When the first Passionists set foot on American soil in 1852, there were only 31 states. The country was still very young. However, several decades of immigration meant a steadily growing Catholic population. There was much work to be done.
Bishop Michael O’Connor of Pittsburgh had traveled to Rome to request a foundation of Passionists in his diocese. The Passionists understood the importance of this opportunity and were eager to be of service. Four young Passionists were assigned to accompany Bishop O’Connor back to America. On Sunday, October 10, they left Europe for their new home and a brand new ministry.
The first Superior, Father Anthony Calandri, chose a site on the south side of Pittsburgh for the first Passionist monastery. St. Paul of the Cross Church and Monastery was built on a hill overlooking the Monongahela River in the architectural style of Italian Passionist houses. From here, the Passionists would expand their community through the formation of novitiates. They also began to preach missions. In a short time, the Passionists were preaching at the largest cathedrals in the East and Midwest! Word of the healings that took place spread throughout the country, even being reported on as far away as Paris.
For St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionist order, the Passion of Jesus was "God’s greatest sign of love for us." The Passionists in America remained committed to St. Paul’s extraordinary vision of compassion and merciful action. Through the efforts of those early Passionists and those who would come after, the Passionist community took root. Today the community has grown to more than 40 locations in the United States alone.