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The Configuration Assembly 2015

February 2, 2015

Dear Brothers, Associates, and Friends,

Greetings on this Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, or Candlemas, some forty days after the Feast of Christmas and calling the whole Church to remember the Christ Light born among us, coming to dispel the darkness and show us the way. It is a feast which nourishes our hope. Far from being diminished in their old age, the wise Simeon and the faithful Anna, seasoned in waiting and the practice of their faith, are presented to us in the Gospel today in a moment of spiritual consolation and discernment. Their hope has been fulfilled.

We too are in a time of discernment and hope in our Configuration of Jesus Crucified. The Provincials, along with the elected President (Fr. Moises Rios, C.P.), Secretary (Fr. Francisco Murray, C.P) of the Configuration, and our General Consultor Fr. Augusto Canali, C.P. recently met in Buenos Aires, Argentina. There will be detailed minutes to be shared with you, but I want to tell you that the conversations and liturgies among us (even in three languages) were rich, deep, and fraternal. Good things are happening. I trust more and more that will also be the experience of the religious and laity throughout the Configuration.

Since pictures are worth a thousand words, let me share some of them with you.

The Assembly was held as Casa Nazaret which is the retreat attached to our Holy Cross monastery and parish Church.

Before I left for Argentina, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P. was gracious enough to write some of the highlights of our Province's early history there.

"Blessed Bernard Silvestrelli was Superior General and asked Father Fidleis Kent Stone to go to Argentina and open a new mission there. (There were 30,000 Irish migrating to Argentina.) This is the foundation of the Argentine Province. Kent Stone worked hard and built the first Passionist Church (Holy Cross) in Buenos Aires. A number of men from our Province went there to work with Fidelis Kent Stone who was greatly respected. Fidelis' friend and protégé, Fr. Maurice Smith, C.P., was one of them. His father had been a famous Union General in the Civil War. (Maurice died there at the age of 37 of a heart attack.) Fr. Clement Finnegan, C.P. was the first to die at 28 in 1883 and is buried there. Brother Athanasius Kirby, C.P. died there at the age of 31 in 1885. Those two had come with Fr. Eugene Ryan, C.P. He was from our Province, became their Provincial, and died a member of the Argentine Province. In all there are six members of Saint Paul of the Cross Province buried in Argentina. Fr. Constantine Colclough, C.P. died there in 1896, Fr. Victor Carolan, C.P. died there in 1898, and Fr. Justinian Tobin, C.P. died there in 1960.

Holy Cross Church was built by Fidelis Kent Stone. The cornerstone of the church was placed in 1889 and the church dedicated in 1894."

The Assembly had some very memorable shared conversations. The first was with the laity who have long been associated with our Passionist family and mission in Argentina. Through years of praying and ministering together, often in very difficult circumstances, they have forged a bond which has moved them into a communion of Passionist charism unmarked by distinctions of lay/religious, vowed/non-vowed, members/non-members. They all see themselves as Passionists, albeit in different states of life.

We spoke also about a common novitiate for the Configuration. Right now we have three, one each in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. As you might imagine there are strong feelings that we should move in this unified direction if we are ever going to create a new structure and bond together as a Configuration. There are equally strong concerns about language and cultural issues that may impact a formative Novitiate experience both in length of time and the ability to communicate on a deep level. So we agreed to ask the Formation Commission to come up with a model for a common novitiate in the next year, something we can discern and decide upon. Our meeting in January of next year will be in Brazil.

There will also be an Encuentro of young professed Passionists in our Configuration in July. That will take place in the Dominican Republic.

Finally, I will be sending a copy of a DVD to each community on the Holy Cross Church in Buenos Aires and it's impressive history at the time of the dictatorship and the "Disappearances". Apparently Archbishop Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was close to our community at that time and in those struggles and martyrdoms.

Wishing you the continued peace of this holy season, I am

Your brother in JXP,

Robert, C.P.