The Passionist Congregation was founded in Italy in the 18th century by St. Paul of the Cross. He gathered companions to live in community. The members had a simple lifestyle and dedicated themselves to prayer, penance and solitude. At times some of the community members went out to preach retreats and missions, especially to people and communities that were being neglected by the church at the time.
Paul of the Cross found his inspiration in the Passion of Christ which he experienced as the core revelation of God’s love for everyone. He dedicated his life to keeping alive the memory of the Passion. It inspired him to reach out with compassion to the people who lived on the sites of suffering of his time.
In 1841 the Passionists came to England. Blessed Dominic Barberi was the first to set foot on English soil. Communities were established and pastoral work was taken on, especially to the recently arrivals from Ireland who often lived in very difficult situations in the industrial towns. From the beginning there was also a strong interest in ecumenism. Fr. Dominic and especially Fr. Ignatius Spencer dedicated themselves to prayer for Christian unity.
After the Second World War the Passionists of St. Joseph’s province (England, Wales and (in the 1950s) Sweden) were looking for a house of formation for the increasing number of young men that joined the congregation. They came across Minsteracres which was for sale and in December 1949 ownership of the hall, the outbuilding and 110 acres of the estate, passed from the Silvertop family to the Passionist Congregation to become a monastery. The Passionists also took over the responsibility of the Roman Catholic mission that had been based at Minsteracres since 1765.
At the moment the Passionist Congregation has over 2,000 members and is represented in all continents. They are all guided by the inspiration of St. Paul of the Cross to keep alive the Memory of the Passion of Christ. In spirit of prayer and compassion they try to be attentive to the needs of all, especially of those who share in the Passion of Christ through suffering and marginalisation.
In England and Wales Passionist ministry started with preaching of retreats and missions, Other ministries developed, especially after the Second Vatican Council. The Inner City Mission was the most significant development in St. Joseph’s province when province members went into the inner cities to live and work among the people of deprived areas. In the late 90s this approach to Passionist life was adopted as the main focus of St. Joseph’s province into the future.
St. Joseph’s province is part of the North European region (Configuration of Charles Houben). It consists of 6 provinces with a presence in Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Belgium, England, Wales, Sweden, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria.
At Minsteracres there are Passionists priests from the Netherlands, Poland and Ireland. There are also sisters of the Congregation of the Cross and Passion. This congregation was founded in 1864 and is affiliated with the Passionists.