of missionary zeal; this is the guardian of faith in the heart of a missionary.


Venerable Fathers of the Chapter, I honestly admit my utter helplessness to give an adequate picture or description of the price our good missionary Bishop, Cuthbert O’Gara, C.P., our brave Fathers and heroic Sisters in Hunan are paying to further the cause of Jesus Christ in that vineyard. The burden of converting six millions of pagans with our Vicariate still rests upon our weak shoulders. Possibly ten to fifteen thousand adult souls (this figure may need correction) have been baptized by our missionaries during the past twenty years of missionary endeavor in China. This fewness in numbers proves the difficulty of making converts in the last Province in China to be thrown open to foreigners.

The field has been watered with the warm blood of three of our Fathers; other Fathers and Sisters of our mission personnel—two this year—have died at their posts of duty—have gone down in death with their work merely begun. The remainder of us continue the struggle against almost superhuman and insurmountable odds. We have in recent years faced the additional dangers and obstacles brought on by the Sino-Japanese conflict. I have no desire, much less the intention, of going into the ghastly details of a bombing raid that leaves hundreds of dead and maimed strewn along the streets of China’s inland cities, of mission buildings burned, wrecked or demolished, of hopes shattered, of plans upset, of mission schemes for further development gone with the wind, of ambitions for Christ thwarted or indefinitely postponed. Some of our Missions, it is true, are structurally worse off now than they were twenty years ago.

Please don’t think that we missionaries are discouraged and spirit-broken. God forbid! On the contrary, we see in all this material throw-back a solid spiritual advancement. The Passion of Christ has taught us that the closer He moved to ultimate victory in accomplishing the redemption of the world by His death on the Cross the deeper His life descended into seeming failure. So, too, our work in Hunan at this stage of its development. And it is for this reason that I, personally, have so little respect for the man who begins to figure in dollars and cents the price of converting one pagan soul. The price paid is—must be—in suffering, in seemingly frustrated labors, in heart-breaking disappointments, in sacrifice, in distress of soul—much of it—in cries like unto those the Divine Missionary uttered as He agonized in the Garden; yes, and by sharing with the Master some of His frightening despair as He hung on the Cross.

Let us be honest; there can be no other way of establishing solidly the work we Passionists have undertaken in China. We sincerely hope the Congregation, particularly the two American Provinces that fostered and developed our religious spirit, will continue their magnificent trust in us not to be beaten down by present day Mission adversity; will trust us not to be overcome by the weight of our Cross; will trust us to bear up and carry on even more heroically our God-appointed work in spite of affliction and the preponderance of apparent frustration on the Mission today.

Candidly I admit a feeling of distinct uneasiness and shame, standing here in your presence, narrating a few of our Mission difficulties and hardships. Rightly these things are taken for granted—not mentioned—by men of the spirit. They are the expected procedure in the furtherance of any work for God. The greater the work the heavier the Cross. Souls are precious, and must be paid for dearly. The point I wish to stress is this: MORE SOULS ARE RECEIVING INSTRUCTION AND MORE SOULS HAVE BEEN BAPTIZED DURING THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS THAN EVER BEFORE DURING A CORRESPONDING PERIOD OF TIME IN THE HISTORY OF OUR CHINA MISSION. The reason is evident: a greater amount of suffering and sacrifice have gone into the work, hence the greater blessing to souls.


There is little more I can say, Venerable Fathers, except to make expression publicly of the thanks and gratitude of our China missionaries to the Province of St. Paul of the Cross for its share—truly a large one—in this work of the Mission. Gratitude and thanks, first, for your prayers, down through the ranks of the priests and students to the brothers, novices and postulants, including the prayers offered by the St. Gemma League; secondly, our special thanks to the Province for sending more and more zealous men to the Mission; thirdly, our appreciation of the sacrifice the Province is making to support our Mission financially. We earnestly desire the entire staff of The Sign to accept our humble thanks for all its self-sacrificing zeal, its devoted labors and its continued interest in the China Mission.

Without this three-fold help of prayer, reinforcements of young men, and money, the work of our Fathers on the Mission would fold up. There is nothing gained by minimizing our dependence upon the Province; we have no intention of doing so. We Passionists in China belong to the Province; we are an integral part of the Province; we are doing the work of the Province and the Church in China. My presence here this afternoon may be considered as that of a son placing his hand in the hand of his father. In doing this we Fathers on the Mission pledge our best efforts to be faithful to our calling and to carry on the work of Christ for souls. We ask in return the blessing of our father and the continuation of his generosity.

The Fathers listened with rapt attention to this inspiring address and expressed their deep appreciation of the heroic work accomplished and the self-sacrificing spirit of our Brethren in China. The Fathers then asked many pertinent questions of this good Father. All were greatly impressed by his words and gave expression to the highest admiration for the work of our heroic Fathers and noble Sisters in China. The Secretary of the Chapter then read a letter of the Very Reverend Raphael Vance, C.P., Religious Superior of our Brethren in China, addressed to the Venerable Chapter. It was decided to include this letter in the Acts of the Chapter as a source of edification to present and future generations of Passionists. The letter reads as follows:

To the Venerable Fathers assembled in the Twenty-seventh Provincial Chapter of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross, the Missionaries in China, send greetings and best wishes.

Very Reverend and dear Fathers:

It is certainly typical of the unfailing kindness and fatherly solicitude of Very Reverend Father Provincial for the Passionist Missionaries in China that His Paternity has asked their Religious Superior to send a letter to the Provincial Chapter. For this signal honor and privilege, I am truly unworthy, yet I more than appreciate such consideration, knowing full well it is Father Provincial’s way of telling the Passionists in China that they have a place in his heart and thoughts and that the Province is interested in the work and welfare of its members in the Far East.

It is almost twenty years since the Passionists came to China. During that time they have indeed been true to their name and profession, bringing the gift of faith to numberless souls who knew not God, and by living crucified lives in Christ, have showed forth the wisdom and power of the Cross in converting the pagan, and making of the convert a sturdy loyal child of Holy Mother Church.

The territory assigned to the American Passionists is considered one of the most difficult in all China. During the past twenty years it has gone through many serious trials and crises, such as two famines, civil war, invasions and almost constant danger from bandit hordes. Several times were the missionaries forced to flee for their lives when Communist armies moved in to wreak their hatred against everything Catholic by wanton destruction of Mission property. Through all these trials have the Passionists come triumphantly, though they paid the toll gladly in the mental strain, poor health, and in the supreme sacrifice of the violent death of three priests.

Since July 7, 193 7, Japan has been engaged in a most cruel war here in China. For the past three years the Vicariate has felt the full blast of this conflict. The air-raid alarms come at all hours of the day and night, sometimes several within the space of twenty-four hours. These are a strain on the strongest nerves, but when planes actually arrive overhead and without the least interference circle and circle around before dropping their deadly bombs on a defenseless city—well, such experience beggars description. Recent numbers of The Sign told of these bombings, when the hospital, the convent, and priests’ house at Chihkiang were demolished; when the convent and girls’ school were destroyed by incendiary bombs in Yuanling, also the damage done to the Missions at Luki and Chenki in other aerial raids.

This war has caused the greatest migration of people in the world’s history. Estimates say at least fifty million Chinese have fled before the Japanese Army. Thousands of these poor unfortunate refugees have passed through our Vicariate, some tarried a while and moved on, others are still with us. To meet the urgent necessity, our zealous Bishop, Most Reverend Cuthbert O’Gara, opened refugee camps in almost every mission of the Vicariate, where these poor people were housed and fed, received medical care and catechetical instruction. This Christlike charity has been fruitful in hundreds of conversions to the Faith.

The wear and tear of the past three years of war in our midst could not but have an effect on the health of the missionaries. Two years ago, death claimed Father Flavian Mullins, the Religious Superior, and one of the pioneers of the Chinese Mission. A number have been seriously ill, but, thank God, recovered. Others needed optical attention that cannot be obtained locally. And the missionaries are going to give some dentist a lot of work once the war is over. There are many articles of food that even in normal times (what we would call normal times) we must do without. But high prices and the impossibility of transportation, have brought such food items as butter, coffee and milk to the vanishing point.

We have managed to maintain the custom of allowing the missionary to go to the States on furlough for one year, after spending seven to eight years in the Mission. Even now there are several Fathers due to leave, but cannot because those on furlough in the States have difficulties in getting passport visas to return to China. For more priests to go to America before replacements have arrived would be a serious blow to the work, for it means the closing of some of the principal missions. In my visitation of the Missions, not once did I hear a complaint either about conditions or the personal inconveniences caused by the war. There has been indeed a most cheerful spirit joined to an apostolic zeal, that is accomplishing great things for souls, honor for the Church, and glory for our Mother the Congregation. Never were the Passionists in China working under more trying circumstances, and never were the prospects greater and a more plentiful harvest of souls being gathered for Christ Crucified. We know not what the future holds but in spite of trials and difficulties it is certain under the leadership of our zealous Bishop, the Sons of Saint Paul of the Cross will do bigger, better and more glorious things in China for God and the salvation of souls.

Two years ago a Passionist Foundation was made in Peking, where at much expense and sacrifice a language school for our newly arrived missionaries is operated. The Fathers there take a two-year course in the spoken and written language. The sacrifice and expense of maintaining this school, the two years delay before the new priest will be of actual service to the Vicariate, and the taking of a seasoned missionary from the field to direct this work, all these things are a sacrifice and expense but are well worth while when looking to the future and seeing the amount of good such thoroughly trained men can accomplish. The first three Fathers to have this training are now in the Vicariate and five others are finishing their course in Peking. A word here of deepest gratitude and heartfelt appreciation to Father Provincial and the two American Provinces for the splendid type of Missionaries sent to the Chinese Mission.

On June 26, 1940, our Most Reverend Bishop celebrated his Silver Jubilee of Priesthood. At His Excellency’s request there was no external celebration because of the war, it being thought unbecoming to have one in the midst of so much suffering and misery, while the money could be better employed in giving relief to the war victims. So, the celebration in the Vicariate was purely spiritual. The day was, nevertheless, most memorable, for our Bishop consecrated in Taoyuan, Hunan, the Vicar Apostolic of Changteh, the Most Reverend Gerard Herrero, O.S.A. As the ceremony drew to an end, the Te Deum was intoned, when the church bell began to ring, not with a joyous peal, but to announce an air-raid alarm—that Japanese planes were coming. In such war-like surroundings did this historical event take place.

Since the last Provincial Chapter, death claimed three Fathers who spent the best years of their lives in founding the Chinese Mission in Western Hunan—Fathers Flavian Mullins and Agatho Purtill, who were pioneers, and Father Dominic Langenbacher; who was the first Prefect Apostolic of Yuanling. Their memory, works of zeal and good example are an encouragement and incentive to ourselves and the Chinese.

To The Sign and its staff of hard-working, zealous and self-sacrificing priests the Chinese Missions owe a deep debt of gratitude. We appreciate all that is being done for us, knowing full well that without this financial aid, we could not carry on. We are most grateful and are pleased to have this opportunity to express our appreciation and thanks.

It would be a lack of chivalry not to say a word of the two Communities of Sisters in the Vicariate of Yuanling who share with us trials and labors for the salvation of souls. The Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of St. Joseph are doing wonderful and heroic work. They have mothered the orphan, nursed the sick, consoled the dying. They are indefatigable in the school, hospital and dispensary. No case is too filthy or dangerous for their charitable care. They are the admiration of both pagan and Christian. And in the bombings that destroyed the Convent homes of both Communities, they were indeed admirable, ignoring their own losses and going about helping others, with no word of complaint. “Heroic” is the only word that describes them.

Within the past few months the Sisters of Charity lost two of their Community by death, and two others brought to death’s door by their caring for the sick during an epidemic of typhus fever. If God tries no one beyond his strength, then He has paid the good Sisters a delicate compliment in the trials they have passed through.

Looking over the Vicariate, we see the Catechumenates crowded, the orphans and aged cared for, the poor and sick ministered to, refugees and victims of bombings succored, native vocations fostered, several young men already in major seminaries, who, please God, before long will join us in our all-out labors for souls and God’s glory. Never before were so many coming to know and love God here in Western Hunan. So, in spite of the trials and difficulties, the uncertainty caused by war here and the possibility of its spread to America, we are encouraged. With God’s help, we will carry on as faithful sons of St. Paul of the Cross.

Finally, Very Reverend and dear Fathers, let me assure you that the Passionists in China are with you in spirit and with their prayers during these days of Provincial Chapter. We realize the solemn duty that is yours in choosing Superiors for the Province and making laws for its welfare. Being part of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross, we know you are also much concerned with the Chinese Mission. The greetings of each of the missionaries as well as his prayers that God may bless your counsels and crown your efforts with the greatest success, go with this letter.

A million grateful thanks to Very Reverend Father Provincial and to you, Venerable Fathers, and through you to the Province for all your wonderful kindness to the Chinese Mission and Missionaries.

Your humble servant in Christ’s Passion,

Religious Superior for China

Supu, Hunan, China, July 30, 1941

The Capitular Fathers now continued their discussion of merits until six o’clock, when all repaired to the Choir to listen to a forceful discourse, delivered in a masterful way by the Very Reverend Father Berchmans, Master of Novices, on the nature, necessity, origin and purpose of authority. The qualities necessary in a good Superior were brought home to all, with the incumbent obligation of electing only those who possess these qualities.

At eight o’clock, after evening services, the Session was continued until 9:30, when the last Father eligible to office was discussed.


At 6:30 on the morning of Friday, September 12, the Solemn Votive Mass “De Spiritu Sancto” was sung by the Very Reverend Father Bonaventure, assisted by the Capitular Fathers.

At 9 o’clock the entire Community, together with the Capitular Fathers, assembled in the Chapel and thence proceeded to the Chapter Room, while singing the “Vexilla Regis“. After reciting the customary prayers, the President of the Chapter dismissed the Religious of the Community and the Chapter was declared officially opened.

Father President now addressed the Venerable Chapter in the following well-chosen and weighty words:

We have now come to the most important work of the Chapter. Upon us devolves the serious obligation of giving to the Province those Superiors who are, for the coming three years, to guide the destinies of the Religious of this Province of St. Paul of the Cross, to lead them on to perfection and to direct their activities for the welfare of souls. We are to give to the Province a Master of Novices who is to mould the future Religious of the Province according to the pattern of our Holy Father and Founder.

During these days of prayer and serious deliberation, we have begged light from God and from man that we might acquit ourselves worthily of the serious responsibility that is now ours. We ask God to enlighten us, we pray to the Holy Ghost to be with us, to help us to know God’s will and to enable us to do that which God wants us to do.

In the discourse delivered yesterday, we were reminded forcibly, impressively, of the qualities we are to look for in those for whom we would cast our vote. God will enlighten us. He will give us the strength to do that which He wants of us, but He will not force us. We want to do God’s Holy Will. We are determined to do it and God will help us.

So, then, in the presence of the Almighty, Whose eyes are upon us, upon our thoughts, upon our every action, in the presence of our Holy Founder who is with us in spirit, in this Retreat of his own name, in the eyes of the whole Congregation and particularly of this Province of St. Paul of the Cross, let us in all humility, in all truthfulness, in all justice proceed to the work that is before us. May God help us to be faithful, knowing that one day we will have to give an account of that which we are now about to do. With these thoughts in mind, in God’s name, let us proceed.”

The Secretary now called the roll and the following Capitular Fathers responded:

Very Reverend Father Bonaventure of the Assumption, Second General Consultor, President.
Very Reverend Father Colman of the Immaculate Conception, Provincial.
Very Reverend Father Edward of the Infant Jesus, First Provincial Consultor.
Very Reverend Father Caspar of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Second Provincial Consultor.
Very Reverend Father Herbert of the Cross, Rector of St. Paul’s Monastery, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Very Reverend Father Ernest of the Cross, Rector of St. Mary’s Monastery, Dunkirk, New York.
Very Reverend Father Frederick Joseph of the Heart of Mary, Rector of St. Michael’s Monastery, Union City, N. J.
Very Reverend Father Leonard of the Holy Family, Rector of St. Joseph’s Monastery, Baltimore, Md.
Very Reverend Father Conran of the Sorrowful Mother of God, Rector of St. Ann’s Monastery, Scranton, Pa.
Very Reverend Father Gabriel of the Sacred Heart, Rector of St. Gabriel’s Monastery, Brighton, Mass.
Very Reverend Father Adelbert of the Heart of Mary, Rector of Our Mother of Sorrows Monastery, W. Springfield, Mass.
Very Reverend Father Carrol of Mary Immaculate, Rector of Immaculate Conception Monastery, Jamaica, L. I.
Very Reverend Father Berchmans of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Master of Novices

The Fathers were now asked by the President if they considered the Chapter legitimately convened. The Venerable Fathers answered in the affirmative. Father President now declared the Twenty-seventh Provincial Chapter of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross to be opened canonically.

The “Veni Creator” was once more sung to invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The absolution “ad cautelam” was given by the Very Reverend President, who in turn received it from Very Reverend Father Colman of the Immaculate Conception. This being completed the Fathers surrendered their seals of office.

By a secret ballot, Very Reverend Father Frederick Joseph of the Heart of Mary was elected permanent Secretary of the Chapter.

The Very Reverend Father Leonard and the Very Reverend Father Berchmans were chosen Scrutineers. The President then administered to both Fathers the oath “de secreto servando“.

The office of Provincial was, naturally, first considered, and balloting for this most important office began. On the very first ballot, the Very Reverend Father Carrol of Mary Immaculate, was chosen for this high office. All were visibly moved when this good Father arose and tearfully expressed his utter unworthiness, but seeing also in his election the Divine Will of God on Whom alone He would depend for strength and guidance, he accepted the office.

The Community was now summoned to the Chapter Room where the Capitular Fathers and all the religious paid their filial and humble respects to the newly elected head of the Province. A joyful “Te Deum” was sung in the Chapel and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament imparted by Father Provincial.

Balloting for the First Provincial Consultor was now begun. On the sixth ballot the Very Reverend Father Caspar of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was chosen for this office. The Father accepted the office, placing his trust in the Holy Spirit for guidance and counsel.

On the eleventh ballot the Very Reverend Father Gabriel of the Sacred Heart was chosen Second Consultor. Expressing his unworthiness of so high an office, he, nevertheless, accepted the decision of the Chapter as God’s Will.

The important office of Master of Novices was now taken up. Father President again reminded the Venerable Chapter of the special spiritual qualities the Master of Novices should possess. With this in mind balloting began. On the first ballot the Very Reverend Father Berchmans of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was re-elected to this office. This good Father arose and expressed his thanks to the Venerable Chapter and promised to continue to give his very best to the training of future Passionists.

Since St. Paul’s Monastery, Pittsburgh, is once more the Novitiate House of the Province, the importance of electing an exemplary Rector for this particular Retreat was stressed. On the second ballot the Very Reverend Father Leonard of the Holy Family was chosen. Deeply moved, this good Father expressed his astonishment that the Venerable Chapter should select him for this office. Placing his confidence in God and relying on the assistance of St. Paul of the Cross, after whom the Retreat is named, he accepted the office.

On the sixth ballot the Rectorship of St. Michael’s Monastery, Union City, N. J., fell to the Very Reverend Father Herbert of the Cross. Voicing his diffidence to do justice to the Rectorship of so important a Retreat but relying on God’s grace, he accepted with thanks.

On the third ballot the Very Reverend Father Jerome of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was elected to the Rectorship of our Monastery of the Immaculate Conception, Jamaica, L. I. Reached by telephone, the Father reluctantly accepted the office.

On the sixth ballot the Rectorship of St. Gabriel’s Monastery, Brighton, Mass., fell to the Very Reverend Father Cuthbert of Mary Immaculate. He was notified by telephone and accepted with thanks.

On the fourth ballot the Very Reverend Father Benedict of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was elected Rector of St. Ann’s Monastery, Scranton, Pa. He, too, was notified by telephone and after some hesitation accepted the office.


Balloting for the Rectorships of the remaining Retreats began on the morning of Saturday, September 13, at 9 o’clock.

On the second ballot choice for the Rectorship of St. Joseph’s Monastery, Baltimore, Md., fell to the Very Reverend Father Celestine of the Immaculate Conception. He was notified by telephone and accepted the office with thanks.

On the eighth ballot the Very Reverend Father Ernest of the Cross was elected Rector of Our Mother of Sorrows Retreat, West Springfield, Mass. On the score of ill health during his former Rectorship, he at first hesitated but finally accepted the office.

The Rectorship of St. Mary’s Monastery, Dunkirk, N. Y., fell to the Very Reverend Father Agatho of the Mother of God on the fourth ballot. This good Father, who happened to be in the Retreat at the time on his way to a mission, was called to the Chapter Room. He accepted the office, promising, with God’s help, to give the best that is in him.

All the Superiors of the Province having been elected, the Community was now summoned and the result of the elections made known to them.


The elections of the Superiors of the Province being completed the Venerable Chapter devoted these six Sessions to discussion of the material and spiritual welfare of the Province. The various activities of the members of the Province were considered together with proposals for legislation deemed necessary and timely.

The Committee appointed to review the financial status of the various Retreats made their report. Everything was found in order and the Venerable Chapter expressed its satisfaction and approval.

The Venerable Chapter thought highly of the suggestion that wherever feasible portraits of deceased members of distinction of this Province be displayed in a suitable place in our various Retreats and that a short sketch of their lives be appended to these portraits.

The Venerable Chapter expressed approval of the devoted zeal manifested by the priests of the Province in the various works of the ministry to which they have been assigned by their Superiors. At the same time the hope is expressed that this zeal will continue and that it will ever be directed and governed by the ideals of St. Paul of the Cross as set forth in our Holy Rules and Constitutions.

The importance of the work of the priests who dedicate themselves to the spiritual and intellectual training of our Postulants and Professed Students is fully recognized by the Venerable Chapter for it can be truly said that the continued welfare of the Province is, in a great measure, in their hands. Hence the Venerable Chapter has only words of commendation and encouragement for those Lectors and Directors who, forgetting self, devote their energies to the Faithful fulfillment of the duties of their office.

The portion of the Lord’s Vineyard allotted to the American Passionists in the far-off mission fields of China requires, even in normal times, missionaries imbued with a burning zeal, missionaries willing to make even the supreme sacrifice for the salvation of souls. How much more is this true in these troublous and dangerous hours in China’s history! Recognizing this, the Venerable Chapter, bespeaking the sentiments of the entire Province, takes occasion to express publicly profound respect and deep admiration for the heroic labors and self-sacrificing spirit of the Passionist Fathers, the Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Passionist Mission Field of China.

Likewise does the Venerable Chapter applaud the work of our Fathers in the Missions for the Colored of North Carolina. Toiling under severe handicaps, due to poverty and prejudice, these Fathers, nevertheless, carry on their great work for the salvation of God’s lowliest children. Their work is appreciated all the more because these domestic mission fields are devoid of the glamour and romance that might attach to distant mission fields. From all reports, the labors of the Passionists in North Carolina are bearing fruit slowly, but fruit that is sound and lasting.

We can be justly proud of our National Magazine, “The Sign”, which is undoubtedly one of the most outstanding Catholic periodicals of its kind in the world. Praise of it is heard on every side. Our missions in China are dependent almost altogether on financial aid from “The Sign.” The Venerable Chapter, therefore, congratulates the Sign staff and wishes them even greater success in their efforts to spread God’s Kingdom through the printed word and through the financial assistance rendered to our Missions in China.

The remaining Sessions were devoted entirely to a thorough and exhaustive discussion of the various propositions presented by the several Fathers. It was found that many had already been taken care of in former Chapter legislation. A number of suggestions were made for further study and decision by the Provincial Curia. Only the following new Decrees were decided on:


1. The Venerable Chapter decrees that each week our Directors of Students give formal instruction on the spiritual life. This instruction must be consistent and well-ordered, thus insuring the progressive spiritual development of our Students. Furthermore, the Venerable Chapter recommends that the Provincial Curia appoint a Committee to draw up a schema of instructions which must be followed by our Directors of Students in the fulfillment of the aforesaid decree. It also recommends that the Provincial Curia designate the specific time for this instruction.

2. The Venerable Chapter hereby decrees that our Lay Brothers ordinarily be kept in the Retreat of the Novitiate until their Final Profession.

3. The Venerable Chapter decrees that, besides the annual retreat, our Postulants in the Preparatory College make also a formal retreat of three full days at the beginning of each scholastic year.

4. The Venerable Chapter decrees that our Students are forbidden to smoke until the beginning of their theological course and thereafter they may smoke only rarely and with permission of Father Rector.

5. The Chapter condemns as an abuse against poverty the possession of more than one watch. It also forbids the wearing of gaudy or expensive watch-guards.

6. The Venerable Chapter reminds the Directors of Students, Lectors and Directors of Retreats that any right to retain or dispose of money is not inherent in their office but depends upon the definite permission of lawful superiors. Those who must handle money because of their office are reminded that they, like other Religious, must obtain permission to use money for their personal needs.

7. The Venerable Chapter charges our Superiors to stop the abuse in the borrowing of automobiles by our Religious.

8. The Venerable Chapter reminds the Religious of their obligation to observe the ecclesiastical regulations regarding the wearing of clerical garb when abroad and the religious habit when at home.

9. The Venerable Chapter decrees that none of our Brethren may accept an office outside of the Congregation without the permission of Father Provincial.

10. The Venerable Chapter declares that the Forty Hours’ Devotion is a Community exercise and, therefore, all the Religious must follow the horarium drawn up by Father Rector.

11. The Venerable Chapter decrees that our present Directorium of Missions must be followed until officially changed, except in those matters approved by the recent Provincial Curia, viz:

First Mass and talk—not over 45 minutes.
Second Mass and talk—not over 50 minutes.
Evening rosary and instruction—not over 20 minutes.
Evening announcements and sermon—not over 35 minutes.

12. For works of the ministry, our Religious may not claim any dispensations except those granted by our Holy Rule, our Regulations and legitimate Superiors. The Venerable Chapter suggests that Father Provincial draw up a uniform list of dispensations for Sunday work. Any dispensation beyond this must be obtained from Father Rector.

13. It is the mind of the Venerable Chapter that Superiors take a definite stand and if necessary resort to severest measures against those recalcitrant Religious who, in defiance of authority, persist in their misconduct, thus lowering the ideals of our home life and jeopardizing our reputation abroad.


The Sixteenth Session opened at nine o’clock on the morning of Wednesday, September 17th. The “Acts of the Chapter” were read and discussed and finally approved.

The Very Reverend Father Bonaventure, President of the Chapter, then addressed the assembled Fathers as follows:—

We are now about to bring the Chapter to a close. During these days of discussion and hard work, we have also prayed much and asked light from on high. We have given to the Province Superiors for the coming three years. As a result of our discussions and deliberations, we have made some legislation for the welfare of the Province. Our work as Capitular Fathers is done. We have interested ourselves in the welfare of the Brethren of the Province by giving them the Superiors to whom God will communicate His authority to mould, rule and guide them. May these Superiors govern and direct each Religious in the spirit of our Holy Father and Founder and in accordance with our Holy Rules and Regulations.

As President of the Chapter, I was deeply impressed by the earnestness and candid manner in which the discussions were carried on, and by the fraternal charity and enlightened zeal which motivated the Capitular Fathers in their work.

These have been truly happy days for me. I thank each and every one of you for your patience with me and your kind consideration of me during these days.

It will be a great pleasure to me in writing to Father General to make known to him the good, efficient work which you have done during these days for the welfare of this Province, which is dear to the heart of our Most Reverend Father General. We often speak about the work of our Congregation throughout the world and this Province of St. Paul of the Cross always comes in the first place among our important Provinces in the Order. Its welfare is near and dear to the heart of Most Reverend Father General. He had the pleasure of being with you for the last Chapter. He saw the manner in which the Fathers carried out the business of the Chapter, the motives that prompted them in their work for the welfare of the Province, and he came back to Rome pleased and edified by our Passionist Brethren in this land of America, in this land of liberty. He feels that the Province of St. Paul of the Cross is safe in the hands of those Superiors whom God in His Providence sets over it.

“Father General always says that if our Superiors are such as our Holy Founder desires, men of God, men who go before the Community by their good example, and who by their words animate and encourage the Brethren to carry out our Holy Rules, we need have no fear for the future of our Congregation. We can legislate, but unless our Superiors, by their example, go before their subjects and in their own lives carry out this legislation, it is useless to make laws. But when Superiors go before the Religious by good example and try to lead the Brethren patiently, prudently, in the observance of our Rules, our Regulations and Chapter Decrees, then surely, in spite of all human weakness, our Congregation will continue to flourish in the Church of God, and in this land of America, our Brethren will carry on the great work of the Order—to make known to the world the Sufferings and Death of our dear Lord.

“May God bless our work, bless each and every one of us, and may the Fathers who were in this Chapter, by their lives, help the Superiors and our Brethren to attain that for which we all entered the Order—the sanctification of ourselves and the salvation of others—by leading lives as true sons of St. Paul of the Cross.”

Father Colman of the Immaculate Conception, then responded as follows:

At the end of our work, we desire to express to Your Paternity our gratitude and appreciation—our gratitude because of your persistent kindness during these days and our appreciation because of the efficient and masterly manner in which you have presided over the Sessions of the Chapter.

We were well satisfied when we received word from Father General that he had determined on Your Paternity to be his representative at this Chapter. Now, as we come to the end of the Chapter, we are still more delighted that such was the decision of Father General.

All during these days you have been so easy of approach, so pleasant of manner, so fraternal in your association with us. You have been actually one of us. You have left nothing to be desired in the performance of your difficult assignment as President of the Chapter. You have been patient and understanding throughout all the discussions of the Chapter. You made no attempt to rush us. You permitted full freedom in all the discussions. Whilst you were every inch the President of the Chapter, your attitude was such that we can go forth to our different assignments with the satisfying feeling that we have been allowed to run our own Chapter.

If we have accomplished any good during these days, the credit in great measure is due to Your Paternity, because of your kindness, your patience and your efficiency.

Again I thank you and express the hope that we will see much of you during your stay in America.”

All the Fathers heartily concurred in the sentiments expressed by Father Colman.

A vote of thanks was accorded Father Frederick Joseph for his work as Secretary during the Chapter.

Father Leander was called to the Chapter room and thanked for the efficient work he gave the Chapter in his capacity of Custos.

Very Reverend Father Bonaventure of the Assumption in accordance with the delegation given to him by Very Reverend Father General now confirmed the elections of the Rectors and of the Master of Novices. The decrees passed by the Chapter were prepared to be forwarded to Rome for confirmation by Very Reverend Father General.

The Very Reverend President then asked if, in the opinion of the Fathers, the Chapter should be closed. All replied in the affirmative and the Chapter was declared formally ended. The Capitular Fathers then appended their signatures to the “Acts of the Chapter” as follows:

Very Reverend Father Bonaventure of the Assumption, Second General Consultor, President.
Very Reverend Father Colman of the Immaculate Conception, Provincial.
Very Reverend Father Edward of the Infant Jesus, First Provincial Consultor.
Very Reverend Father Caspar of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Second Provincial Consultor.
Very Reverend Father Herbert of the Cross, Rector of St. Paul’s Monastery, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Very Reverend Father Ernest of the Cross, Rector of St. Mary’s Monastery, Dunkirk, New York.
Very Reverend Father Frederick Joseph of the Heart of Mary, Rector of St. Michael’s Monastery, Union City, N. J.
Very Reverend Father Leonard of the Holy Family, Rector of St. Joseph’s Monastery, Baltimore, Md.
Very Reverend Father Conran of the Sorrowful Mother of God, Rector of St. Ann’s Monastery, Scranton, Pa.
Very Reverend Father Gabriel of the Sacred Heart, Rector of St. Gabriel’s Monastery, Brighton, Mass.
Very Reverend Father Adelbert of the Heart of Mary, Rector of Our Mother of Sorrows Monastery, W. Springfield, Mass.
Very Reverend Father Carrol of Mary Immaculate, Rector of Immaculate Conception Monastery, Jamaica, L. I.
Very Reverend Father Berchmans of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Master of Novices

Frederick Joseph of the Heart of Mary,