Monday, September 26, 2022

British and Irish Passionists reunite after 1920s split

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British and Irish Passionist priests and brothers, whose original London-based Anglo-Hibernian province was split in 1927, have reunited but with headquarters in Dublin this time.

A General Synod of the worldwide congregation approved the merger in Rome on 16 September. The sudden death of the English provincial Fr John Kearns CP last year triggered London’s request to join the Dublin-based province.

Passionists on both sides of the Irish Sea have dwindled due to the lack of vocations, but the London-based St. Joseph’s province has been hit harder. It has only a dozen men in England and Wales while St Patrick’s province has 42 in Ireland and Scotland.

Fr James Sweeney CP, St Patrick’s Scottish-born provincial, will head the expanded province. Adding the Passionist province in the Netherlands to the new structure is under discussion.

“We’re one of several orders in this process,” Fr Sweeney told The Tablet. “Some orders even larger than ours, for example the Franciscans, have already done this.”

As he wrote in the province bulletin, “the hope we must have is for a renewed as well as integrated province as we now move ahead together”.

The first Passionist in England, Italian-born Fr Dominic Barberi CP, arrived in Folkestone on Guy Fawkes Day in 1840 and fellow Passionists established the London-based St Joseph’s Province ten years later. 

Ireland provided this Anglo-Hibernian unit with more priests while England had more funds. Passionists traditionally live in monasteries and preach and lead retreats outside, but local bishops often insisted they establish  parishes if they wanted to open a house somewhere.

The order expanded quickly in the British Isles to become the third-largest province worldwide. Current-day Passionists assume the 1927 split was in response to Ireland’s independence in 1922, but this growth apparently also played a part.

To help the Irish financially, Scotland was included in the new St Patrick’s province, leaving England and Wales in St Joseph’s province.  

At the General Synod, Australian Provincial Fr Tom McDonagh CP thanked both provinces for establishing the congregation in Australia and New Zealand. British and Irish Passionists were also active expanding in Africa and South America. In addition they run St Joseph’s parish in Paris.