Passionist Nuns 100 Years in USA! Part I

    Greetings!  I began this account two weeks ago! If you are still interested in hearing about the 100th Anniversary celebration of the Passionist Nuns in the USA do read on. Christie and I (Sr. John Mary) began our pilgrimage at 5:45 a.m. on Thursday, July 8th and drove through hours of construction and heavy rains, arriving at Our Lady of Sorrows Monastery in Pittsburgh a bit later than we had anticipated – 5:30 p.m.!

Looking out the cloister gate

View inside the courtyard

    As we drove into the cloistered courtyard they were waiting for us at the open door waving and calling out after us with their greetings and joy. So many Sisters whose names I had only read or heard spoken. Now I had a face and personality to go with that name. What joy! It took some days but their names came to life and I learned who each Sister was and from which community she came. 

The Five Flowers of Tarquinia

    The first place I wanted to go was to visit the earthly remains of those five holy and valiant nuns who had traversed the mighty Atlantic, bore with seasickness and then disembarkment syndrome. Once they were on land they had to undergo interrogation at the immigration office. “We’re here to pray”. Yea, right! Perhaps they were Rosa Luxemburgs in disguise…here to join those who wanted to liberate America from the oppression of capitalism through socialist emancipation and radical feminism. (Sounds familiar) Communism was on the rise in America, modernism too.

    Pope Saint Pius X (above at left)  manifested great interest and pleasure in this foundation. He blessed all who would contribute to its success.

    Fr. Stanislaus Grennan, CP (above at right) – Provincial at the time of the foundation – took the initiative to bring the Nuns to the USA and looked after their spiritual and temporal interests until his death in 1941.


    Mother Victoria (above at left) – Mother Superior of the Monastery of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Tarquinia, Italy (First monastery of Passionist Nuns founded by St. Paul of the Cross in 1771) gave her consent for the new foundation in Pittsburgh by sacrificing the “five flowers” of her community.

    These were the Five Flowers of Tarquinia. Mother Hyacinth was their Superior (above at right). They didn’t want to come but were invited and said, “Yes”. They were leaving everything behind – their family, their language, their culture – for us. Fiat. Mary went through the Passion to bring souls to the side of Christ, so did these foundresses, so have all the Passionist Nuns who have stood on Calvary. The Sacra Crostato…the open Side.

The above are photos of the Tarquinia monastery founded by St. Paul of the Cross and Mother Mary Crucified.

    We continue this saving mission of dramatic love. We lift up people to the side of Christ by living the Mass through vowed life, silence leading to union, self-denial leading to liberation, spiritual reading to communion, hours of prayer with the Beloved, Divine Office for our people and God’s praise, wearing the holy habit, loving one another in community and making this monastery a joyful place in which to live.


Sister Gemma Maria (Pittsburgh) and Sister Gemma (Japan)

    The words below came to Sr. Gemma Maria in a torrent. She wrote them just days before our 100th anniversary celebration…words from the hearts of our foundresses.


I waited and prayed
as quietly my homeland
slipped away

With every breath I drew
Hislife now more intimately
entered into
my mind and heart

And gently His Words
echoed within
at each beat of my heart

“I choose you…and
will remain with you…”

Beyond these ocean waters
awaited us
a new seedground

Wherein our spousal hearts
– so full of love for Him! –
would be planted
and harvested

And so, with every ocean wave
that steadfastly pulled out lives
toward another distant shore

our hearts sang out
A “Yes” that would last forever
because His Love
was carrying us
His Will
was guiding us
His presence living in us
and our hearts sang out

    The theme of the anniversary was “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” The Most Holy Trinity gives us a share in this tremendous love in the Holy Mass. One hundred years of Masses offered on this holy ground on Mount Oliver in Pennsylvania.

   Although the nuns moved into their monastery on July 9th 1910, Passionist Feast of Our Mother of Holy Hope, it was only July 10th when Holy Mass was offered and Jesus came to dwell among them Sacramentally, that the foundation was truly made. Such was the import of the day the Sacramental Spouse came to dwell in their midst.

    To be continued…

*Some of the above thoughts are from a spiritual conference given by Fr. Jerome Vereb, CP to the Nuns present for the anniversary.


4 thoughts on “Passionist Nuns 100 Years in USA! Part I

  1. I wish I had warned you sisters before you came to Pittsburgh about all of the annoying construction in this area. I just learned that my main route home from work will be reduced to one lane for 4 years! Anyway, glad you made it safely, and it looks like you had a nice time!

  2. Sr. John Mary,

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring account of your visit to the birthplace of the Passionist charism in the United States. I look forward to reading more!

    In Jesu XPI Passio,

  3. How wonderful that you and Christie were able to attend this momentous event–and are able to share (through this blog) the history of your order.
    May I ask how the Pittsburgh community is faring–with vocations? Do you think they would ever consider an oblate (like Whitesville)?
    God bless you always!
    Christine (another Christie!)

    Dear Christine, Greetings! Regarding the affiliate program that Christie is in you would have to inquire yourself with Pittsburgh. Our affiliate Christie was closely associated as an Oblate of our community for 10 years, imbibing our spirituality, etc. before she was admitted to the affiliate program. God bless you in your search to do God’s will in your life.


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