Acts of the Twenty-Third Provincial Chapter
of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross
Held in the Retreat of Our Mother of Sorrows, West Springfield, Mass.
From July 15th to July 21st, 1929.
The Twenty-third Provincial Chapter of the Province of Saint Paul of the Cross was duly convoked by a Circular Letter of our Very Reverend Father Provincial, Stanislaus of the Most Holy Redeemer, under date of June 5th, 1929. The date for the opening of the sessions of the Chapter was fixed for the morning of July 15th, and the place assigned was the Monastery of Our Mother of Sorrows, West Springfield, Mass. In the letter of convocation, Father Provincial prescribed the customary prayers to be recited in all the houses of the Province and ordered the usual solemn triduum to be held on July 15th, 16th and 17th, at the same time reminding the Religious of the Province of the importance of the Chapter and requesting the fervent and continuous prayers of all. As the Capitular Fathers gathered together on the evening of July 14th, they were all properly impressed with the importance of the work before them.
All realized that God has singularly blessed this American Province which proudly and gratefully and, let us hope, not unworthily bears the name of our Holy Founder. The progress made by our beloved Congregation since its establishment in these United States, the prestige it enjoys in the American Church, and the abundant opportunities it has had of doing efficient work for the cause of Christ and the extension of His Kingdom have been and must be reasons to every true son of St. Paul of the Cross for deep and humble gratitude to the Giver of all good gifts. All this was emphasized by the celebration within the last three years of the Diamond Jubilee or Seventy Fifth Anniversary of the coming of the Passionists to America. This important event was celebrated in October, 1927, with becoming solemnity in our Monastery of St. Paul of the Cross, the cradle of the Congregation in America. The presence of many Bishops and Church dignitaries during the three days jubilee festivities bore witness to the esteem in which our Congregation is held by the American Hierarchy and was a source of gratification to all our Religious.
The renown of the Congregation was again recently emphasized and heightened by an event of quite a different character, namely, the tragic death at the hands of bandits of three of our brave young missionaries in far off China last April. It is no exaggeration to say that the news of the assassination startled the whole of the great Catholic body in the United States. While the news caused us all inexpressible emotion and sorrow it served to bring to the notice of the clergy and laity of our country the magnificent and heroic work the American Passionists are doing in one of the most difficult of the Chinese mission fields. The extensive notices given to the assassination in the secular and religious press of the entire country, the messages of sympathy and tributes of admiration that poured in from Bishops, priests and religious bodies all over the land added lustre to the good name of the Congregation of the Passion and furnished ground for pardonable pride in the fact that God had bestowed upon the sons of that great missionary, St. Paul of the Cross, the signal honor of being the first American missionaries to spill their blood by means of a violent death for the cause of Christ in China. We rejoice that in the Providence of God this great honor is shared by our neighboring Province of Holy Cross, as one of the slain missionaries came from that province. The hope is entertained by all that if “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians” the tragic death of our three heroic priests (let their names be here inscribed with honor) Fathers Clement Seybold, C.P. M.Ap., Godfrey Holbein, C.P. M.Ap., Walter Coveyou, C.P. M.Ap., will render abundantly fruitful the Passionist missionary efforts in China.
The accomplishments of the past seventy-five years and the present high standing of the Congregation here in America achieved through the early hardships of the pioneers of the Province by fidelity to the Rule and Spirit of St. of the Cross form a precious heritage that must be sacredly preserved by the present and future generations of Passionists. Upon the Passionist of today rests the duty of maintaining untarnished the honor of the Congregation in this land by preserving in all its vigor the true Passionist Spirit transmitted to us from our Holy Founder through successive generations of worthy and sainted forbears. The Fathers of the Twenty-third Provincial Chapter hope to contribute their share towards desirable end by their deliberations during the sessions of this Chapter.
At nine o’clock on the morning of July 15th, the first session was opened with the recitation of the Veni Creator and the other prescribed prayers by the President of the Chapter, Very Reverend Father Benjamin of the Immaculate Conception, Second Consultor General. A letter from our Most Reverend Father General, Leo of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was presented by the Very Reverend President and read by the Very Reverend Father Provincial, Stanislaus of the Most Holy Redeemer, in which letter Father General, delegated his second Consultor, Very Reverend Father Benjamin of the Immaculate Conception, to preside in his stead at this Twenty-third Chapter of our Province with authority to confirm the elections of the Rectors and the Master of Novices.
The roll call of the Capitulars was then called and the following responded:
Very Reverend Father Benjamin of the Immaculate Conception, President.
Very Reverend Father Stanislaus of the Most Holy Redeemer, Provincial.
Very Reverend Father Sebastian of the Holy Family, First Provincial Consultor.
Very Reverend Father Justin of the Infant Jesus, Second Provincial Consultor.
Very Reverend Father Philip of the Holy Family, Rector of St. Paul’s Retreat, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Very Reverend Father Hilarion of the Sacred Hearts, Rector of St. Mary’s Retreat, Dunkirk, N. Y.
Very Reverend Father Linus of the Heart of Mary, Rector of St. Michael’s Retreat, Union City, N. J.
Very Reverend Father John Francis of St. Joseph, Rector of St. Joseph’s Retreat, Baltimore, Md.
Very Reverend Father Benedict of Our Lady of Victory, Rector of St. Ann’s Retreat, Scranton, Pa.
Very Reverend Father Charles of the Most Holy Rosary, Retreat of St. Gabriel’s Retreat, Brighton, Mass.
Very Reverend Father Alexander of the Sacred Heart, Rector of Holy Cross Preparatory School, Dunkirk, N. Y.
Very Reverend Father Emmanuel of the Precious Blood, Rector of our Mother of Sorrows Retreat, W. Springfield, Mass.
Very Reverend Father Victor of St. Nicholas, Rector of the Retreat of Maria Schutz, Austria.
Very Reverend Father Clement of St. Peter, Master of Novices.
The Very Reverend President in a brief address gave expression to the pleasure he felt at being once more in the midst of the brethren of his own Province, and his appreciation of the honor that had come to him in being called to preside at our Provincial Chapter. He explained that the Most Reverend Father General would have come to preside in person at our Chapter had not serious illness made this impossible. When the Father President alluded to the great help that Father General’s presence would have been in the deliberations of the Chapter, he but voiced the regret of the Capitular Fathers at Father General’s inability to visit our Province. The Father President reminded the Fathers of the important duties and weighty responsibility that were theirs in this Chapter and suggested two thoughts that would be a prop of strength and comfort on which they could confidently lean in the midst of their arduous labors, namely, the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit which will not be denied to men of sincere good will; and the ideals of our Holy Founder clearly set forth in the Holy Rule, in our Regulations and in our old traditions. This second point was particularly stressed and the Fathers were urged to judge every question or proposal that might arise according to this norm or standard of the ideals of St. Paul of the Cross, approving everything that is in harmony with those ideals and firmly rejecting everything that is not in harmony with them.
After the hearty applause which greeted this address the Father President asked the Fathers whether they considered the Chapter legitimately convened and, having received an affirmative unanimous answer, he declared in his own name and that of the assembled Fathers this Twenty-third Provincial Chapter to be canonically convened and the formal sessions could begin.
A guardian of the Chapter Hall was now chosen in the person of Rev. Fr. Frederick of the Holy Rosary. The Father was summoned to the chapter room, took the prescribed oath of secrecy, and immediately assumed the duties of his position.
By a secret ballot Very Rev. Fr. Linus of the Heart of Mary was elected Secretary of the Chapter.
The Reports of Administration of all the houses of the province were submitted by the various Rectors, and were turned over to a Committee appointed by the President for review.
The Very Rev. President invited the Fathers to submit proposals for legislation bearing on the welfare of the Province. A number of matters were proposed and noted. Later these proposals were grouped under several headings, by the Secretary, and delivered for consideration to different Committees that were appointed by the President.
The remainder of this session was spent in discussing some of the proposals that had been submitted.
SECOND TO SEVENTH SESSIONS, INCLUSIVE
These sessions were held in the afternoon of the 15th, the morning and afternoons of the 16th, and 17th, and the morning of the 18th. During these sessions the reports of the various Committees were submitted and thoroughly discussed. The conclusions arrived at will be found in the formal decrees of the Chapter.
Before the close of the Second Session two of our missionaries from China who were present in this Retreat, one on sick leave, and the other on a well earned rest furlough, were invited to the Chapter Room The two missionaries were Rev. Fr. Raphael Vance, C.P., M. Ap., and Rev. Fr. Theophane Maguire, C.P., M.Ap., Fr. Raphael is one of the first band of five who went to China in 1922, and Fr. Theophane has been in China since 1924. Their entry into the Chapter Hall was greeted with spontaneous and hearty applause on the part of the Capitulars. Fr. President, in a few well chosen words, welcomed them, and conveyed to them an expression of the admiration which has been aroused in the entire Congregation by the great work the Fathers have been doing in China—a work which, owing to the great difficulties surrounding it, has redounded so much to the honor of the Congregation. He then invited the missionaries to tell the assembled Fathers something about their experiences in China, and to make any suggestions that they thought would be helpful to the Fathers in their deliberations. The Capitular Fathers were much edified by the account these two young missionaries gave of the progress of our work in pagan China, and felt a deep sense of gratitude to God that He has blessed our beloved Province with the type of men, zealous, heroic, and self sacrificing, who are laboring in the mission field in China. The Fathers could not help but think of what the joy of our Holy Founder would be were he with us in person on an occasion like this, and how he would have taken these two young men and their co-laborers in China to his apostolic heart. The many questions which the Capitulars asked of their two illustrious guests of the moment clearly revealed the deep sympathy and interest entertained by all in everything concerning the Chinese Missions.
EIGHTH, NINTH AND TENTH SESSIONS
In these sessions held on the afternoon of July 18, and on the morning and afternoon of July 19, the merits of those eligible to office were discussed, after the Fathers had taken the prescribed oath of secrecy.
Before the tenth session on the afternoon of July 19th, the Fathers, together with the Community, listened to a helpful discourse by Very Rev. Fr. Sebastian of the Holy Family on the source and character of religious authority, and the qualities that should be possessed by those who are to exercise that authority.
On the morning of July 20th, at 6.30 a Solemn High Mass de Spiritu Sancto was sung by the Very Rev. President in the presence of the whole Community in the choir; the Capitular Fathers acting as ministers and minor officers.
At 9.00 on the same morning the entire Community joined the Capitular Fathers in procession from the Choir to the Chapter Room, chanting the hymn Vexilla Regis. In the Chapter Room the usual prayers were sung, and then all except the electors were ordered by the President to depart. The President addressed the Capitular Fathers, calling their attention to the fact that the most important duty of the Chapter now claimed their attention, and urged them to elect Superiors for the Province who, by wise and prudent government and by personal example, would enforce the ideals of the Holy Rule.
The roll of Electors was called, and all were present. By the singing of the Veni Creator the Fathers sought once more the help of Divine guidance. All delivered up their seals of office. Two Scrutineers, Very Rev. Father Philip of the Holy Family and Very Rev. Father Charles of the Holy Rosary were duly chosen. The Fathers then mutually bound themselves, by taking the prescribed oath, to elect those who according to their judgment before God should be elected. All the formalities having been complied with, the Fathers proceeded to the balloting for a Provincial. On the sixth ballot Very Rev. Fr. Justin of the Infant Jesus was elected. The good Father accepted the office, expressing his gratitude for the great confidence reposed in him, telling the Fathers that the greatness of the burden would oblige him the more steadfastly to rely upon Divine help The Community was called, and paid their homage to the newly elected Provincial. All then assisted at the Solemn Te Deum and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the Choir.
At 2.30 on the afternoon of July 20th, the Fathers continued the work of the elections. The third ballot effected the election of Rev. Fr. Cyprian of the Immaculate Conception as First Provincial Consultor. Word of acceptance promptly came from the Father.
On the fourth ballot Very Rev. Fr. Benedict of Our Lady of Victory was chosen Second Provincial Consultor. The Father thanked the Capitulars for their confidence and accepted the office.
The sixth ballot resulted in the election of Very Rev. Father Alexander of the Sacred Heart as Master of Novices for our Novitiate at West Springfield. He accepted the office, pledging himself to do his best in this important charge.
On the first ballot a Master of Novices was provided for the Novitiate at Maria Schutz in Austria by the election of Very Rev. Fr. Bonaventure of the Assumption. The Father was immediately notified by cable.
On the first ballot also Rev. Fr. Edward of the Infant Jesus was elected Rector of St. Michael’s Retreat, Union City, New Jersey. An early acceptance was secured from him by telephone.
On the first ballot likewise Very Rev. Fr., Sebastian of the Holy Family was elected Rector of St. Joseph’s Retreat, Baltimore, Md. Thanking the Fathers, he accepted the office.
On the second ballot Very Rev. Fr. Hilarion of the Sacred Hearts was chosen for the Rectorship of the Novitiate Retreat of Our Mother of Sorrows in West Springfield, Mass. and he accepted.
On the sixth ballot Very Rev. Fr. Philip of the Holy Family was elected to the Rectorship of St. Gabriel’s Retreat, Boston, Mass., and he accepted.
On the seventh ballot Rev. Fr. Alban of the Five Wounds was selected to be the Rector of St. Ann’s Retreat, Scranton, Pa, and by telephone he accepted.
On the sixth ballot Rev. Fr. Wendelin of the Cross was chosen to the Rectorship of St. Paul’s Retreat, Pittsburgh, Pa., and over the telephone, he accepted.
On the first ballot Very Rev. Fr. Victor of St. Nicholas was elected Rector of the Retreat of Maria Schutz in Austria, and accepted with thanks.
The Community was again summoned to the Chapter Room, and the Secretary acquainted the religious with the results of the elections.
After the Community had withdrawn, the Chapter considered the status of our Lay Brothers, and the Capitular Fathers were happy to put on record in these Acts of the Chapter that they have nothing but words of commendation and praise for our Lay Brothers and the good work they are doing for the Province.
There being no further matters to be disposed of adjournment was in order. Before adjournment was taken, however, Very Rev. Fr. Stanislaus arose and voiced the gratitude of the Fathers towards the Very Rev. President for coming to preside at the Chapter, and asked that a message be taken by the President to Most Rev. Fr. General thanking him for having sent us Fr. Benjamin. The speaker stated that, of course, all would have been pleased to have Fr. General himself to whose coming we had been looking forward, but as Fr. General could not come no one was more welcome than Very Rev. Fr. Benjamin, our American member of the General Curia. The speaker assured Fr. President that he had given perfect satisfaction to all the Capitulars by the manner in which he handled his delicate task of directing the deliberations of the Chapter.
Fr. President replied that when he was appointed to come on his present mission he felt some misgivings, knowing the importance of many of the questions that were likely to come up for discussion in the Chapter. But he came in obedience, and relying on the help of the Lord. He stated that the kindness and cooperation of the Capitular Fathers had lightened his burden, and he was grateful for all the kindness that had been shown him during his visit. He further stated that he would carry back to our Fr. General a good account of this Twenty-third Chapter of our Province. He concluded by saying that Fr. General was anxious to come for a Visitation, and that we could confidently expect the blessing of a visit from Most Rev. Fr. General next year if his health permits.
DECREES OF THE CHAPTER
1. Realizing the evils attendant upon a common smoking room, particularly the frequent breaking of silence and loss of valuable time, the Chapter prohibits a common smoking room in any of our Retreats. To remove all excuse for the same general permission is granted to the Professed religious to smoke in the place of common recreation during the recreation periods allowed by the Holy Rule. For smoking outside these times special permission of the Rector is required, and, if of daily occurrence, the written permission of Fr. Provincial. Those who have such special permission must further obtain the Rector’s permission for each new supply of tobacco, and may not without the Rector’s permission make purchases, or keep presents, of smoking material. When special permission to smoke is held by any religious he may avail himself of it only in his cell, alone, and within the limits stipulated in the permission.
2. In order to preserve uniformity on the matter of whole day recreations which entail extension of the evening recreation period with consequent dispensation from Matins, the Chapter insists that the number of such recreation days be confined to two or three a year, as is prescribed by our Regulations.
3. The Chapter petitions the Most Rev. Fr. General to permit the use of butter in the morning throughout the year to all the Religious according to the custom of our country.
4. To obviate the inconveniences resulting from too great a number making the earlier Annual Retreat prescribed by a former Chapter, this Chapter recommends that this earlier Retreat be held simultaneously in about half of the houses in the Province and in the remaining houses the Retreat be held at the usual time.
5. With a view to bringing our Course of Study up to the highest possible standard, the Chapter authorizes Fr. Provincial to arrange as soon as is practicable a meeting to which shall be called the Fathers engaged in the work of teaching and also any other Fathers whom Father Provincial may deem specially qualified to give counsel on the matter of studies. These Fathers in conjunction with Father Provincial and his Council shall devise ways and means for the better arrangement and improvement of our Course of Study.
6. To safeguard against possible abuses on the occasion of the Ordination and First Mass of our young priests the Chapter ordains that only invitations and souvenir cards that must be furnished by the Rector be used and that no banquets or receptions be held outside of the home of the young priests.
7. The Chapter learning that the General Curia has decided that for the future a canonical Rector will not be elected for Holy Cross Preparatory School respectfully requests Father General and his Council to reconsider this decision in favor of the arrangement in force in this Province for so many years of having a canonical Rector for the Preparatory School elected in the Provincial Chapter.
8. To comply with the prescriptions of the last paragraph of Chapter 23rd of the Holy Rule the Chapter orders that on Saturday evenings of our missions a sermon on the Blessed Virgin be preached.
9. The Capitular Fathers send to our brave band of missionaries in China their affectionate greetings and a tribute of admiration for the virtue and constancy with which they have faced untold hardships and difficulties and as an earnest of their interest in the grand work of the Chinese mission they urge the Provincial Curia to appoint a commission to draw up a code of statutes that will meet the special problems entailed in the regulation and government of our Chinese mission.
10. The Capitular Fathers are much gratified at the report of satisfactory progress in our foundations in Germany and Austria as revealed by the recent establishment of a canonical rectorship and a canonical Novitiate at our Retreat of Maria Schutz and a Preparatory School at Pasing. They wish to record their deep and sincere appreciation of the good work done by Very Reverend Father Victor of St. Nicholas and the other Fathers and Brothers associated with him in the pioneer and necessarily trying and difficult task of starting and fostering new foundations. The Capitular Fathers are convinced that a future flourishing German Province, which now seems assured, will have occasion to remember gratefully the labors and many sacrifices of these early pioneers. Anxious to accomplish at the earliest possible date the very desirable object of a separate autonomous German Province the Chapter requests that Most Reverend Father General take over the foundation of Pasing in Germany and the foundation of Maria Schutz in Austria and place them under the direction of a general Commissariate. The Chapter agrees that a donation of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000.) be given by this Province when needed to secure the tenure of the property at Pasing, provided proper guarantee be given that no further demand or request for funds for this purpose be made on the Province. The Chapter further agrees that a subsidy of five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) each year for a period of six years be tendered the German Foundation.
11. The Chapter decrees that in the houses of Regular Observance where Retreats for Laymen are conducted, these Retreats be held not oftener than twice a month without special permission of Fr. Provincial.
12. The Capitular Fathers wish to record their appreciation of the work done by the Fathers who so ably and creditably edit and manage our magazine The Sign, which has earned warm commendation from many members of the American Hierarchy. The Capitular Fathers appeal to all the members of the Province both at home and in China to give hearty support and cooperation in every way they can to this important branch of our activities, especially as the publication of The Sign is the chief channel of support for our Chinese Missions.
13. Reminding all our priests of the obligation of our Fourth Vow, the Chapter urges those who preach and hear confessions on the days when Pilgrimage or Novena services are held in any of our churches not to neglect these splendid opportunities of promoting Devotion to our Lord’s Sacred Passion.
13.[sic] Finally the Chapter directs the attention of all the Religious of the Province to the official and admirable circular letter of our present Most Rev. Fr. General, under date of June 7th, 1927, in which he gives a masterly exposition of the relation of our external apostolic activities to our home or contemplative life; and the Chapter urges upon all, superiors and subjects alike, the vital necessity of maintaining in healthy vigor the Regular Observance and our traditional home life, so that the true Passionist spirit, handed down to us by our Holy Founder, and explained by our Rule and the Regulations, suffer no detriment from too much or too intensive external activities.
The Fathers convened for the final session at ten o’clock on the morning of July 21st. The Acts of the Chapter were read by the Secretary for any corrections that might be deemed necessary.
The Fr. President then asked if any of the Fathers had anything further to propose. In answer to this invitation a resolution was introduced and unanimously passed that the Secretary be instructed to write a letter to the forthcoming Chapter of Holy Cross Province, expressing the deep appreciation and gratitude of the entire Province of St. Paul of the Cross for the very generous help given by Holy Cross Province to our Chinese Missions. By giving up a number of fine young priests for service in China, notwithstanding its own great need of priests, and securing large numbers of subscriptions to The Sign, as well as many other donations, our sister Province has helped the cause of the Chinese Mission in a measure that places our Province under a debt of eternal gratitude.
The Very Rev. President now inquired if, in the opinion of the Fathers, the Chapter should be closed. An affirmative answer having been received, he declared the Chapter formally closed.
With grateful hearts the Fathers appended their signatures as follows:—
Benjamin ab Immaculata, Second Consultor General, President
Stanislaus a SS. Redemptore, Provincial
Sebastian of the Holy Family, First Provincial Consultor
Justin of the Infant Jesus, Second Provincial Consultor
Philip of the Holy Family, Rector St. Paul’s Retreat, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Hilarion of the Sacred Hearts, Rector St. Mary’s Retreat, Dunkirk, N. Y.
Linus of the Heart of Mary, Rector St. Michael’s Retreat, Union City, N. J.
John Francis of St. Joseph, Rector St. Joseph’s Retreat, Baltimore, Md.
Benedict of Our Lady of Victory, Rector St. Ann’s Retreat, Scranton, Pa.
Charles of the Holy Rosary, Rector St. Gabriel’s Retreat, Boston, Mass.
Alexander of the Sacred Heart, Rector Holy Cross Retreat, Dunkirk, N. Y.
Emmanuel of the Precious Blood, Rector Our Mother of Sorrows Retreat, West Springfield, Mass.
Victor of St. Nicholas, Rector Maria Schutz Retreat, Semmering, Austria.
Clement of St. Peter, Master of Novices
Our Mother of Sorrows Retreat,
West Springfield, Mass.,
July 21st, 1929
Linus of the Heart of Mary