British and Irish Passionist Priests and Brethren, whose original London-based Anglo-Hibernian province was split in 1927, came together but with their headquarters in Dublin this time.
A general synod of the worldwide congregation approved the merger in Rome on September 16. The sudden death of English provincial Fr John Kearns CP last year sparked London’s request to join the Dublin-based province.
Devotees on both sides of the Irish Sea have dwindled due to lack of vocations, but the London-based Province of St. Joseph 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, Scottish-born Provincial of St Patrick, will lead the extended province. The addition of the passionist province of the Netherlands to the new structure is under discussion.
“We are one of many orders in this process,” Fr. Sweeney said. The tablet. “Some orders even larger than ours, for example the Franciscans, have already done this.”
As he wrote in the province’s newsletter, “the hope we must have is for a renewed and integrated province as we move forward together”.
The first Passionist in England, Father Dominic Barberi CP, of Italian descent, arrived in Folkestone on Guy Fawkes Day in 1840 and other Passionists established the London-based St Joseph 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 outdoors, but local bishops have often insisted that they establish parishes if they want to open a house somewhere.
The order quickly grew in the British Isles to become the third largest province in the world. Today enthusiasts assume the 1927 split was a response to Irish independence in 1922, but that growth apparently also played a role.
To help the Irish financially, Scotland was included in the new province of St Patrick, leaving England and Wales in the province of St Joseph.
At the General Synod, the Australian Provincial, Fr Tom McDonagh CP, thanked the two provinces for establishing the congregation in Australia and New Zealand. The British and Irish Passionists were also active expanding into Africa and South America. In addition, they lead the parish of St Joseph in Paris.