PASSIONIST NUNS
  ST. JOSEPH MONASTERY
       
and GUEST HOUSE















We are contemplative women who  accept a special place

    in God's plan of Redemption!


The Founder Of The Passionist Nuns

The history of the Passionist Nuns goes back to the seventeenth century to Ovada, a small town in northern Italy.

Ovada still stands, a bright splotch of red-tiled roofs huddled in the quiet green foothills of the Appenines.   Behind it the great bulk of the mountains breaks gradually against the sky, while at its feet the last spreading slopes tumble swiftly into the Po Valley.

During more than a thousand years, Ovada was like any other Italian town under any Italian sky--commonplace and ordinary, famous for little except its excellent white wines and the cold bitterness of the winters sweeping down upon it from the Alps. But in the last decade of the seventeenth century, it took its place forever in the imperishable archives of eternity, for in Ovada on January 3, 1694, was born Paul Francis Daneo, a cloth merchant's son.

In every beginning is hidden the outline of the ending, and the first mile of every new road has about it something of the last.   So it was with Paul Francis Daneo--known to the world today as Saint Paul of the Cross.   Even during his childhood, there shone out brief flashes of the holiness that was to make glorious the eventual achievement of his life.

A faith-filled relationship with Christ and His holy Mother, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, love of the cross, and a keen sense of the supernatural--all these marked the life of Paul Daneo from the beginning.  In this short sketch, we cannot pace with him each step of his long life, but it is possible to outline in a few sharp strokes the basic pattern around which was painted the final picture of his life.

When our Founder, St. Paul of the Cross, was but twenty-six years of age, God revealed his life's mission through a number of visions.  One morning in the autumn of 1720, he was returning from the Capuchin church where he had attended Mass and received Holy Communion.  Suddenly, in spirit, Paul saw himself clothed in a rough woolen tunic; it was black, and over the heart he saw a white cross beneath which was the Holy Name of Jesus. At the same moment, an interior voice said: "This signifies how pure and spotless that heart should be which bears the Holy Name of Jesus engraved upon it"

 A long tradition in the Passionist congregation tells us that the Mother of Jesus herself came to St. Paul of the Cross and showed him the Passionist habit.  She revealed that God wished him to found a new religious Institute whose members would be clothed in black as a sign of mourning for the suffering and death of her Divine Son. That experience gave meaning to Paul's future life and all the sufferings to come.

Within a few months he was clothed in the black habit by Bishop Gattinara of Alessandria.  Afterward Paul retired to a small sacristy in the Church of St. Charles in Castellazo. There, during a 40-day retreat, he wrote the primitive rule of his future Congregation.

Early in his life, circumstances united to burn into Paul's consciousness the reality of his vocation.  There were misunderstandings, apparent failure, sorrows and sufferings.  These scourged him and crowned him with thorns, as if to engrave indelibly upon him the mark of the Crucified. But his love for Our Lord grew ever more radiant in Paul's soul as the years passed, pushing back the shadows. In the end he succeeded. His fame as a missionary of the Cross drew people from every part of the country. For nearly half a century he tramped the roads of Italy, preaching Christ and Him Crucified, enkindling the fire of God's love in the hearts of men, women and children wherever he went. 

In the midst of all this activity, Paul found time to write many letters of profound spiritual direction to people of every walk of life who sought his guidance.  A theologian who has studied his letters once said that Paul should be made a doctor of the Church because of his holy friendships and his gift of spiritual direction.

When St. Paul of the Cross died in 1775, his Congregation of the Passion numbered two hundred and eighty members, living in twelve houses scattered up and down the Italian peninsula.

The Rule he wrote for his sons is based on a spirit of prayer, solitude, poverty and apostolic zeal. The life he envisaged is a radical living of the Gospel for love of Him who died for us.  His monasteries, which he called 'Retreats', were to be built, whenever possible, in places of solitude, far from human dwellings, in order that his religious might more easily lift their hearts to God.  Much of the day was to be taken up with prayer.  Silence was to be observed at all times, except for a short period of recreation after dinner and supper.  Fasting and other penitential practices round out a religious routine which has since given saints to the Church--St. Paul of the Cross himself, St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin, St. Vincent Mary Strambi, Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God and many others that you can read about on our website.

In 1741, Pope Benedict XIV gave his approval to the Congregation of the Passion. Twenty-eight years later, Pope Clement XIV blessed it with the Church's final and solemn approbation.


   The Passionist Nuns

Providence had destined St. Paul of the Cross for another great spiritual achievement. God inspired him to found a community of cloistered Nuns dedicated to the loving memory of the Passion of Jesus.  This is our treasured heritage.  By our life of prayer and sacrifice as we stand in spirit with Mary at the foot of the cross, we are called to give added power to the preaching of his Passionist sons.

Our rule puts it eloquently:  "Within the Church, the Passionist Nuns are called to be a sign of the love of Jesus Crucified for the Father and for mankind.   By their unceasing contemplation of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, the greatest and most overwhelming work of God's love, they are certain of contributing to the fullness of the Church's presence to mankind...convinced of the absolute necessity of God's grace for the fruitfulness of the apostolate, they offer their unceasing prayer and joyful penance that God send  zealous workers into  His harvest, convert sinners  and open the minds of non-Christians to hear the Gospel...The Passionist Nuns seek to imitate Mary who devoted herself totally to the Person and work of her Son, serving the mystery of redemption."

The saintly woman God destined to aid St. Paul of the Cross in founding the Passionist Nuns came from a wealthy family of Corneto (now Tarquinia) Italy. Her name was Faustina Gertrude Constantini. Having entered the Benedictine monastery in Corneto, Faustina came in contact with St. Paul of the Cross during a retreat he preached there in 1736.  

Throughout the following years, Paul's hopes of founding the cloistered Passionist Nuns grew ever stronger in his heart.  He also became more and more convinced that this saintly Constantini woman was the one person whose love and generosity were great enough to see the project through at whatever cost to herself.  Her intense love for Christ Crucified marked her for the suffering which  St. Paul knew to be inseparable from such an under-taking.  As early as 1757, he wrote to her that he hoped one day to see her wearing the same holy habit of the Passion of Jesus Christ which he himself wore.

For many years the difficulties seemed insurmountable. But eventually, the Constantini family gave of their fortune to build the first monastery of Passionist Nuns at Corneto.  St. Paul of the Cross  wrote the Rule for the new community and Pope Clement XIV approved it on September 3, 1770.

On the Feast of the Finding of the True Cross, May 3, 1771, the new monastery was formally established.  Mother Mary Crucified Constantini, having received an indult from the Holy See permitting her to pass from the Benedictine monastery to the new community of Passionist Nuns, received the holy habit of the Passion in company with ten other aspirants.  Each of the aspirants had also been directed by St. Paul of the Cross, and had received from him something of that burning love for Jesus Crucified which enflamed his own soul.   Entering upon their new life in a spirit of humble gratitude to God for the sublime vocation to which He had called them, they were committed to live with Mary at the foot of the cross, and by their compassion for her sorrows and the sufferings of her Son, to win the grace of salvation for countless souls.

The enclosure was established in the new monastery, and Mother Mary Crucified was appointed the first superior of the Passionist Nuns.  One year later the nuns pronounced their vows.  Sickness prevented their holy Founder from being present; nor did he ever recover sufficiently to visit them.   But during the next few years, while confined to his room at Saints John and Paul's in Rome, Paul frequently wrote to his daughters, sharing in spirit the sufferings and difficulties testing their faith and generosity in those early beginnings.   

     The Expansion of the Passionists

Although the long life of St. Paul of the Cross came to an end on October 18, 1775, his life's mission continued on and grew steadily.  The memory of his holiness burned in the hearts of his sons and daughters.  With the passing of years, new foundations were made all over the world.  Today there are Retreats of Passionist men in Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Ireland, England, Germany, Poland, Australia, the United States, Canada, Central and Latin America, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Africa and India, etc.  Currently, efforts are underway to carry the Passionist charism back into China as well as into Vietnam.

God's blessing descended also upon the daughters of the Passion. When Mother Mary Crucified died in 1787, she had done her work well, imbuing her nuns with her own spirit of poverty, solitude, and prayer, passing on to them the precious legacy she herself had received from St. Paul of the Cross. 

For a hundred years, the only monastery of Passionist Nuns was at Corneto, Italy.  Then, in 1872 a new monastery was established in Mamers, France.  In time, other houses were opened in various parts of Italy, Belgium, France, Holland and Spain.  

In 1910, five courageous religious left the original monastery in Corneto to found the first community of Passionist Nuns in the United States in Pittsburgh, Pa.  From this first American house another foundation was made in Scranton, Pa. in 1926.  The Scranton community in turn sent five Passionist Nuns westward to found our community in Owensboro, Ky in 1946. 

 

 

 

In 1947, the Pittsburgh community established monasteries in the diocese of Covington, Ky. (Erlanger)  and in the archdiocese of St. Louis, Mo. (Ellisville). 

Since then, monasteries of Passionist Nuns have been founded in Japan, Philippines, Korea, England, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico, Colombia.

 

                  

             We relocated our St. Joseph Monastery from Owensboro, Ky to Whitesville, Ky in 1995. 

     The Passionist Charism

The Passionist vocation is a call to the fullness of Christian love in a community whose members are united in the communion of the Holy Spirit of Jesus.  In silence, solitude and prayer, we seek to continue the contemplative aspect of the mission of Jesus.  With Mary, we strive to keep our gaze upon the face of our crucified and risen Bridegroom, marveling at His infinite love and opening ourselves to receive from Him an ever deeper share of Trinitarian life. 

Our Holy Founder, St. Paul of the Cross, taught us by word and example the importance of prayer. Like Paul the Apostle, he wished his spiritual sons and daughters to pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17).  Our Holy Founder knew that the search for intimacy with God involves the vital need of silence, and that this silence insures the necessary calm for a spirit of prayer.  The loving awareness of God throughout the day quiets the heart in deep interior peace.  It releases the soul from obsessive cares, and quiets the discordant voices of the daily demands made upon us.

A silent heart is ever listening to the Word of God speaking through the scriptures, the Church, people and events, creation, and through His Spirit dwelling deep within.  This interior silence promotes an atmosphere of recollection in our monasteries, which are true 'retreats' in the midst of a noisy and chaotic world. True interior silence also enables us to be in communion with other persons by sincere and healthy relationships. 

Feeding on Christ in the holy scriptures and the sacraments, especially in the Holy Eucharist, we abide in interior union with Christ through the contemplation of His Paschal mystery.  With Mary, we fix our eyes on Jesus, treasuring His every word.  St. Paul of the Cross wanted us to penetrate deeply into the mystery of Christ allowing the Holy Spirit to engrave it indelibly upon our hearts, transforming us more and more into the likeness of Christ. 

In all of this, we do not live for ourselves alone but for Him who died for us, as the Church explains in the Vatican II document on religious life:  "Driven by the love with which the Holy Spirit floods their hearts (cf. Rom. 5:5), they live more and more for Christ and for His body which is the Church (cf. Col. 1:24).  The more fervently...they are joined to Christ by this total life-long gift of themselves, the richer the life of the Church becomes and the more lively and successful its apostolate."  (Perfectae Caritatis #1) 

     The Vows

Our holy Founder wanted us to have much at heart the spread of devotion to the Passion of Jesus Christ.  (Primitive rule of the Passionist Nuns, #43)  And so the first vow we make is the vow to promote devotion to the Passion of Jesus.   This distinctive Passionist vow provides the framework for the other vows.  Like most religious, we also profess the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, to which we add the vow of enclosure.  These holy vows are our marriage covenant with Christ, the Divine Bridegroom.

     The Passionist Habit


Our religious habit is a long black tunic with a black leather belt, to which is attached the rosary of Our Lady.  Our hair is completely covered by a simple black veil, and we ordinarily wear sandals, although shoes are permitted as needed.  On our habit, over the heart, we wear the 'Passion Sign'
, the distinctive badge of our Institute.  This emblem is a constant reminder to treasure in our hearts, as Mary did, the memory of the Passion of Jesus, and His great love for us.  

St. Paul of the Cross wrote of the Passionist Nuns:  "The daughters of the Passion, not only by their habit, but much more in their hearts, minds and labors, should continually mourn out of love for their crucified Lord, and anoint His most holy wounds by the continual exercise of every virtue, since this is the purpose of the Institute."  This 'mourning' is love's exquisite pondering of the mystery of the Beloved.

  

     The Liturgy of the Hours

The Passionist Nuns are among the religious communities privileged to pray the full Divine Office, representing the Church at prayer in a special way.  This ancient prayer is not merely the prayer of an individual.  It is the public prayer of the Church, extending the fruits of the Mass throughout the day.  Indeed, after the Holy Mass itself, the Liturgy of the Hours is the greatest act of liturgical worship we can offer to our Creator.  It is "the voice of the Bride, the Church, addressing her Bridegroom.  It is the very prayer Christ Himself, together with His [Mystical] Body addresses to the Father."  (Rule of the Passionist Nuns, Part II, #52)

Through the Liturgy of the Hours we fulfill the four principal ends of prayer. We adore and praise God in the name of His Spouse, the Church; we offer Him thanks not only for all the blessings and favors He has poured into our own hearts, but also for the awesome mystery of salvation accomplished in Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through the recitation of this official prayer of the Church, we unite ourselves with all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, praying for the salvation of the world.

This perennial prayer which establishes the 'rhythm' of our monastic day, is one way we fulfill our holy Founder's vision for the Passionist Nuns:  "Let them have much at heart the conversion of sinners, heretics and infidels, the sanctification of their neighbor, freedom of the souls from Purgatory, and the exaltation of Holy Mother Church.  Let them pray also for the Sovereign Pontiff (the Pope), other superiors and evangelical workers.  To this end, let them frequently offer to the Eternal Father the Passion and infinite merits of Jesus Christ, this being the very end of the Institute of the Daughters of the Cross and Passion of Jesus Christ."

     Private Contemplative Prayer

Private prayer is the necessary complement to prayer in common. Times of deep immersion in God enable us to abide lovingly in His presence throughout the rest of the day, as we fulfill our daily tasks. 

St. Paul of the Cross knew from deep mystical experience the importance and value of intimate prayer alone with God.  Hence he insisted that it permeate our daily life. "All the good of the Nuns depends on holy prayer," he would write. 

In our Rule we have two hours of private personal prayer, while there are many other opportunities for extended periods of prayer, lectio divina and study.  The continual encounter with God in loving  intimacy is necessary for a true following of Christ, who regularly withdrew from His work, in order to pray to His Father in solitude.  In prayer we make our own the mind of Christ, and are rooted and grounded in the height and depth and length and breadth of God's love for us.  The Father manifested this love when He sent His only Son into the world, to undergo His sacred Passion and Death that we may have eternal life and become His beloved sons and daughters.

The most treasured moments in our day are those of prayer, when with Mary we endeavor to fathom the love with which Jesus laid down His life for us and for the entire world.  With Mary, we grieve to see Christ's infinite Love appreciated by so few, and His sufferings apparently endured in vain for so many in our world today. As a consequence, we offer ourselves to God to obtain His graces for the Church, the world, and for the conversion of sinners.  It is from the Sacred Heart and Wounds of Jesus Crucified that we draw strength to walk in His footsteps, sharing in the work of salvation.

     Work

From the early centuries of monasticism, 'ora et labora' (pray and work) have been coupled together as representing a healthy balance in monastic life.  Prayer is always primary, but prayer flows over into work. Work is love made visible.

Manual labor promotes a sense of contributing to the welfare of the community, develops interest in and love for community life, and enables us to share the condition of the poor who live by means of their own labor.

We place our powers of mind and will, our gifts of nature and grace at the service of the superior and the community, that we might fulfill our assigned tasks well and in a holy manner. We try to make use of our abilities in order to learn all aspects of the work and thus be of greater service to the community.

While working with others we guard silence but when it is necessary to speak, we do so with a subdued voice, in order not to disturb the silence and recollection of others.

Lovingly submitting to the common law of work, we try to provide for our livelihood, as much as possible, without adopting today's mindset of merely working for profit.  We live by the Providence of God, and our community's history shows that our main source of income has always been the free will offerings sent by persons desiring to contribute to our contemplative mission in the Church. 

We publish a periodic newsletter mailed to relatives and friends in 49 States of the Union.  As many as five of the Nuns are at times engaged in handling the large volume of correspondence generated by this newsletter.  This work of correspondence also provides us a means of spreading the memory of the Passion of Jesus. 

In addition to the usual domestic duties of sewing, cleaning, cooking, maintenance and bookkeeping, some of our Nuns make articles of devotion such as paintings, note cards, statuettes, rosaries, etc., which can be obtained through our website. 

The guest house adjacent to the monastery generates a small income.  This haven of prayer, silence and peace is a way we offer hospitality to people searching for a deeper relationship with God.  See more about our guest house on our website.

     Recreation

The great English convert, G. K. Chesterton, once wrote: "We guard ourselves with walls; we gird ourselves with sackcloth. But our laughter is within..." Those words might well describe the spirit of all contemplative communities in the Church.  Certainly they are true of our spirit as Passionist Nuns!

Viewed from outside, our life may well seem subdued and sacrificial, but in our hearts the joy of the Holy Spirit manifests itself especially during times of recreation.  Though our life is one of prayer and sacrifice, it brings us great happiness if lived in a spirit of selfless love for Christ and the Church. At recreation time, wisely provided by St. Paul of the Cross who knew so well the needs of the human heart, our joy in being brides of Christ Crucified overflows in simple, wholehearted sharing and communion with our sisters.

While strict silence is observed throughout most of the day, there are two daily recreation periods, which provide many opportunities for the exercise of charity and enjoying the company of our sisters. We try to foster a true family spirit in the community, remembering that each Nun has been specially chosen by Christ as His beloved bride.  Our common vocation knits us together by the closest ties - a communion in the same faith, the same Rule, the same desire to glorify God and sanctify themselves, one in mind and heart.

     A Day In the Cloister

The various forms of communal prayer, especially the Liturgy of the Hours, extend throughout the day the praise and thanksgiving of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They are the expression of worship that our community, together with the Church, offers to the Father in union with Christ the eternal High Priest.

We begin our day at 5:00 a.m. rising for a time of private prayer before we sing Morning Prayer (Lauds) at 6 a.m.  Mass follows at 6:30 a.m., after which we have another period of private prayer, followed by Midmorning Prayer (Terce).

After breakfast, our morning is spent in our assigned work, with time allowed for visits to the Blessed Sacrament.  For those in formation, there are classes and conferences in addition to work.  For those in final vows, the work is interrupted for a time of spiritual reading (lectio divina).  St. Paul of the Cross wanted us to be select adorers of the Blessed Sacrament.  Love for the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, as well as a spirit of reparation for sin and intercession for the needs of the Church and the world, inspires us to visit the Blessed Sacrament throughout the day, renewing the offering of ourself in union with His sacrifice on all the altars of the world.

At noon Midday Prayer (Sext) is chanted and then we go to the dining room (refectory) for lunch.  Only on special occasions do we speak during meals.  Usually we listen to taped conferences or watch a Catholic DVD on current events, etc.

After lunch there is an optional period of recreation period, followed by an hour of free time for whatever the sister wants to do, but she must keep silence during this time.  Depending on the day of the week, this silence time is followed either by work, or by chanting Midafternoon Prayer (None) and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

In the time remaining until Evening Prayer (Vespers) at 5:00 p.m., there is work, study or other tasks.  Evening Prayer is followed by an hour of personal private prayer, after which we take supper and then enjoy another time of community recreation.  

After recreation we go to chapel for the Office of Readings (Matins) and Night Prayer (Compline).    With the tolling of the bell at 9:00 p.m. the Great Silence begins until the end of Morning Prayer the next day. The Great Silence is a time of quietness and repose very conducive to prayerful communion with God.  During this time we speak only if necessary.

Each of us have our own bedroom (monastic cell) and we retire there to sleep until aroused once more by the signal at 5:00 a.m. to begin a new day.

     Devotion to the Passion and the Friday Observance

The schedule varies slightly on Fridays, because our holy Founder set Friday morning apart as a time when we were to ponder lovingly the Paschal Mystery of Jesus.  From early Mass until after Midday Prayer, we have public exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in order to honor Our Lord all the more in this living memorial of His Sacred Passion.   Our usual work is set aside as much as possible, that we may be free to spend the morning in adoration and in remembrance of the Passion of our Divine Bridegroom, reading and pondering this mystery, especially as recorded in the Sacred Scriptures.  We make the Stations of the Cross in common, instead of privately as on other days.

At the Hour of Great Mercy, 3 p.m., while the monastery bell is tolled in memory of the death of Jesus, we recite silently with extended arms, the Offerings of the Precious Blood.  This is followed by the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. 

     Our Community Retreats

One Sunday in each month is designated as 'retreat' Sunday, days of silence and solitude.  On that day, besides reflecting on and preparing for our own death, we spend this time renewing our commitment to our Passionist vocation.

In addition to this monthly time for spiritual renewal, we have two annual retreats.  The first lasts a full 8 days, which the shorter retreat of four days is in preparation for our devotional renewal of vows on the feast of Our Lady's Presentation in the Temple on November 21st.

We also endeavor to have a lectio divina afternoon once a month.  Led by a priest, we gather for a spiritual conference, followed by an hour of prayer on a scripture passage.  We gather together afterward, to share insights on God's holy Word.

    In Conclusion

It was of this way of life that a representative of the Holy See, commissioned to examine the Rule of the Passionist Nuns, wrote: "They [the rules] breathe a holy unction; wherefore much spiritual profit can be hoped for in the souls of those who profess them." 

And the Second Vatican Council states: "Let no one think that by their consecration religious have become strangers to their fellow men and women or useless citizens of this earthly city....In a more profound sense these same religious are united with them in the heart of Christ and cooperate with them spiritually"  (Constitution on the Church, [Lumen Gentium]  #46)

And 40 years later, the Church proclaimed in Verbi Sponsa:  "The pilgrim Church is by her very nature missionary;  therefore mission is also essential to Institutes of contemplative life. Cloistered nuns fulfill that mission by dwelling at the missionary heart of the Church, by means of constant prayer, the oblation of self and the offering of the sacrifice of praise.  Their life thus becomes a mysterious source of apostolic fruitfulness and blessing for the Christian community and for the whole world.  The Church is deeply aware and, without hesitation she forcefully proclaims, that there is an intimate connection between prayer and the spreading of the Kingdom of God, between prayer and the conversion of hearts, between prayer and the fruitful reception of the saving and uplifting Gospel message".

Please pray for vocations to Passionist contemplative life!  

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