Author Archives: Mary Strain

Did you know? South County was THE cheese producer in the colonies well into the early 19th century.

Passionist Fr. Ignatius Spencer

Ignatius SpencerFr. Ignatius Spencer, friend and supporter of Elizabeth Prout and our first sisters belonged to one of the oldest aristocratic families in Britain. Althorp was their family home.

On this day, over 150 years ago, Fr. Ignatius Spencer died. He had made a long journey from where he began at Althorp. His health had not been good for sometime. He had just returned from giving a mission is Scotland and was exhausted. Deciding to visit a friend on the way home he stopped at Carstairs, left his baggage at the train station and began walking to the house. On the way, he suffered a heart attack. His body was found in a ditch by the side of the road.

He is buried alongside Blessed Dominic Barberi and Elizabeth Prout in St. Anne’s, Sutton, St. Helens.

Enjoy this video about Althorp, the family home of Fr. Ignatius Spencer and Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales.

Farmington, CT – Our Lady of Calvary Property

Our Lady of CalvaryOur Lady of Calvary Retreat in Farmington, CT

Though the historical records of the Town of Farmington, CT, we can trace the names of the inhabitants of this spot back to at least 1658.. Just a few years before that was the land of the Tunxis Indians. We know that since the 17th century a succession of houses have been built here. Somewhere between 1854 and 1866, Joseph Colton, who gave his name to the street, seems to have spent more money than he could afford to put up a large house sometimes referred to as “Colton’s Folly.”

Before long, “Colton’s Folly”passed to other hands; and then others. It is believed that around 1888, a Professor Davidson used it to house his summer school of philosophy. Another unverified report states that the house was destroyed around 1910. If so, it must have been quickly rebuilt.

In 1922 the owner, an artist named Harold Douglas, decided to sell the property to Marie and Richard Bissell. Before arrangements could be completed, fire once more entered the story. The Douglas house was totally destroyed.

Our Lady of CalvaryThe Bissells went ahead as planned with the purchase of the property. On the site of the burned house they built a large garage with two apartments over it. We now call it St. Gabriel House and some of the sisters are in residence there. The new Bissell residence they situated a little to the south and east. The Bissells moved in just prior to Christmas of 1922.

Their home is the one that was sold to the Sisters of the Cross and Passion in 1958 for the purpose extending their retreat ministry from Rhode Island to Connecticut. Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center opened its doors as a center primarily devoted to parish based women’s retreats. With the help of loyal, hardworking supporters, the Sisters added St. Paul of the Cross Chapel and some small rooms at the back of the house in addition to renovating the house to accommodate retreat ministry. Our Lady of Calvary welcomed its first retreat ants in August, 1958.

Our Lady of CalvaryIn 194 the Sisters expanded the facilities to include a large lounge and 40 individual rooms for retreatants.

By the 1990’s it was evident that further space was needed. During the summer of 1999, after a successful fundraising drive, an addition took shape. This addition doubled the dining area, enlarged the office space and provided two additional break-out rooms used for massage and spiritual direction.

The 2007 chapel renovation brought to life a beautiful stone wall and a newly renovated space for prayer.

– Sr. Mary O’Brien, C.P.


Congratulations Sister Angela Daniels, C.P.

Sister Angela DanielsWe are proud of Passionist Sister Angela Daniels who was selected to be a recipient of the Jefferson Awards for Public Service. The Jefferson Awards were established, in part, by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Sister Angela Daniels is the co-founder of the Genesis Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Each year, Genesis Center serves over 600 individuals in adult education and workforce development and over 100 children in its childcare program.

The award ceremony was held yesterday afternoon at the Rhode Island State House. Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo honored Sister Angela Daniels for her achievement.


Sister Ellen Downes, C.P.

Ellen DownesSister Ellen Downes, C.P., formerly Sister deMontfort, a Sister of the Cross and Passion, died peacefully on Monday, March 23, 2015 at St. Mary’s Home, West Hartford.

Born in Jamaica, NY, she was the daughter of the late Edward Downes and Ellen (Keegan) Downes.

Sister entered her community on February 2, 1955 and professed her religious vows on August 8, 1957. She was a past Province leader and served in Education, Retreat ministry and Chaplaincy.

In addition to her religious family, Sister is survived by several cousins.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday, March 26, 2015 at11:00 a.m. at St. Brigid Church, New Britain Avenue, West Hartford. Calling hours will be prior to the Mass from 9:00-10:30 a.m. at the Sheehan Hilborn Funeral Home, 1084 New Britain Ave., West Hartford.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Sisters of the Cross and Passion Retirement Fund, One Wright Lane, North Kingstown, RI, 02852.

Online condolences may be made at Sheehan-Hilborn Breen Funeral Home.

Come Meet the Passionist Sisters!

Passionist SistersOpen House in Celebration of the Year for Consecrated Life

This event is cancelled because of weather predictions of more snow and will be rescheduled in the spring.

February 8, 2015 | 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Saint Gabriel House on the grounds of Our Lady of Calvary Retreat
31 Colton Street
Farmington, CT

Visit the convent. Meet and pray with the Sisters. Learn about the work of the Passionist Sisters around the world. Enjoy some refreshments.

Please R.S.V.P. below if you plan to attend. We look forward to seeing you there!

Click here: R.S.V.P.

Feast of Our Lady of Dolors

Alsace, Haut-Rhin, Colmar, Musée d'UnterLinden...

Alsace, Haut-Rhin, Colmar, Musée d’UnterLinden : la descente de Croix, les larmes de Marie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, the feast of Our Lady of Dolors, is our province feast day.

The North American Province of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion, Our Lady of Dolors Province, was erected by the General Council in 1950, twenty-six years after the first Passionist Sisters arrived in the United States. They elected Sister Pascal Grogan, C.P. as the first Provincial.

The late Sister Kathleen Mary Burke, C.P. recalled in her tape-recorded memoirs that the erection of the North American Province was unexpected by the sisters in North America. On the day the document arrived the sisters at the Assumption were enjoying a day out. (This meant that they took their meals out of the refectory and so did not have to keep silence while they ate.) At the end of the evening meal, Sister Pascal who was the local superior stood up and began to read the decree. Part of the way through she began to cry. Unable to continue she passed the document to Sister Arcadius who read as much as she could of it before she broke down and had to pass it on to the next person. By the end everyone was crying.” Why tears? The road to this moment had been long and hard. There hadn’t been in Sister Concepta’s words much “sunshine on Calvary.” Naming Our Lady of Dolors as the patron of our province was an appropriate choice.

Our Lady of DolorsDevotion to our Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Dolors has a long history in the Church and within the Passionist Community. St. Paul of the Cross wrote:

“My heart breaks when I think of the sorrows of the most holy Virgin. Oh tender Mother, unutterable was Thy grief in finding Thyself deprived of your dear Son, and then in beholding Him dead in Thy arms! Ah! who can realize the sadness of Mary when She returned to Bethany after the burial of her Son? Jesus expires on the cross! He is dead that we may have life. All creation mourns: the sun darkens, the earth trembles, the rocks burst, and the veil of the temple is rent in twain; my heart alone remains harder than a rock!

All I say to you now is, console the poor Mother of Jesus. It is a miracle that She does not die; She is absorbed in the sufferings of Jesus. Imitate Her, and ask the Magdalen and the beloved disciple St. John what are their sentiments.”

This feast day was originated by a provincial synod of Cologne in 1423. It was designated for the Friday after the third Sunday after Easter. Before the 16th century, the feast was celebrated only in parts of northern Europe. Over the centuries several devotions, and even orders, arose around meditation on Mary’s Sorrows in particular. In 1913, Pope Pius X moved the feast to September 15, the day after the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, another day of celebration for Passionists.

The Chaplet of the Seven Dolors is a traditional devotion of our community. The chapel windows at our retreat center, Our Lady of Calvary, depict the seven sorrows of Mary. Meditation on these sorrows not only unite us more closely with our Blessed Mother but also connect us with and fill us with compassion for our contemporaries, especially women, who suffer as she did.

O God, who in this season
give your Church the grace
to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary
in contemplating the Passion of Christ,
grant, we pray, through her intercession,
that we may cling more firmly each day
to your Only Begotten Son
and come at last to the fullness of his grace.