Passionist Nuns 100 Years in USA - Part IV

    Today I shall conclude my sharings about our celebration of 100th anniversary of the presence of the Passionist Nuns in the United States. I'm starting where I left off last time.

    On Monday, the day following our Anniversary Mass, we honored the Queen of the PassionistCongregation by having the votive Office and Mass of Our Mother of Sorrows. Holy Mass began with a tremendous surprise, as Fr. John Harvey presented to us the mission crucifix used in 1738 by our Holy Founder, St. Paul of the Cross, during his first retreat to our Venerable Mother Mary Crucified’s Benedictine community, 33 years before she became the co-foundress of the Passionist Nuns. This moment took us back in time to a sacred meeting between our Holy Founder and Foundress.

    After receiving the apostolic blessing, each Nun came forward and venerated this most precious relic loaned to us by our Nuns in Tarquinia, Italy, the motherhouse of all Passionist Nuns’ monasteries. Being in the presence of the crucifix was like being in the presence of our Founder and Mother Mary Crucified - a very powerful and inexpressible moment.

The Mission Crucifix of Saint Paul of the Cross

    Mother Mary Crucified of Jesus (1713-1787) wrote of her first encounter with our Holy Founder: "A few years after my profession in St. Lucy’s convent of the Benedictine Order, almost 41 years ago, I became acquainted with Father Paul of the Cross on the occasion of his coming to preach the retreat to the Sisters of that community; and seeing that he was full of zeal and of the knowledge of God, and therefore perfectly qualified to be an able director, I commenced a correspondence with him."

    During 33 years of trials and disappointments, Mother Mary Crucified (who has been called the co-foundress of the PassionistNuns together withSt. Paul of the Cross) exercised heroic faith and trust that one day she would indeed become a Passionist. Not until May 3, 1771—at nearly 58 years of age—did her great dream come true. She and 10 other companions, all prepared by the founder himself over many years, entered the newly built monastery in Corneto (now Tarquinia) to begin the life and mission of the Passionist Nuns.

    Of the many letters of St. Paul of the Cross to Mother Mary Crucified only 31 remain. They are filled with the wisdom of the cross and the spirituality of profound abandonment to the will of God, and are included in the 3-volume collection of the letters of St. Paul of the Crossavailable from Passionist Publications. 

    Now on with our story...

     Later Fr. Jerome Vereb, CP moved our hearts by taking us, with Our Lady, into a deeper appreciation of our Passionist charism. He challenged us to embrace generously our lives of silence, solitude, communal and contemplative prayer, spiritual reading and self-forgetfulness, so that we, like Our Lady of Sorrows, may bring people to the sacred side of Christ, to encounter love. This is what we are here for! To bring everyone to this Sacred Font of Mercy and Love.

Fr. Jerome Vereb with two of our Nuns from the Passionist Nuns monastery in Erlanger, Kentucky.

    A high point during our stay was the visit we paid to the Church and Monastery of St. Paul of the Cross where we were warmly welcomed by the Rector, Fr. Gerald Laba, C.P., and his community. St. Paul’s Monastery, founded in Pittsburgh in 1852, was the first monastery of Passionist men in the New World. 

    The Passionist men of the Eastern Province were instrumental in bringing the Passionist Nuns to Pittsburgh in 1910. For these one hundred years the Passionistshave supported our Nuns both spiritually and temporally. Our visit to St. Paul’s Monastery reminded us of this deep familial bond and awakened the gratitude we owe them for our Passionist presence in this country...

Fr. Gerald Laba, Rector of Saint Paul of the Cross Monastery, Church and Retreat Center with Mother Joyce, Superior of Our Lady of Sorrows Monastery of Passionist Nuns in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Upon our arrival Fr. Gerald led us through a prayer service before the tomb of the Servant of God, Father Theodore Foley, C.P.

We then partook of a delicious banquet

followed by an historical tour during which we enjoyed the breathtaking view of the Pittsburgh skyline

Some photos from the gardens

    The next morning we took our leave with hearts full of gratitude to God, to the Pittsburgh community, and to Mother Catherine Marie for making this experience possible. This once-in-a-lifetime experience was an amazing, grace-filled opportunity to meet and share our joy in the Passion of Christ with our Sisters from throughout the world. Yet, the parting was bittersweet as we knew we might not see one another again in this life.

This image of Crucified Love is in the garden of the Saint Paul of the Cross Monastery

    May God be praised for 100 years of Passionist cloistered living in the United States. And may He send us many holy and healthy candidates to continue our contemplative Passionist mission with Mary at the foot of the cross for the next 100 years!