Kenneth Macdonald, the long time director of St John's was once a member of the Passionist Order.
The Passionists (The Congregation of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ) are a Roman Catholic religious order founded by Saint Paul of the Cross (Paul Francis Danei). Professed members use the initials C.P. after their names.
St. Paul of the Cross wrote the rules of the Congregation in December 1720; and in 1725, Pope Benedict XIII granted Paul the permission to form his congregation. Paul and his brother, John Baptist, were ordained by the pope on the same occasion.
In 1769 Clement XIV granted full rights to the Passionists as enjoyed by the other religious orders, except that he did not make them a full order but a congregation. The congregation historically has had two primary goals: missionary work and contemplative life, with an attempt to blend the two. Its founder had attempted to combine aspects of the reflective orders, such as the Trappist monks, together with the dynamic orders, such as the Jesuits.
There are 2,179 Passionists in 59 nations on the five continents, led by a superior general who is elected every six years. He is assisted by four consultors in governing the congregation. The present superior general is Father Ottaviano D'Egidio. The congregation is divided into provinces, vice-provinces and vicariates. The Congregation is also divided into groups of provinces, called conferences.
There are six conferences in the world:
CIPI - the Inter-provincial Conference of Italian Passionists;
CII - The Conference of the Iberian Peninsula;
NECP - Northern European Conference of Passionists;
PASPAC - Passionist Asia Pacific Conference;
CPA - Conference of the Passionists of Africa;
FORPAL - Conference of the Passionists of Latin America; and
the meeting of the Provincial Councils of North America.
The official name of the institute is "The Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ." The superior general resides in Rome (Piazza Ss. Giovanni e Paolo, 13 - 00184 Roma - tel. 06 772711). The international house of studies is the place where the Congregation's founder is buried.
The members of the congregation are not allowed to possess land, and the congregation collectively can only own the community house and a bit of land attached to it. They rely completely on their own labor and on contributions from the faithful in order to maintain themselves financially. The habit worn by members is a rough wool tunic bearing the words "Jesu XPI Passio," meaning "Passion of Jesus Christ" and the congregation is discalced, wearing sandals rather than shoes.
A number of Passionists have been canonised, including:
the founder Saint Paul of the Cross;
first bishop, Saint Vincent Strambi;
Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, a Passionist student;
Saint Gemma Galgani, a lay Passionist;
Saint Innocencio of Mary Immaculate, a martyr of the Spanish Civil War;
Saint Charles of Mount Argus, a Dutchman who worked and died in Dublin; and
Saint Maria Goretti is also considered a Passionist saint because she had Passionists as her spiritual directors.
Other Passionists have been beatified, including:
Bulgarian bishop martyr Blessed Eugene Bossilkov
missionary Blessed Lorenzo Maria of Saint Francis Xavier;
lay-brother Blessed Isidore of Saint Joseph;
Blessed Dominic Barberi, who received John Henry Newman into the Catholic faith;
'second Founder' of the Congregation Blessed Bernard Mary of Jesus; and
students Blessed Grimoaldo of the Purification and Blessed Pius of Saint Aloysius.
Passionist martyrs of modern times have been beatified, such as the Bulgarian bishop Blessed Eugene Bossilkov and the 26 Martyrs of Daimiel. The causes for the canonisation of Father Ignatius Spencer, Father Theodore Foley and Elizabeth Prout have been opened.
Unlike the La Sallians or the Gabrielites, Passionists do not usually open schools and universities, except seminaries for their own students wishing to become brothers and priests. There are some schools sponsored and run by the Passionists, like the St. Gemma Galgani School (which includes primary, junior high and high school-level education) in Santiago (Chile), but these are more the exception than the rule.
Traditionally, their main apostolate has been preaching missions and retreats. According to Saint Paul of the Cross, they were founded in order to "teach people how to pray", which they do through activities such as retreats and missions, spiritual direction, and prayer groups. Today they often also assist local priests in pastoral works, including saying masses, hearing confessions, and visiting the sick. Due to the continuing lack of priests in the United States, the monks today are sometimes designated as pastors and assistant pastors of various parishes.
Though Passionists are not required to work in non-Christian areas as missionaries, their Rule allows its members to be posted to missionary work, such as mainland China (before the Communists took over in 1949), India, and Japan, as dictated by the Pope.